There's at least one recreational benefit to having a winter with a mere 220 inches of total snowfall: Summit's golf season kicked off roughly a month ahead of schedule, as the Raven at Three Peaks opened its front nine Wednesday.
To the best of everyone's knowledge, it was the earliest the Raven has ever opened the course.
"To be playing golf on April 11 in the mountains is pretty amazing," said general manager and superintendent Caleb Kehrwald. "Usually, we're shooting for the 15th of May, so we're a good four weeks ahead of schedule. Looking back compared to last year, we're a good six weeks ahead of were we were. What a difference a year makes."
The process of opening the course begins in mid-February, when they clear the cart paths to make it easier for the crew to get around the course with snowmobiles and other winter equipment. The greens-clearing process often commences the first week in March, depending on snow totals and what the staff sees on the course. From that point, it's all about watching the snow and where it goes.
"We kind of do what Mother Nature dictates for us because it's two steps forward, one step back," Kehrwald said. "This year, we've just been able to take steps forward. We haven't really had any of the setbacks Mother Nature usually throws at us."
Because they put most of their efforts and resources into preparing the front nine, Kehrwald tentatively expects the back to be ready for play by April 20.
"Looking at it from the standpoint that it's April and you're playing golf in the mountains - that's a huge plus," Kehrwald said. "The course is a little bit different from the typical spring because we didn't have the snow cover. The grass went more dormant from what we typically see. But everything is green underneath; everything looks healthy. We just need a little bit of moisture and warm weather, and the course is going to green right up."
Kehrwald is referring to the yellowish, harder grass, which is more typical of a Front Range course this time of year. As a bonus, players will get a little extra roll off the tee, compared to the ball plugging in a wet year. The negative is the color is not as aesthetically pleasing, some might say; however, the crew is confident that it'll green up in a few weeks.
"The typical wet areas that we may see from a lot of runoff - we're not seeing a whole lot of those this year," Kehrwald said. "Looking around the golf course, there aren't the snow piles that you normally see. We're just trying to take advantage of what Mother Nature has provided us, and I think people are going to enjoy it."
With the front open, the Raven is offering a rate of $35 for a nine-hole loop, including cart and range - $55 for 18 holes (two front nine loops, of course). As the course opens the back nine, Kehrwald expects the rates will remain close to those initial offerings - they might go up a bit.
For the first time, the Raven will be offering "stand-by" season passes for $1,300. Pass-holders can play any day after noon in any available tee-time slot. Membership opportunities are also available.
Men's league will take place on Wednesdays. Ladies' league, both nine and 18 holes, will take place on Tuesdays. There will also be a nine-hole Thursday evening ladies' league, which will have more of a social element, perfect for novices looking to learn the game. The leagues are scheduled to begin the first week in June, but if there's interest, they might start a few weeks earlier this year.
"We're ecstatic to be open this early. It's not something we expected or planned on. We know that it's not going to happen every year," Kehrwald said. "Unfortunately for the ski resorts, it wasn't a great season, as far as snow. But for us, it worked out well. Mother Nature has a way of evening things out - after last winter. This year, maybe it's a little more favorable from the golf gods."