Leaders from the five Summit County ski areas came together to unofficially kick-off the 2018/19 season
Setting an optimistic tone despite a mediocre winter last year, Summit County’s five ski resorts unofficially kicked off the 2018-19 ski season with the Summit Chamber of Commerce’s annual Chief Operating Officer breakfast. The five COOs gave presentations previewing changes to look forward to at their ski areas this season.
John Buhler, COO of Breckenridge Ski Resort, highlighted in his presentation Breck’s new branding campaign, “The Breck Effect,” aimed at the 20s/30s demographic and promoting the Breck experience as one with excitement and energy, with “real social connections” and an adventure “bigger than themselves.”
Buhler also promoted Breck’s high alpine terrain, a new early season entertainment event to take place in November and new restaurant concepts at the resort. Breck has also committed to go “zero net operating footprint” by 2030, which means zero net emissions and zero net impact on forests and habitats.
Finally, Buhler said that Vail Resorts, which owns Breck, supports Summit County Ballot Initiative 1A and urged breakfast attendees to vote in November. All of Summit County’s resorts ended their presentations throwing their support behind 1A, a mill levy that would raise $8.8 million for five different areas of need in the county. Breck’s opening day is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area COO Alan Henceroth presented next. Henceroth promised that A-Basin would once again have the longest season of all the resorts, keeping lifts running from October to June. Henceroth also touted A-Basin’s new Beavers and Steep Gullies terrain expansion, adding 468 new acres with 34 new runs. A-Basin also underwent a $2 million kitchen renovation and will extend dinner hours into the weekend. The ski area will also open a new small 25- to 30-seat restaurant, “Il Rifiguio,” promising a classy dining experience at 12,500 feet.
Henceroth affirmed that A-Basin supported 1A, while highlighting the ski area’s own recycling and sustainability efforts that managed to divert 50 percent of waste from landfills to recycling last year. A-Basin also committed itself to going carbon neutral by 2025, emphasizing that climate change is a real and dire threat to the industry.
Loveland Ski Area was represented by COO Rob Goodell. Goodell started his presentation telling the audience that he had just received an OpenSnow app alert which told him that there should be 7 inches of snow in Loveland on Monday. Aside from that tantalizing tease, Goodell announced that Loveland had its second best season last year, despite lower than average snow for most of the season.
Loveland’s highlights for the upcoming season include its new partnership with the Powder Alliance, which gives Loveland season pass holders three free midweek days and half-off weekends at any of the Powder Alliance’s 18 other resorts, as well as three free days at 16 other partner resorts.
Goodell also unveiled Loveland’s newest chairlift, named “Chet’s Dream,” a name chosen from a web competition in honor of former owner Chet Upham. The high-speed detachable quad lift is expected to be operational by opening day.
Copper Mountain Resort was represented by interim general manager and senior vice president Jesse True, who stepped in for retiring president and general manager Gary Rodgers. True highlighted the many changes going on at Copper, including two new lifts — the new American Eagle, with six-person chairs and the eight-person gondola cabins, and the new American Flyer, which will feature six-person bubble chairs.
Copper is also undergoing a whole lot of construction, with a new entrance monument, revamped parking lots, a new flagship hotel, the new Rocky Mountain coaster, and numerous new bar and restaurant options. Copper has also joined the Ikon pass, which gives access to 36 ski areas.
Keystone Resort general manager Geoff Buchheister was the last executive to speak. Buchheister promoted Keystone’s family-friendly brand, and that Ski Magazine had declared Keystone to be the top family-friendly ski resort for 2019. Buchheister noted how technology was consuming young people’s lives, and Keystone aimed to provide a venue that brought the family together to talk and bond.
Aside from introducing a new surface lift at overrun, a Kidtopia event series aimed at children, a new Hyatt hotel and other small upgrades, Buchheister unveiled “Emma,” an AI assistant app developed by Vail Resorts. Emma will be able to help guests navigate the resort and find dining options and other information to enhance their guest experience.
Emma will be rolled out at Keystone first, and will eventually be used at all Vail Resorts properties.
Correction: The previous version of this article erroneously attributed the new Hyatt hotel to Copper Mountain. Keystone Resort will be opening the new Hyatt hotel.
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