Precautions in place, Keystone Resort on Friday spins lifts for first time in months
Resort has no current plans to open bike park
KEYSTONE — As Ed and Brenda Schehl of Mount Olive, Illinois, finished their 960-mile westward drive to their first vacation post novel coronavirus shutdown, their 3-year-old nephew Aiden Zumwalt had a request for them.
“We got to Denver and we’re going through all the hills and he kept saying, ‘I want to see the mountains,’” Brenda Schehl said. “And I was like, ‘Buddy, the mountains are all around you.’ Now he wants to see everything he can.”
The toddler from St. Louis, Missouri, got his wish to see the mountains as his aunt and uncle took him to the same vacation rental above the Rockin’ R Ranch convenience store in Keystone’s River Run Village they’d stayed in for three years straight.
What they came to at Keystone on Friday, June 26, was the resort’s opening day for the summer 2020 season. It’s the first time in three-and-a-half months a Summit County resort other than Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has operated a gondola or chairlift for public visitation. A-Basin was open for just a week-and-a-half in late May and early June. It was an opening restricted to passholders and for the most part Summit County and Colorado locals, with just about 600 skiers and snowboarders permitted per day through a lottery ticketing system.
At Keystone on Friday, there were no such regulations. That said, the Vail Resorts property operated by a “Live Together, Ride Together” motto. Those who arrived in the same party were permitted to occupy a gondola cabin together. Uploading from the River Run Village, cabins marked with orange tickets were the ones people were permitted to upload. Cabins that followed were ones designated for downloading, as the resort attempted to keep separate parties physically distanced through this alternating practice.
Keystone had limited offerings, which included the scenic gondola ride and a 2.5-mile hiking loop with 400 feet of elevation gain on the Dercum summer trail. Coming off the top terminal of the River Run Gondola at the summit of Dercum Mountain, the trail is accessed straight ahead, in the direction of where the Mozart ski trail begins in the wintertime, before going into the resort’s Windows terrain.
Vail Resorts spokeswoman Sara Lococo described Friday’s crowds as a “nice turnout.” Traffic at the top she described as “steady,” though she said traffic was “definitely a little smaller” than previous summer opening days.
“Especially here at Keystone, usually we’ll open with some biking trails, but the bike park is not open right now, which makes a difference,” Lococo said.
Lococo added that as of now the resort has no plans of opening the Keystone Bike Park, which in most years is a primary summer draw for guests.
“It’s definitely not a decision we made lightly,” Lococo said. “We are fans of the bike park, and we know guests are fans of the bike park. But with everything being so new (with COVID-19) and just getting open, we wanted to focus small for now and just get people up on the mountain. We know some guests are bummed about that decision.”
That said, considering the resort’s trails are located on U.S. Forest Service lands, several cyclists rode their mountain bikes through the River Run Village and onto trails, such as the resort’s summer road, on Friday. Lococo said any mountain bikers who access trails on Forest Service land within the resort’s operating boundaries do so at their own risk, as Keystone is not maintaining its bike park trails. Beyond that, any trail segments featuring man-made features — which is many at the downhill destination — are closed. Signage at the base of the River Run Gondola reflects this current mountain biking situation at Keystone, as Lococo said any trail maintenance, such as of bridges or water bars, haven’t been attended to during the COVID-19 shutdown.
Breckenridge Ski Resort will open for summer on Saturday, July 4. Along with free access to the BreckConnect Gondola, the Colorado Superchair will have scenic rides and hiking access, and the resort’s alpine slides and Gold Runner Coaster will open.
In terms of mountain biking at Breckenridge, Lococo said the resort’s bike haul, just like Keystone, won’t be open. Similar to Keystone, if guests want to access the more cross-country-like mountain bike trails on Forest Service land within the resort’s boundaries, it’s at their own risk.
“Right now, we’re keeping things simple and trying to get people on the mountain foot-traffic wise,” Lococo said.
Simple was good enough for Sara Schlee of Nashville, Tennessee, at Keystone on Friday. After a cross-country drive, she showed her boyfriend Andy Sherlin a ski resort for the first time in his life while they visited Summit County to celebrate her daughter Natascha’s high school graduation. They opted for Keystone after they found out the Mount Evans scenic highway was closed.
“It’s a nice place to come and recharge after all of this craziness in the world,” Schlee said.
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