Loveland opens for ski season Nov. 10 with top-to-bottom, mile-long run off Lift 1 | SummitDaily.com

Loveland opens for ski season Nov. 10 with top-to-bottom, mile-long run off Lift 1

You can't rush perfection, even if perfection is three out of 94 ski runs in mid-November.

Today at 9 a.m., the lifts at Loveland Ski Area start turning for the first time this season after several weeks of hoping, praying and waiting for better conditions. Opening day comes nearly three weeks after Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened for the winter and about two weeks later than Loveland officials expected. The two are now the only lift-serviced ski areas in Colorado, with Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain Resort both scheduled to open on Nov. 18. Breckenridge Ski Resort has yet to confirm an opening date.

But again, you can't rush perfection, Loveland marketing director John Sellers said, especially when Mother Nature is calling the shots. In mid-October, the area guaranteed it wouldn't open until there was top-to-bottom snow on Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run, providing a mile-long run with tree-to-tree coverage.

"This is how we've always done it," Sellers said. "We pride ourselves on the early season conditions we can provide and we don't want to compromise those standards just to be open quickly. We take pride in the snow we have and our guests have come to accept a certain level of quality."

When conditions continue to improve, snowmakers will shift focus from the opening three runs to Spillway and Lower Richards for a second top-to-bottom run. Loveland opened on Oct. 29 last season, the same day as A-Basin, and then stayed open until mid-May. Sellers expects a similar timeline for closing this season, which promises at least six months of skiing and riding on the Continental Divide.

"Living in Colorado, we're a little spoiled with early openings and late closings," Sellers said. "We love having the long season, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and be patient. We want to be as efficient as we can with our resources. That means waiting for the right conditions to make sure the snow sticks around."

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The waiting game

Patience is one thing, but the road to opening day this season wasn't always easy, Sellers said. Like A-Basin, the ski area first started blowing snow on Oct. 3, but above-average temperatures throughout the month forced snowmakers to shut off the system until late October. Crews were able to blow enough snow for Loveland Ski Club (LSC) and several other youth clubs to train at the base of Lift 3, but snowmaking on base-area trails like Home Run was threatened by average daytime temperatures in the 50s for the final 10 days of October.

"Like everyone, we're racing to get open as quick as we can, but we don't want to compromise our standards," Sellers said. "Trust me when I say no one wants to be open more than we do, but this is weather dependent."

Conditions might have put a damper on public skiing and snowboarding, but athletes and coaches with LSC were able to begin early season training on Oct. 29 — a major boon for the club.

"This is very important for us," said John Hale, executive director for LSC. "We shoot to have at least 60 days of training prior to the first race of the season, and typically a program will have to go to Mammoth, Mount Hood, the southern hemisphere and then into Europe for October to get that many days on snow. A big cornerstone of our program is providing that training right here at home."

Early season snow time also fits into the club's Academy program, which gives a small group of teen athletes access to coaches and training for most of the year. Academy athletes logged 35 days in April, May and June, kicking off a progression that begins with late-spring training and continues through the final championship races this coming March.

"It's about letting the kids get their feet back under them," Hale said of the training time at Chair 3. "We had such a good training block in the spring that some kids were right back where we left off, even on that first run."

Opening day flair

The main attraction on opening day is skiing, but Loveland has big things planned for the rest of the weekend. Saturday brings a Christy Sports demo days, complete with 2017 skis and snowboards from Never Summer, Weston Snowboards, Arbor, Atomic, Dynastar, Elan, Faction and nearly 25 more. For $65, adult guests get a lift ticket, lunch, aprés drink, unlimited demos and a raffle ticket for afternoon swag.

"That's cheaper than a regular-season ticket by itself," Loveland events coordinator Duncan Mazwell said. On Sunday, Never and Weston will stick around for a second day of demos.

But is a demo day really worth it if the snow is hardly there? Maxwell reminds everyone to be patient — there's a lot of winter left.

"It's been a bit of a tease with the weather early this season, but the run is looking great and we're excited to finally get ski season started," Maxwell said. "One of the most important things is that this warm, dry spell isn't indicative of the season. There is plenty of snow to come."

2016-17 Loveland opening day

Hours: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lifts: One (Lift 1)

Runs: Three (Mambo, Catwalk, Home Run)

Total length: One mile

Total vertical: Nearly 1,000 feet

Ticket price: $59 for adults, $27 for children (6-14 years old)

Early season pricing is valid from now until Dec. 9, when the price jumps to $71 for adults and $30 for children (6-14 years old). Kids 5 years and younger ski and ride for free. To find out more, see the Loveland website at skiloveland.com.

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Lively Loveland

This November and December, Loveland plays host to a slew of demo days, community events and something known as chairlift speed dating. For a complete and up-to-date list of events, see skiloveland.com.

Nov. 12 — Christy Sports demo days. Test out 30+ ski and snowboard brands, with $65 ticket including a lift ticket, lunch, aprés drink, unlimited demos and a raffled ticket for afternoon swag.

Nov. 13 — Demo days with Never Summer and Weston Snowboards.

Dec. 1 — Outdoor Divas demo days. Demo female-friendly gear from the Front Range outfitter.

Dec. 10 — Chairlift speed dating with LuvByrd. Come ride a lift with other singles to find your next powder partner.

Dec. 11 — AT demo days. Demo alpine touring gear, including AT skis, bindings and splitboards.

Dec. 17-18 — Sonar Snowboard Camp. Learn the basics of terrain park etiquette and style with the Denver-based group. Price TBD.

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