Biking, hiking and high-Alpine thrills near as Summit County resorts prepare for summer operations
With the closing of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Sunday, June 4, Summit County has officially said goodbye to the 2022-23 ski and ride season and people have begun dusting the cobwebs off their bikes, fly rods and kayaks in preparation for the short but fun summer season.
Many residents may have had some downtime between skiing and hitting up their favorite trails for the first time this year, but ski resort staff had few, if any, breaks between winter and summer operations.
Although there are several weeks in between the two seasons, employees at both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort immediately begin the process of flipping the mountain from skiing and snowboarding to summertime activities after the resorts ended winter operations.
For both Vail Resorts-owned mountains, the process of preparing for the summer season requires a lot of teamwork with much of the work actually starting before the mountains close for the winter season.
“The best word to describe preparing the mountain for summer is collaboration,” Breckenridge Ski Resort director of skier services Kyle Murphy said. “With skiing and riding at Breck through May, it’s a tight window. We actually start flipping the resort for summer operations before we even close. This requires an incredible amount of teamwork between our patrol, lift operations, lift maintenance, building maintenance and summer teams.”
One of the main tasks that take place in between the season is the moving of snow to other areas of the mountain in order to allow the mountain to dry out faster and allow access to mountain roads for the beginning of summer season project work.
“It is fairly common practice to move snow across the mountain,” Keystone Resort senior director of mountain operations Chris Ingham said. “We will typically prioritize travel routes and areas where work will be done the soonest. That is something that we partner with the U.S. Forest Service on in order to ensure that we are considerate of the land we are operating on during the process.”
Murphy said both Keystone and Breckenridge work to make sure that the moved snow is consolidated in an area that will continue to ensure a strong runoff season while not inhibiting summer activities.
Once snow has been moved away from major trails, or once Mother Nature naturally melts the snow‚ teams at Breckenridge and Keystone start inspecting mountain biking and hiking trails across the mountain.
“This includes putting up all way-finding signage and performing any necessary trail maintenance to repair or enhance any trails impacted by our winter operations,” Murphy said.
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Ingham said the summer operations team at Keystone walks every trail on the mountain and inspects the trails for tree damage, trail damage and snow. Once the main concerns are addressed, the team will then turn its focus to raking out the trails and buffing out the dirt so riders and hikers can enjoy a smooth, pristine trail.
Outside of on-mountain activities, both Keystone and Breckenridge also offer a range of activities out of the ski resort’s base areas. From gem panning, bungee trampolines and mini golf at Keystone to Breckenridge’s Epic Discovery summer offerings, each ski resort’s summer base is designed with guests in mind.
“The base areas are designed in a way to utilize all the available space we have in a way that helps us manage our many visitors and provide the best possible experience for our guests,” Murphy said.
Due to the planned upgrade of Peak 8’s 5 Chair this summer, Breckenridge has had to reorganize the hours of operations for its “crowd-favorite” Goldrunner Coaster and other Epic Discovery summer activities.
Even with the ongoing construction, Murphy says the summer operations team at Breckenridge is focused on maximizing the space and time it has to work with in order to ensure the most optimal guest experience.
During the summer, Keystone and Breckenridge trade the threats of avalanches and skier or rider collisions for the perils of fast-moving, severe thunderstorms and natural wildlife encounters. Much like the risks that come with the winter, both resorts keep these risks in mind and take steps that will keep both guests and employees safe.
“We are always mindful of how the weather can create any type of concern for the resort,” Ingham said. “The other piece is the natural wildlife and particularly moose — things that are kind of out of our control but are part of the appeal and the natural beauty of operating in a national forest.”
Both ski resorts are currently making the final preparations before the start of its summer season. Keystone will kick off the summer season first on June 23, and Breckenridge will follow a week later on June 30.
Keystone will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays through Mondays until Sept. 4, and Breckenridge will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on a daily basis until Sept. 4.
The BreckConnect Gondola will operate daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in order to help transport guests to the base area.
For more information on either mountain, visit KeystoneResort.com and Breckenridge.com. Nearby Copper Mountain Resort and Arapahoe Basin Ski Resort will begin their summer operations on Friday, June 9, and June 23, respectively.
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