Summit County ski area COO breakfast draws crowd, anticipation |

Summit County ski area COO breakfast draws crowd, anticipation

Kevin Fixler

Guests of the annual ski area chief operating officer breakfast received a welcome gift of some fresh flurries upon arrival to Copper Mountain Resort Tuesday morning, which set the tone nicely for the morning’s festivities.

For at least two decades, the Summit Chamber of Commerce-hosted event has functioned as the official kickoff to the ski season, offering attendees up-to-date insights into their favorite Summit County hills over eggs, bacon and mimosas for those so inclined. The meeting of industry diehards hit all the high notes and had snowsport enthusiasts anxiously anticipating the five resorts’ respective opening days.

Paralympic medalist and Silverthorne resident Amy Purdy functioned as the keynote and introduced her inspirational story of recovery after losing both legs below the knee to bacterial meningitis at the age of 19. Few had dry eyes as the now-36-year-old New York Times’ best-selling author and former “Dancing with the Stars” runner-up spoke of helping a young survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing learn how to skateboard through her Adaptive Action Sports nonprofit, which Purdy founded with her husband, Daniel Gale, in 2005.

Ralf Garrison, director and principal of Denver-based lodging analysis specialists DestiMetrics, also spoke and acted as emcee. He addressed the resort region growth opportunities, which garnered optimism throughout the sell-out conference center, but the biggest cheers of the morning were of course reserved for mentions of snow.

As the event host, Gary Rodgers, president and COO of Copper Mountain, opened the resort presentations, discussing new additions on the property including the Copper Point Townhome workforce housing development and improvements at the East Village Plaza. Talk of Eldora Mountain Resort and Outside magazine’s TV network to resort-owner Powdr Corp’s holdings and new projects to come such as an alpine coaster and increased snowmaking capabilities.

Rodgers addressed Copper’s reenergized and reimagined branding, transitioning from being “the skinny kid in the sandbox” compared to the neighboring Vail Resorts, Inc., properties to hopefully maturing into the hometown option the state’s skiers and snowboarders were raised on. The largest applause came, however, on the image of Copper’s ongoing snowmaking efforts.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area COO Alan Henceroth, who Rodgers playfully ribbed about being a member of the Vail arm, took the opportunity to mention A-Basin’s own snowmaking already underway, and the area’s origins with just a single tow rope 70 seasons ago this year. Strengthened sustainability and the wrapping up of A-Basin’s National Forest expansion process, which stands to include updated lift chairs the expansion into a backcountry section known as “The Beavers,” were other items highlighted.

“You can count on A-Basin to continue to provide what I think is the best skiing and riding in the world,” said Henceroth. “And, at 70 years of age, with all of the great opportunities on the horizon, I think the very best is yet to come.”

If Copper is a scrawny kid on the playground, Loveland Ski Area director of business operations Rob Goodell joked that their hill isn’t even in the sandbox. Despite below-average snow totals last season — similar to all of the region’s resorts — Loveland had a strong year, with several of its best days even taking place in April. The upgrades to aging infrastructure this offseason might not sound terribly sexy, he said, but their unique warming huts with public grills still provide “a true Colorado experience” that Loveland hopes sets it apart and draws a slightly different visitor.

Absent from the event was Keystone Resort’s COO Mike Goar, who was away on a previously scheduled vacation. Breckenridge Ski Resort COO John Buhler, who was Goar’s predecessor at Keystone, picked up the slack, though. Before launching into talk of Breck’s reinvestments and enhancements, he emphasized the strides Keystone has made in successfully creating a family-friendly atmosphere the last handful of years.

The updates at Breck comprise a new restaurant on Peak 7, new construction with Breckenridge Grand Vacations to complete the base area of Peak 8, and then addition of the Epic Discovery summer activities such as a canopy tour, rock-climbing wall and zip lines starting in 2017.

“We already have a thriving summer business in Breckenridge,” said Buhler, “but to be able to bring it to life and allow our guests to experience nature at a whole different level … is something we’re really proud of.”

In the meantime, with winter remaining the yearly event and region’s primary focus, all the county needs to start the season now is the snow.

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