Ski Area COO Summit notes: Grand Prix, Dew Tour back at Copper; A-Basin’s new Lenawee lift a 6-pack

Summit freeskier Zach Ryan skis at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in winter 2020-21.
Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

The four ski areas in Summit County, and Loveland Ski Area on the other side of the Continental Divide, shared various updates with conference attendees at Friday’s Ski Area COO Summit at Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Mountain Resort

Dustin Lyman, president and general manager of the home resort, said Copper is welcoming back the U.S. Grand Prix and Dew Tour snowboard and freeski events in December after both were canceled last winter during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix, currently slated for Dec. 8-11, and the Dew Tour, scheduled to take place Dec. 16-19, will be major events in the lead-up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics in China in February and March.

“We are excited about Grand Prix, and possibly Dew Tour, being Olympic-qualifying events leading up to the Olympics in 2022,” said Lyman.

“(We’re) looking forward to hosting new amateur and pro competitions this year, and bringing some back and continuing to expand Woodward Mountain Parks,” Lyman added.

Ahead of Copper’s planned Nov. 22 opening, the ski resort will again open up to the world’s top pro and youth downhill skiers a month early, with a target date of Oct. 22 for the U.S. Ski Team’s official training venue, which features speed and tech zones.

And Lyman dreamed big when asked at the end of the breakfast what improvements he’d bring to Copper if money weren’t a variable.

“Everybody on my team knows what we would do if I had a choice: We would put a chairlift on top of Jacque Peak, and we’d be skiing an additional 2,000 acres,” he said.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth said the new Lenawee chairlift the resort announced earlier this year will be a detachable six-pack.

“This is the biggest lift we’ve ever built,” he said. “It’s actually going to be the biggest project we’ve ever done.”

Henceroth added that the resort is building the new Steilhang Hut near the top of Lenawee Mountain to serve a simple menu of bratwurst, pretzels, strudel and beer. And at the Il Rifugio restaurant at the summit, the ski area will double seating and introduce table service.

Breckenridge Ski Resort

At Breckenridge, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jody Churich said the ski resort has poured cement for its new Freedom Superchair, which will increase capacity and improve flow on the resort’s popular Peaks 6 and 7 terrain. Churich added that Breckenridge plans to fly in towers for the new lift in the next two weeks and load test in early November. She said the resort hopes to open the new chair in time for Peak 7’s opening day, which she said is slated for early December, weather permitting.

As for the end of the season, Churich said Breckenridge intends to open skiing and riding across three peaks — Peaks 6, 7 and 8 — during its spring finale from April 18 through Memorial Day if weather permits.

Keystone Resort

At Breckenridge’s sister Vail Resorts property, Vice President and General Manager Chris Sorenson said the resort’s night skiing will return around Thanksgiving after the offering was scaled back last season in response to COVID-19. The resort will also have two snow forts this winter: the traditional large snow fort at the top of Dercum Mountain and a new one at the Mountain House base adjacent to the new Peru Express chairlift.

Over at the River Run base area, Sorenson said the new Kindred hotel adjacent to the River Run Gondola will feature 107 hotel rooms, a restaurant, banquet space, 95 residential condominiums and 1,200 square feet of commercial space to include third-party restaurant and rental spaces.

“(We’re) excited to see how this progresses over the next two years,” Sorenson said.

Loveland Ski Area

Loveland Chief Operating Officer Rob Goodell said the ski area is not mandating vaccinations for its staff as of now, but will “see how things progress.”

As a result, Goodell said the ski area is planning for employees and guests to be required to wear facial coverings in snowcats during snowcat tours. The ski area plans to expand those snowcat tours into “the shadow of the Citadel,” Goodell said, just east of Lift 8. Goodell said Loveland plans to open the new full-day tour, which is free to lift ticket holders like the ski area’s existing snowcat tours, in January.

“It’s a very unique experience,” Goodell said. “There are 500 acres back there of very accessible terrain. You don’t have to be an expert skier and rider.”

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