As Mother Nature dawdles, ski town visitors seeking thrills beyond the slopes |

As Mother Nature dawdles, ski town visitors seeking thrills beyond the slopes

“We might benefit now but in the long run, we’d rather see a couple feet of snow up there right now”

By Jason Blevins / The Denver Post

Snow tubing at The Meadows at Elk Camp, Snowmass Ski Resort.

VAIL — With the slow start to winter, resorts are aching. Resort operators and community groups are hosting free dinners for idle workers and blasting grassy slopes with man-made snow.

But while ski resorts bemoan Mother Nature's dawdling, not all mountain businesses are dragging. Visitors still go looking for thrills when the dirt-flanked ribbon of artificial snow gets old.

"And we are ready to greet these folks with open arms and red carpets. We are staffing up and expecting a flood," said Nancy Heard, who manages the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and nearby Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs.

Heard's team has strung 500,000 lights across her tram-accessed, Western-themed park atop Iron Mountain. Santa is set up next to the fire pits and s'more stations, and the 26-foot tall Christmas tree has a choreographed light show. The park and hot springs don't take reservations, but Heard is ready for a 10 to 15 percent surge in annual business due to the extra-slow blanketing of the Roaring Fork Valley's ski hills.

"We might benefit now, but in the long run, we'd rather see a couple of feet of snow up there right now," Heard said. "It's a short-term gain and a shortsighted view, but we are ramping up staffing and begging every high school and college kid in the area to come help us through the next 14-day stretch."

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