Are you ready for ski season? News to know from the Summit COO breakfast |

Are you ready for ski season? News to know from the Summit COO breakfast

Breckenridge Ski Resort chief operating officer John Buhler speaks to the assembled crowd at Thursday's annual Summit County Chamber of Commerce Ski Area COO Breakfast at Copper Mountain Resort.
Katie Girtman / Studio Kiva Photography

COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT — The heads of Summit county’s four ski resorts and areas — plus Loveland Ski Area — gathered at Copper Mountain Resort on Thursday to recap last winter and preview the 2019-20 ski season.

A-Basin addresses elephant in the room

Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, shared his most candid comments yet about the ski area’s decision to discontinue its pass partnership with Vail Resorts and enter into a new partnership with the Ikon Pass. Henceroth put it bluntly: Though A-Basin had its best season ever in 2018-19 in terms of sheer business, the massive crowds of people and cars proved too much to handle.

“We’ve had a great 22-year relationship with Vail Resorts,” said Henceroth, “and it’s been good for us and been good for them. But we had to move on. We had to do something different. We are probably the only ski area ever that has said, ‘Our biggest goal for this next season is to do 100,000 less skiers.'”

Henceroth said that A-Basin favored the idea of a restricted partner, which they found with the Ikon Pass, as it will give relief for their overcrowded parking problem.

Henceroth also described how this Fourth of July served as quite the exclamation point to A-Basin’s busiest year yet, as July 4, 2019 went down as the busiest day in A-Basin’s history.

Henceroth also made a point to praise Breckenridge Ski Resort COO John Buhler for his work and said that none of the decision was personal. Buhler expressed similar sentiments, calling his team “big fans” of Henceroth and joking with Henceroth about his parking situation.

“Alan, go vertical, man,” Buhler said, alluding to a parking structure. “Just do it. It’ll allow you to get that 100,000 (guests) back.”

New Keystone leader

About two hours after the event ended, Vail Resorts sent out a press release stating that effective Oct. 15, Keystone Resort’s new general manager will be Jody Churich, former senior director of skier services at Park City Mountain Resort. Churich takes over for Geoff Buchheister, who will be the new COO of Whistler Blackcomb.

Before she joined the senior leadership team at Park City Mountain Resort last year, Churich was previously the COO for Woodward Camps, owned by POWDR, since 2013.

Snowmaking start days and planned opens

Aside from the three ski resorts and ski areas racing to open first this fall — A-Basin, Keystone and Loveland — both Copper and Breckenridge announced Friday, Nov. 8, as their planned opening dates.

Copper Mountain President and General Manager Dustin Lyman said the resort’s snowmaking will begin in four days. Buhler said that Keystone will start firing their snowmaking guns within the next week.

Copper Mountain Resort President and General Manager Dustin Lyman speaks during Thursday’s annual Summit Chamber of Commerce Ski Area COO Breakfast season kick-off event at Copper Mountain Resort.
Katie Girtman / Studio Kiva Photography

Terrain park changes

There were several updates Thursday regarding terrain parks and training facilities at Summit County’s ski areas. At Breckenridge, Buhler said, despite “rumors” going around, the resort will continue to have terrain parks, with two on Peak 9 and one on Peak 8. There will also be a change to the resort’s halfpipe as it will drop down to 18 feet tall to accommodate more casual skiers and riders.

At Copper Mountain, Lyman said Woodward Copper plans to open a new venue called “Red’s Backyard.” The name pays homage to Olympic gold medalist 19-year-old Red Gerard’s actual backyard terrain park at his family’s home in Silverthorne. The venue will debut this winter alongside snowboarding legend Danny Davis’ new Woodward Peace Park venue.

Lyman also said Copper has built a new tech venue for Alpine ski race training as part of the resort’s annual tech and speed training site for the U.S. Alpine Ski Team and other international teams. Lyman said much of what the resort built was with U.S. star Mikaela Shiffrin of Eagle-Vail in mind.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth speaks during Thursday’s annual Summit Chamber of Commerce Ski Area COO Breakfast season kick-off event at Copper Mountain Resort.
Katie Girtman / Studio Kiva Photography

Ski & snowboard shorts

  • Henceroth said A-Basin will open two new runs in its Steep Gullies glades terrain that were cut this summer: “Todd’s Ridge” and “Tinker Toy.”
  • Loveland Ski Area COO Rob Goodell used quite the visual to illustrate how “nothing” at the ski area is changing and how Loveland will remain “as pure as possible,” as he put it. Goodell flashed a short video of the board game “Hungry, Hungry Hippos,” suggesting Loveland is the one bead the hippos — i.e. ski industry giants — can’t consume.
  • Buhler said Breckenridge’s iconic T-Bar lift has had its haul rope replaced. The same will occur with the BreckConnect Gondola in upcoming weeks.
  • Buhler also reassured everyone that Keystone’s River Run and Montezuma lots will continue to be free to park in this season.
  • Lyman put into context how much quicker and easier skiing and riding access on Tucker Mountain will be with the new 3,100-foot-long, 1,200-vertical-gain Three Bears lift on Tucker Mountain. Lyman said previously it took guests 45 minutes to access the terrain via snowcat. With the lift, it’ll take guests only six minutes.
  • Lyman also gave the latest update on Copper’s new midmountain lodge. Construction is underway, but it will be buried under snow through the winter. Construction will resume in the spring. Taylor Prather, spokeswoman for Copper, added that the midmountain lodge will be ready in time for the 2021-22 winter season.
  • Buhler said weather permitting, Breckenridge will be open through Memorial Day again this year.
  • Buhler also gave metrics for Breckenridge’s spring cleanup project. It included 300 pounds of trash removed and 300 trees planted.
  • Breckenridge also is in the permitting process to bring back the Mountain Dew Snow Dance, a new season-kickoff event that launched at Breck last November.

Summit Daily sports & outdoors editor Antonio Olivero contributed to this report.

Loveland Ski Area chief operating officer Rob Goodell speaks to the assembled crowd at Copper Mountain Resort at Thursday’s annual Summit Chamber of Commerce Ski Area COO Breakfast season kick-off event.
Katie Girtman / Studio Kiva Photography

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.