Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

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April 4, 2012
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Warm, dry weather brings variety to mountain activities

There's still a trickle of people headed to the ski slopes, but Summit County's local service people are noticing the recent, unseasonably warm weather has driven guests to seek some alternative activites.

Slopes close at Keystone this weekend, and Copper Mountain isn't far behind with an April 15 closure. Breckenridge is scheduled to remain open for the last two weekends in April, weather-permitting, and Arapahoe Basin and Loveland stay open as long as possible.

But with the warm weather, some lodges aren't seeing the traffic typical for the end of March.

"There's still people coming for skiing, but with the snow conditions and the resorts about to close, it's not really as much as it was," Frisco Lodge innkeeper Alex Knoepfel said. "We're more moving into springtime activities with the way the weather's been."

In general, guests at the inn are looking for hiking trail suggestions, he said.

"It's nice because people are getting out and doing more other than skiing, but on the flip side, we haven't done as much business. It's pretty much died down at this point," Knoepfel said.

On the other hand, Breckenridge visitors still seem to be keen to slide on their boots and take to the hill.

Many guests already know the ski conditions when they arrive in Breckenridge, said Toby Babich, president of Breckenridge Resort Managers. He said it demonstrates their enthusiasm for the mountain even in a poor snow year.

"Although our snow conditions have been less than ideal this season, our guests seem to have a strong dedication to skiing on their Breckenridge vacation above most other activities," he said. "Our guests come here in the winter to ski, and just as in every previous year, they leave content and satisfied. The biggest difference in that pattern this winter, and one that seems to be popular with our guests, is that they can ski during the day and then comfortably enjoy the summerlike conditions while exploring our town in the afternoon."

At the Mountain Thunder Lodge, visitors are still mostly skiers, the front desk clerk said.

"A few are starting to branch out with a hike or renting a bike, but it's still very much the minority at this point," he said, though he'd given directions to a hiking trial moments before talking with the Summit Daily.

The weather's warm, but most trails are still snow-covered. The Flume trails in Breckenridge vary from dry to muddy to still caked in snow. Ptarmigan Trail hikers in Silverthorne get turned back once the path winds to the north side of the mountain and snow blankets the upper elevations.

Most golf courses have yet to open and many fishermen are still waiting for some more snowmelt for the streams to rise.

So, though there's some variety in activities, recreationists in Summit County are still somewhat limited. That doesn't mean they're not headed west to Grand Junction and Moab, though.

Rich Banach at Avalanche Sports in Breckenridge, said most renters stick to the recpath, sometimes adventuring to the trails near the county landfill. There's not much "dry dirt" to be found in Breckenridge or Summit County, but he has customers renting bikes to take to the Front Range, Fruita, Moab, Bailey, Buena Vista, Salida - "there's a lot of off-road riding within an hour," he said.

It's early for his shop to have the bike fleet ready, though the shop is open year-round. Typically, it's not until slopes close that crews start working on bikes. In mid-April, they start renting them, but it's not until July 4 that the real season usually kicks off.

"Typically, we get a really wet spring. That could still happen," Banach said.

Not only are the bikes out - there are more takers than expected, he added. It was mostly spawned by phone calls from people and lodge partners asking if bike rentals were available.

"People were skiing and the weather was 60 degrees and they saw people riding on the bike paths," Banach said. "We always have the attitude that you take what Mother Nature gives you. If it's sunshine, you ride your bike. If it's snowing 'til June, you ski."


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The Summit Daily Updated Apr 4, 2012 05:56PM Published Apr 4, 2012 05:52PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.