Ski terrain may be limited as Breckenridge, Keystone and Copper ready for opening day
Shortly before 10 a.m. Friday morning, dozens of club-team skiers at the 2,490-acre Copper Mountain Resort ambled in their boots after their morning runs through Center Village to fill up on coffee and an early lunch at Starbucks.
Then, at about 10 a.m., as several guns fanned snow onto the Main Vein trail behind the club and college skiers, the machines suddenly turned off. With temperatures creeping north of 40 degrees by midday Friday throughout the county, preparations for Copper Mountain Resort’s opening day on Nov. 10 were interrupted.
Less than a week before Copper, as well as Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort, are set to welcome skiers at 9 a.m. on Nov. 10, it’s still a wait-and-see approach throughout the county.
“We are feeling pretty good about everything,” said Zak Sos, spokesman for Breckenridge. “We will be opening a number of trails hopefully on Peak 8 for opening day, but we can’t play the snow gods. We do hope for the best.”
Though Breckenridge crews managed to cover the Springmeier intermediate run with snow as of early Thursday morning, the resort’s snowguns stopped running at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning due to the warm weather.
Over at Keystone, snowmaking was also paused Thursday as the resort prepares to open its mid-mountain, 3.5-mile Schoolmarm beginner terrain on Dercum Mountain for the second straight year on Nov. 10.
“This allows the whole family to come out on opening day, which is pretty rare for most openings,” said Keystone spokeswoman Sara Lococo. “That’s one of the cool things. It worked last year so we are doing that again this year.”
“The terrain plan we won’t know until early or middle of next week,” she added. “We’ll have a better grasp then.”
In the lead up to Friday’s opening festivities at all three resorts, there is a four-to-five day snowstorm coming, then another possible storm in the long-term forecast scheduled to hit Saturday, Nov. 11, according to Joel Gratz, the founder of OpenSnow.com.
But the forecast, and just what it means for skiers and shredders, remains uncertain.
“There will likely be enough cold air and snowmaking to open on schedule on Friday,” Gratz said Friday afternoon. “But I doubt there will be a whole lot of terrain open. The screaming message? Even though there will be a lot of snow between now and next Friday, it’s not a ton of snow and temperatures will not be that cold.”
Gratz described the storm that is to hit this weekend as one that will provide intermittent snow over four to five days. It’s not a “perfect setup” for Summit County, he said, as Open Snow anticipates other parts of the state will likely get more snow than Summit, which he thinks will receive 5 to 10 inches by next Tuesday.
“The best snowfall for this storm will likely fall at the higher elevations, so above 9,000 feet,” Gratz said. “That’s pretty good for ski areas, but it’s not going to be that cold. It’ll be in the upper 20s at mountain level. It’s fine, but definitely not a cold storm by Colorado standards.”
As for snowmaking at the resorts, Gratz thinks colder temperatures beginning Tuesday night lasting into Wednesday should allow for better snowmaking into Wednesday night.
The dry and warm start is similar to last year, though Gratz said it’s still way too early “to hit the panic button” and worry about how long into the season some terrain will remain without snow.
“I ran the numbers,” Gratz said, “and if we have little to no natural snow base by the middle of November, we still have a two-thirds chance of getting to average or above average base by the end of December.”
At Copper, snowmaking crews can blanket 336 acres of the resort’s 2,490 acres of skiable terrain without natural snowfall. Copper spokeswoman Stephanie Sweeney said the plan is for a couple of intermediate trails from mid-mountain leading down to Center Village, Rhapsody and Main Vein.
The resort then plans to branch out to its West Village beginner terrain around Thanksgiving before it hopes to open most all of its East Village advanced terrain around the same time the U.S. Ski team completes its training on Dec. 15.
At Breckenridge, Sos said opening day plans include Upper and Lower Springmeier, Middle Four O’Clock and Trygve’s.
And at Keystone, the newly renovated Montezuma Express chairlift will expand from four to six seats, transporting skiers and snowboarders to the middle of Dercum Mounain on opening day.
“That’s what we are most excited for,” Keystone spokesman Russ Carlton said of the new lift.
Nightskiing at Keystone will again start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and be open only on weekends until mid-December, then from Wednesday through Saturday for the remainder of the season.
Once open on Nov. 10, Breckenridge and Keystone will be open seven days a week through the duration of their seasons. Keystone is scheduled to close on Sunday, April 9, with Breckenridge closing two weekends later.
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