Locals miffed at late-opening lifts
BRECKENRIDGE – The mountain might open at 8:30 a.m., but that doesn’t mean all the lifts are running.
That’s what hundreds of skiers and boarders learned this past weekend after Breckenridge Ski Resort officials announced they would open the Falcon Lift on Peak 10 and the Mercury lift on Peak 9. Skiers, eager to get first tracks in the 6-plus inches of snow that fell over the weekend, boarded the Beaver Run and Quicksilver lifts on Peak 9 at 8:30 a.m. and schussed down the mountain to access other trails.
What they found were mobs of people gathered at the bottom terminal of the mid-mountain Falcon and Mercury lifts and lift operators who told them they wouldn’t start the lifts for another 20 minutes. Ski resort officials said that operating schedule will be in effect all season – although on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the Falcon, Mercury and Peak 8 Rocky Mountain SuperChair lifts will open at 8:30 a.m. (Peak 8 opened for the season Wednesday.)
“All they’re doing is creating ill will amongst a lot of people who want to go skiing,” said longtime skier C.J. Mueller. “I can understand (not opening) the T-bar; they have to do avalanche control. But it’s pretty low to do this to people who come up here. Every powder day, every holiday, every weekend there are going to be a lot of people standing around wondering why the lifts aren’t open.”
Ski area personnel are opening lifts later as part of cost-cutting measures Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Adam Aron announced this fall.
“We analyzed the lift ticket scan data from early mornings and, from that, determined that there was minimal use of some of our lifts between 8:30 and 9 a.m.,” said Dawn Doty, communications manager at Breckenridge. “While we know this isn’t a popular decision for some locals, it is a business decision we needed to make and hope people understand our need to operate the resort as responsibly as possible.”
She noted that the three lower, early-opening lifts serve 40 percent of the mountain’s terrain.
Mueller said he thought the decision to open some lifts later will turn people away.
“They spend thousands of dollars marketing, telling people how wonderful Breckenridge is and what time they’re open,” he said. “Then there’s a mob of people waiting to get up the mountain. And once the lift opens, it’s a race to get on the first chair.”
No cutbacks at A-Basin
or Copper Mountain
While Vail Resorts is laying off employees and cutting back services to save money, local competitors – Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain – are conducting business as usual.
Skiers and boarders at Copper Mountain will find fewer lifts and trails open during the week than on weekends, but it’s not because the resort is cutting back on services.
“This is something we do every year,” said Copper Mountain Communications Coordinator Beth Jahnigen. “We really manage our business to the demand. We see more visits during the weekends than during the week, so we staff accordingly.”
With the recent snow, the ski season is off to a good start, she said, but it’s too early to make assumptions about the remaining five months.
“We definitely feel optimistic as far as the first month of the season has gone,” Jahnigen said. “(But) the season is six months long. Essentially, we’ve only completed one sixth of it, and a lot can happen.”
Paring down during the week in the early part of the season saves the resort money, but it’s something officials do each year, she said.
“We ramp up on employees slowly over the fall,” Jahnigen said, adding there is an increase in staffing with the Thanksgiving holiday and again over Christmas. Usually, the resort is fully staffed and open by the new year.
There’s no need for cutbacks at this time at Arapahoe Basin, either.
“We are having a stellar year,” said Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing at Arapahoe Basin. “So far, nothing’s planned to be cut.”
Unlike Breckenridge, which has staggered the the times its lifts open each morning this year, Arapahoe Basin and Copper Mountain officials said their lift times are the same as last year.
At Arapahoe Basin, lifts open at 9 a.m., with the exception of weekends and holidays – when the Exhibition and Pali lifts open at 8:30 a.m., said Alan Henceroth, Arapahoe Basin mountain manager. Over at Copper Mountain, lifts open at 9 a.m. during the week and 8:30 on weekends, Jahnigen said.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or email@example.com
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