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SEE: Live updates from Vail’s 2019 opener

Opening day is here in Vail, and the Vail Daily will be out here all day capturing the action! If you’d like to have your photos featured, use the #VailLive hashtag on Instagram, and refresh this page for updates.

For a list of events happening this weekend, check out Tricia’s weekend picks.

Alterra buying Sugarbush in Vermont, bringing its resort count up to 15

WARREN, Vt. (AP) — Alterra Mountain Company in Denver says it has entered an agreement to buy Sugarbush Resort in Vermont.

The purchase would increase Alterra Mountain’s total year-round mountain destinations to 15 in six states and three Canadian provinces.

Alterra’s chief executive officer said Wednesday that it’s excited to expand in the Northeast. It also owns Stratton Mountain in Vermont.

The company says Sugarbush president Win Smith will remain in that role and will oversee daily operations and plans for future capital improvements.

Officials say the sale is expected to close in the first quarter of 2020.

Terms of the transaction have not been disclosed.

Among the Alterra Resorts are Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado; Tremblant in Quebec; and Deer Valley Resort and Solitude Mountain Resort in Utah.

8,000 new foam blocks and other improvements highlight Woodward Barn opening at Copper Mountain

COPPER MOUNTAIN — Every time you jump into a foam pit at the Woodward Barn, you take a little piece of the pit home with you.

And after several long years of that, many of those cubes had seen enough, said Emily Terrell with Copper.

The Woodward Barn — Copper Mountain’s massive indoor freestyle training facility — reopened over the weekend with 8,000 new foam cubes and a welcome party on Saturday, offering free access to the many trampolines and park facilities that make the barn a legendary training ground for freeskiers, snowboarders, freestyle BMX riders, skateboarders and, yes, even Rollerbladers and scooter kids. All where present on Saturday for the barn’s annual season kickoff party, which took place both inside and outside the facility.

“I’ve worked this event for five years: This is definitely some of the nicest weather we’ve had,” Terrell said Saturday.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, the newly refreshed Woodward Copper Barn reopened with the Barn Bash annual celebration.
John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com

The barn, which was outfitted with a new roof and new birch spring floor over the offseason, was packed all day as kids 5 and older took to the trampolines for free intro sessions. A live DJ spun tunes, snowboards from Weston and Never Summer, facemasks and water bottles from Phunkshun recycled plastic and Burton stickers were given away as kids gathered to see “Joy,” the new snowboarding movie from Summit County local Red Gerard.

“Once again people were really stoked to be here for the annual welcome party,” Terrell said.


Money was being raised Saturday for the High Fives Foundation, which focuses on preventing life-changing injuries and provides resources and hope if they do happen. The High Fives Foundation empowerment fund supported 92 athletes in 2018. Among them was Trevor Kennison, who made headlines earlier this year for riding Corbet’s Couloir in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on his sit-ski during the Kings and Queens of Corbet’s competition in February. Kennison broke his back on Vail Pass in 2014 and told his story to listeners Saturday.

“I laid there buried in the snow from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.,” he said. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

Kennison now speaks out on behalf of the High Fives organization, which has disbursed more than $365,000 to athletes like him since Jan. 1, 2018, through grants and equipment including wheelchairs, adaptive bikes, standing frames, hand controls, waveskis, sit-skis, outriggers and more.

Kyle Negomir at Copper Mountain Opening Day Nov 8, 2019.
Curtis DeVore | Special to the Daily


While freestyle was the focus on Saturday, the U.S. Ski Team’s Alpine squad has also been enjoying Copper Mountain for the last week or so.

U.S. Ski Team athlete Kyle Negomir, a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail alum, said the team started training Nov. 6 and has been loving the surface available at Copper.

“Having full speed training available this early in the season has been awesome,” Negomir said.

Golden Peak is targeting an Nov. 18 start for Alpine training, as well, said Jessie Vandenhouten with Vail Resorts.

The U.S. Alpine team heads to Vail for a fundraiser at Yama Sushi from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Negomir said many Vail athletes should be in attendance including himself, River Radamus and Mikaela Shiffrin. For more information. visit one.bidpal.net/alpinefundraiser.

Researchers take deep dive into March 2019’s intense avalanche cycle

The avalanche cycle that struck the Colorado mountains in March destroyed a mining structure that had survived since 1881, produced three slides among the most destructive ever recorded in the state, obliterated the sheriff’s house in Hinsdale County and blanketed roadways in places that had never been covered.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center researchers are just starting to get a grip on the magnitude of events from March 1 to 14.

“Nobody alive remembers anything like this happening,” Brian Lazar, deputy director of the avalanche center, said Wednesday night at a presentation at Cripple Creek Backcountry in Carbondale.

A standing-room-only crowd of about 100 crammed into the store to watch a slideshow featuring images that Lazar called “avalanche porn.”

CAIC recorded nearly 1,000 avalanches between March 1 and 14. In reality, at least five times that many actually occurred, Lazar said. CAIC uses satellite imagery for avalanche research. The satellites focus on areas where timber was knocked down. It indicated there were nearly 5,000 sites in the Colorado mountains last winter. Sometimes, CAIC is learning of massive slides from pictures provided of the carnage remaining this summer.

It wasn’t just the numbers but the sheer destructive force that made the March cycle so memorable.

The D-scale is an assessment of the destructive potential of avalanches. A D1 slide is relatively harmless. D3 can knock down timber. D4 can destroy a structure and alter a section of forest. D5 is the highest, with the force to alter the landscape and even destroy a small village.

CAIC has documented 87 avalanches at or above D4 during the two-week March cycle, Lazar said. To put that into perspective, there were 24 slides of that magnitude from 2010 to 2018 combined.

Two of the three biggest slides in March occurred in Pitkin County. The first occurred in Conundrum Creek Valley on March 9. The slide broke along 1 mile of the ridge south of Aspen Highlands, including the Five Fingers area. It dumped debris as deep as 200 feet in the creek.

“This was the biggest avalanche I’ve ever seen in the state of Colorado, probably the biggest avalanche I’ve ever seen in the lower 48 states,” Lazar said. “It wiped out thousands of trees.”

One house was spared only because a protective concrete wedge diverted snow, tree trunks and debris to avoid a direct hit. Lazar and other researchers used chainsaws to cut disks out of tree trunks left in the slide path to estimate of their age. That helps determine how long it has been since a slide of that magnitude struck the area.

“From some of the tree coring and some of the tree disking we’re doing, this particular event may be more in the order of one in 300 years,” Lazar said.

Another of the D5 slides occurred March 14 along a 2-mile ridge starting at Garrett Peak just outside of Snowmass Ski Area.

“You’ve often heard you can’t get D5 avalanches in Colorado,” Lazar said. “I’ve often said that myself because the terrain’s just not big enough.”

He predicted that after more information is assessed, additional slides from the cycle will be reclassified as D5, most likely some in Gothic and Lake City.

“So much went down in this (two-week) period, there’s no way I can capture it in one talk,” Lazar said at the start of his presentation.

In a nutshell, here’s what happened. Average to slightly above-average snowfall during the first half of the winter built a strong and stable snowpack throughout the Colorado mountains. March brought a series of exceptionally wet snowstorms.

“We got hammered for two weeks straight,” said Lazar, a resident of the Carbondale-area and a CAIC forecaster for the Aspen-Marble zone.

The Aspen zone was among the hardest hit. While many mountains received 4 to 6 feet of snow, Schofield Pass near Marble received 12 feet. The storms added at least 4 to 6 inches of snow water equivalent — the amount of water in the snowpack.

The snowpack couldn’t handle that amount of loading with wet, heavy snow. In addition, a lot of snow was built up since there hadn’t been a lot of slide activity earlier in the winter. As a result, the slides in March were huge.

“When things finally started failing, they went catastrophically,” Lazar said.

There are indications that wet storm periods might become more common.

“With climate change and that kind of stuff happening, we’re seeing 3- to 4-inch water storm events more frequently,” Lazar said.

CAIC’s research of the historically large and intense cycle is heading in several directions. For example, some of the largest and most destructive timber was carried to the toe of the slide path. Conventional wisdom had been that it settles out earlier. The pattern displayed in March might force reassessment of damage potential.

Also of interest is the somewhat random nature of slides. While many avalanche paths slid — some for the first time in decades and even more than 100 years — not all slopes did. Lazar showed a picture of a road sign saying “End of Avalanche Area” knocked over by an avalanche. That displays the uncertainty around big cycles, he said.

Of greatest concern to CAIC is how to warn people in isolated mountain areas about avalanche danger. As population grows, fewer people have telephone landlines so they aren’t accessible by reverse 911. The destruction of the Hinsdale County sheriff’s house, which was occupied by three people at the time, demonstrates a need for greater communication with people in endangered areas, Lazar said.

“Having gone down there, I can’t believe anyone lived through this thing,” he said.

The March storm cycle was destructive enough. Avalanches that month killed two people — one in the backcountry and another in an accident while clearing a roof. Ten structures were hit statewide. Gas and power lines were damaged. Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass south of Ouray was closed for 18 days. Slides even closed Interstate 70 and Highway 91 near Copper Mountain. Ten people were trapped in vehicles on open highways throughout the state.

Once the snow stopped, avalanche conditions quickly returned to mostly stable for the remainder of winter and spring.

“We went from pretty stable to the world falling apart to pretty stable just like that,” said Lazar, who added that analysis of the intense two-week period will continue. “This is going to be years of research in the making.”


Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadorov out indefinitely after taking puck to the face against Predators

A bounce-back Avalanche victory Thursday against the Predators was soured with the discovery that yet another player will be lost for significant time to injury.

Defenseman Nikita Zadorov took a puck to the face early in the second period on a Nashville power-play and immediately dropped to the ice. He was taken to the locker room and did not return.

“(Zadorov) got hit in the face with that shot and he’s gone to the doctor today,” coach Jared Bednar told reporters Friday after an optional morning skate. “I would say he’s out indefinitely. I don’t have all the details of his injury just yet. We’ll know more later today.”

Zadorov is the latest on a growing list of injured Avs that includes goalie Philipp Grubauer and forwards Gabe Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Colin Wilson. Colorado will recall a player from the AHL-affiliate Eagles before the team embarks on a five-game road trip next week, Bednar said.

Zadorov’s prolonged absence leaves a physicality void on Colorado’s back-end with his team-leading 28 hits in 15 games this season. The Avalanche host the Blue Jackets on Saturday night.

Read more via The Denver Post.

A Telluride woman was first to ski from the Lhotse summit. She’s still recovering from “post-traumatic stoke.”

Hilaree Nelson was in the zone, breathing hard in the proverbial death zone. She and her partner, Jim Morrison, had not yet strapped on oxygen masks as they neared the 27,940-foot summit of Lhotse and they’d been crawling up the north face of the Himalayan peak for hours. 

Photographer Nick Kalisz broke through the laborious fog and told Nelson she needed to turn around and check out the sunrise. They were six of the world’s top mountaineers alone in Everest’s Western Cwm, with not another soul for miles. 

“Just imagine, we had been up walking at 2 a.m. and it was such black dark and it was so cold and scary and the sun just brings this whole feeling of life,” said Nelson, the Telluride mother of two and pioneering ski mountaineer who joined Morrison in September 2018 to become the first people ever to ski from the summit of Lhotse, the world’s fourth-highest peak. “I just remember falling back. It brought tears to my eyes and I remember thinking this is why I do this. This is why I take five weeks away from my kids, and this is why I love these mountains so much.”

It’s those small moments that pay the biggest rewards for Nelson, whose unrivaled ascent and ski descent of Lhotse marked one of skiing’s most heralded moments.

“We went to Lhotse to climb it and ski it, so we had that expectation and we prepared ourselves for that success — or that failure,” she said in an interview with The Colorado Sun that will be included in this season’s Next Level Skiing podcast. “But you don’t prepare yourself for all those little things along the way, and that’s what really makes the adventure. That’s what really makes it so worthwhile and really sets the tone for the joy of being successful. I had someone tell me ‘Oh after you skied Lhotse you must be so bored and it must not be that fun to come home and ski Telluride.’ And I was like ‘Oh my gosh you are totally missing the point.’ I just love skiing and I love being in the mountains and it’s because of those little moments.”

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Keystone Resort to open Dercum’s Dash, Jaybird, Anticipation runs Saturday

KEYSTONE — Keystone Resort announced on its social media channels Thursday afternoon that skiers and snowboarders will be able to ride intermediate terrain down to the River Run Village base area starting Saturday.

This is made possible with the opening of Dercum’s Dash, which is the main thoroughfare for skiers and snowboarders accessing the River Run Gondola and Summit Express bases at the resort’s main base area at the bottom of Dercum Mountain.

Keystone said the beginner Jaybird run, which connects to the top of Dercum’s Dash, also will open Saturday as will the intermediate Anticipation run off the back side of North Peak.

As of Thursday morning, Keystone had open 151 acres for skiing and snowboarding across the resort via eight trails and six lifts.

Steamboat Resort to open Nov. 15; earliest Opening Day in history

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Resort will open on the earliest date in its history. 

The 2019-20 season will begin on Friday, Nov. 15, according to a news release from the ski area issued Thursday morning. This comes after significant snowfall and cool temperatures in October, with more than 63 inches of accumulation at mid-mountain.

“Winter came early to Steamboat and with record breaking snow in October, opening sooner was an easy decision,” Rob Perlman, president and chief operating officer of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said in the news release.

Christie Peak Express will be the only available lift, with access to 10 trails and parts of the Lil’ Rodeo Terrain Park.

Daily lift passes will be sold at a reduced price of $50 for the first week of operations. All other season passes, including the Ikon Pass, will be valid for the earlier-than-expected opening day. 

The first 100 guests at the resort on Nov. 15 will get a free pair of Smartwool socks, according to the release. Starting at 8 a.m. there also will be free breakfast burritos at Christie Peak Express while supplies last. 

Loryn Duke, director of resort communications, credited the efforts of ski area employees for making the earlier opening possible. For seasonal employees, starting work almost a week before schedule can be a welcome surprise.  

“It helps everyone be motivated for the season if they can start making a paycheck earlier than ever,” Duke said. 

Though crews have spent weeks smoothing out a good base on the mountain, Duke cautions skiers and riders to be cognizant of early-season hazards like exposed rocks or vegetation. While groomers, snowmaking equipment and other heavy machinery prepare for opening day, she discourages people from going on the mountain. 

The resort’s new gondola is not set to open until Saturday, Nov. 23, according to Duke. Grand opening celebrations will include the Northern Ute Tribe’s annual snow dance, donuts, mimosas and the announcement of a donation to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. The first 100 riders on the gondola will get a free Ohana shirt, designed for the occasion, according to the news release. 

Previously, the earliest start to the resort’s winter season was on Nov. 16, 1996.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email dmaiolo@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

Backcountry.com says “we made a mistake” amid trademark lawsuit controversy

Backcountry.com finally spoke on Wednesday, almost a week after a social media firestorm ignited by news the online retailer has been suing small business owners who used the word “backcountry” in their business names.

“We have heard your feedback and concerns and understand we fumbled in how we pursued trademark claims recently,” Backcountry.com CEO Jonathan Nielsen wrote in an open letter posted on the retailer’s website, noting his company was dropping a federal lawsuit filed against the founder and sole operator of Marquette Backcountry Ski. “We made a mistake.”

More than 12,000 Facebook users have signed up as members of a Boycott BackcountryDOTcom page following Colorado Sun reports that the Park City, Utah-based online retailer had filed federal lawsuits against four small business owners who used the name “backcountry.” The retailer also filed dozens of petitions for cancellation of previously registered trademarks held by businesses across the country. 

The social media backlash has led thousands of former Backcountry.com shoppers to call and email the e-commerce giant. 

Nielsen’s “letter to our community” — posted on the company’s website late Wednesday, a little more than three weeks before the retail industry’s Black Friday bonanza — said attempts to protect the brand involved actions “that we now recognize were not consistent with our values and we truly apologize.” The company has declined The Sun’s requests for comments and interviews several times in the past week.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Copper Mountain Resort, Breckenridge Ski Resort announce opening day terrain

Copper Mountain Resort and Breckenridge Ski Area will start spinning their lifts at 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8, when all Summit County ski areas officially will be open.

Copper will open three lifts, starting with American Eagle at 9 a.m. and followed shortly thereafter by Easy Rider magic carpet and the Excelerator quad.

Those lifts will provide access to 90 acres of terrain across five trails, including Ptarmigan, Rhapsody, Main Vein, Fairplay and Easy Rider, according to a news release. A Woodward Pop-Up park also will open on Lower Bouncer, which is expected to have one jump and about a dozen features.

Tickets for opening weekend are $97 when purchased in advance online or $119 at the window. On Monday, Nov. 11, Copper will offer $60 lift tickets for Veterans Day. Those discounted tickets are available in advance online.

Breckenridge will open the BreckConnect Gondola at 8 a.m. followed by Colorado SuperChair, Rocky Mountain SuperChair, 5-Chair and Rip’s Ride at 9 a.m.

Those lifts will provide access to nearly 200 acres of terrain on Springmeier, 4 O’Clock, Columbine, Northstar, Duke’s, Claimjumper and Trygve’s trails.