5 more ski areas open across Colorado on holiday week with limited terrain
Despite unseasonably high temperatures, five Colorado ski areas opened the week of Thanksgiving, and one postponed its opening to Monday, Nov. 29.
Copper Mountain Resort opened Monday, Crested Butte opened Wednesday, Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opened Thursday and Steamboat Resort kicked off the season on Saturday.
Steamboat’s opening day was originally scheduled a week earlier on Nov. 20, but resort officials were forced to postpone. Beaver Creek was scheduled to open Wednesday but officials moved the opening to Monday. Powderhorn was scheduled to open Friday, but opening plans have been indefinitely delayed.
The biggest barrier to opening this season has been the unseasonably warm temperatures, which have prevented the resorts from making as much snow as they typically would have by this time in the season. For resorts that open in November, the base is largely machine-made snow, requiring extended time periods of below freezing temperatures.
Ahead of opening day, Aspen Mountain announced 50 acres of terrain, but Wednesday morning’s surprise snowstorm and colder temperatures ideal for snowmaking allowed the area to double the acreage by opening day Thursday.
And with colder temperatures expected to persist over the coming days, mountain manager J.T. Welden said the ski area should be open for top-to-bottom skiing by the end of the weekend, if not sooner.
In Steamboat, employees typically begin making snow at the end of October and throughout November, when temperatures drop low enough. But snowmaking manager Ryan Olson said the temperatures have forced snowmakers to begin operations much later this year, with fewer opportunities to blow snow on cold nights.
“Whereas we usually get three or four cold snaps throughout November, we’ve only had one or two this year. That has kind of slowed us down,” Olson said, leading to the delayed opening.
At Beaver Creek, a dusting of snow and low temperatures in recent days allowed mountain operations teams to better prepare for opening, according to an email from Rachel Levitsky, a spokesperson for Vail Resorts.
“Our snowmakers have been working around the clock,” Levitsky said Friday. “We really just had to wait for the optimal temperatures to kick in, and then they could do their thing. They are a huge reason why we’re able to open in such a dry and warmer-than-usual year.”
There’s no relief in the forecast in terms of natural snow, but overnight lows in the teens and 20s will help snowmaking efforts significantly.
“We can be extremely productive and efficient in a very short time if Mother Nature is cooperating,” Steamboat vice president of resort operations Dave Hunter said.
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