Fantastic early season ski conditions as Breckenridge, Keystone resorts open early
Summit Daily staff
Late Tuesday night, in advance of DJing Wednesday’s opening day at Breckenridge Ski Resort, Jon “DJ DC” Oetken searched online for the perfect song.
The song the Breckenridge resident settled on for the first-chair festivities was a remix of Sister Sledge’s classic “We Are Family.”
“And I was like, ‘Perfect!’” DJ DC said. “‘I’m going to play this as soon as they open the lifts.’ Because we are a family, you know? We all play together. We all grow together.”
It was quite the reunion at Breckenridge Ski Resort for DJ DC and the masses of skiers and snowboarders who came out for the kickoff celebration. After the resort announced earlier this week that it would be opening Peak 8 terrain two days earlier than planned, DJ DC and other opening day staples had to adjust their plans.
They were happy to alter their schedules, though, as Breckenridge was pummeled with 76 inches of snow since mid-October, including more than 6 feet in the last week.
“In comparison to last year, we didn’t have this much snow on the ground until early January,” said Breckenridge spokeswoman Sara Lococo. “So this is a pretty big start to the season.”
After cloud cover had shadowed Breckenridge’s terrain over the past week, the sky opened up for pristine, sunny bluebird conditions early Wednesday morning for more than 10 trails of green, blue and black runs on Peak 8.
At 7 a.m. DJ DC called up to resort officials at the base of Peak 8. In the background noise on the other phone line, DJ DC could hear the people already in line at the Colorado SuperChair, two hours before scheduled opening.
Then, when he and his DJ console setup got to the Peak 8 base at 7:15 a.m., there were about 40 people in line.
“And it progressively built up,” he said.
— Breckenridge Resort (@breckenridgemtn) November 7, 2018
DJ DC described Wednesday’s skiing and riding conditions as one of the best opening days he’s seen in his near decade of DJing the first day of the season. Breckenridge also decided to get the lifts turning 15 minutes early at 8:45 a.m. That’s when the resort’s chief operating officer, John Buhler, joined local Breckenridge legends Trygve Berge and CJ Mueller for first chair.
The 86-year-old Norwegian Olympian Berge cofounded the resort with Sigurd Rockne decades ago. Mueller is a Colorado Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee who is known around Breckenridge as the man who formerly topped the list of “fastest men on skis.”
“I always joke,” DJ DC said, “you know you’re in the right place on a powder day when you see CJ as well in the same zone. He’s always getting after it.”
On Friday, Breckenridge’s originally planned opening day festivities will take place, complete with the Brothers of Brass, who will bring the sounds of New Orleans street music to the slopes of Breckenridge. The resort will also honor local veteran Chad Ohmer and the Summit County High School choir will perform the National Anthem prior to first chair.
They didn’t get all dressed up for nothing.
A week of snowstorms left more than 2 feet of snow on Keystone Resort. Complemented by the resort’s snowmaking activities, it was enough to deliver the first earlier-than-expected opening day at Keystone in a decade, said Russell Carlton, a resort spokesman.
“The season’s going to be a great one,” he said. “The early season snowfall has got everyone pumped up, and we are excited to bring it in on this beautiful bluebird day two days early.”
With hundreds of other people, husband-and-wife Troy and Kendal Vaille — along with Troy’s brother Bryan Vaille — made it a point to join the midweek celebration. They dressed as a gorilla, a purple gorilla and Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen” — because Keystone is their “home mountain.”
Costumed characters is customary on opening days, as excited skiers and snowboarders mark the beginning of the 2018-19 winter season.
“After a nice long summer, it’s time to get back into the groove of the winter,” Bryan Vaille said.
The trio lives just doors down from each other in Summit Cove, and they have been in the county for 23 years now. They all said they hit every opening day they can, and, quite naturally, rode Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Oct. 19, the day that ski area started running its first lift.
“Oh yeah, 20 years in a row on that one,” Kendal Vaille said of making A-Basin’s opening day.
Keystone Resort opened with a beginner run, Schoolmarm, connecting to Silver Spoon, another green run, and then the six-person Montezuma Express Chairlift, which is now operating.
An early season, hikeable A51 terrain park is open at the top of Schoolmarm. Because Keystone isn’t yet filled-in top to bottom, skiers and snowboarders can’t ski all the way to the base yet and have to “download” off the mountain via the River Run Gondola. Night skiing at Keystone is slated to kick off sometime around Thanksgiving.
The resort did a few light refreshments and giveaways for Wednesday’s opening celebration with plans for more raffles on Friday. In an exciting bit of news, Keystone Resort expects to open some intermediate terrain Friday on North Peak, which should help spread out the early season crowds.
“So come Friday, we’ll have two peaks open for the season,” Carlton said.
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