2017 Year in Review: A-Basin’s 70th birthday, Beavers expansion and Copper coaster highlight year of multi-season additions
December 22, 2017
2017 was a year of celebrating both the old and the new in the Summit County ski community, as the county's oldest ski area, Arapahoe Basin, turned 70 while several new amenities debuted across the county's resorts.
This year wasn't all about celebrating yesteryear at A-Basin, however, as the iconic ski area also prepped to open its new 468-acre expansion into The Steep Gullies and The Beavers. Patroller and lift-served development of this out-of-bounds region of the resort was approved in Nov. 2016 by the White River National Forest and is anticipated to be opened at some point this ski season.
A-Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth has been at the center of planning this past year for this huge change for the ski area known to many simply as "The Legend."
"I think it's going to add a lot," Henceroth said in April of the expansion. "The stuff we're doing is not going to bring a whole lot more people here. What it's going to do is spread people out more and make the prominent stuff that much better."
The process for this 70th anniversary terrain expansion took nearly a full decade between proposal and approval. And this past summer, run cutting, glading and lift installation began.
Over on the west side of the county, Copper Mountain Resort got its final approval in March to construct its Rocky Mountain Coaster.
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In a day and age in the ski industry when resorts are strategically targeting more multi-season amenitities and weather-versatile attractions, Copper's new 5,800-foot alpine coaster track was a major step forward for the resort. It opened on Nov. 30, smack-dab in the middle of a slow start to the ski season when natural powder was hard to come by.
For $25, the coaster gives visitors a different kind of way to make turns up and down the mountain, as the ride's steel zigs and zags through Copper's mountainous terrain. The ride is also unique in that riders can control their speed via a dynamic brake system, which helps as speed is easy to come by on a track that consists of a vertical drop of 430 feet and several 360-degree turns.
"The Rocky Mountain Coaster is an ideal year-round attraction for just about everyone," Gary Rodgers, Copper's president and general manager, said in November. "We hope to see grandparents going down with their grandkids and the kids-at-heart taking a ride with their friends and family."
The coaster was the biggest of several year-round attractions the resort got the go-ahead on in March after a final decision was released by the White River National Forest. The year-round recreation upgrades at Copper will also include a 1-mile mountain bike trail and associated snowmaking and drainage system improvements.
Copper also opened its new Kokomo Express quad lift in mid-December, a move that enables skiers and snowboarders to access Copper's main beginner terrain area in just four minutes. And at the top of the lift is the new KoKo's Hut, a cafeteria-style eatery that has a deck with a view of the Tenmile Range. Other new amenitities at Copper included the REI Adventure Station, an opening that coincided this year with the open of the new REI store in Dillon. Both locations offer ski and outdoors-related programming.
Over at Keystone Resort, the new six-person Montezuma Express chairlift was the resort's big addition for 2017, in time to improve uphill capacity by 25 percent for Keystone's Nov. 10 opening day.
Keystone also went big with its Kidtopia programming this season, as the resort is currently in the midst of its new nine-day "Kidtopia Spectacular Event" that runs through Christmas Eve and features what the resort dubs "The World's Largest Snow Fort" at the top of Dercum Mountain.
And at Keystone's sister Vail Resorts property Breckenridge Ski Resort, the new six-passenger Falcon SuperChair is slated to open this coming Wednesday, Dec. 27. It's an improvement the resort hopes will make trips up and down Peak 10 more efficient for the advanced skiers and snowboarders taking to the difficult and varied Peak 10 terrain from Breck's Peak 9 base area.
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