Beaver Creek opens for 2020 with sunny skies, soft snow
With snow guns blowing, resort targets Chairs 5 and 8 for next openings
With a couple of long runs and a nice surface to slide on, Beaver Creek’s Opening Day offering Wednesday did not disappoint.
A man-made surface provided the main attraction, but there was also a few off-piste offerings along the sides of the runs for those who wanted to feel the natural snow under their feet.
In 2020, with most skiers and snowboarders thankful they’re allowed to access the lifts at all, the conveniences for which Beaver Creek is known were not sorely missed.
Gone are the sunscreen dispensers, the communal cell-phone chargers, the walk-in dining options and the apres band. The Chapel parking lot, a busy and sometimes tight-quartered drop-off area, is now closed, and on Avondale Lane, the entire road has been transformed into a one-way, fully dispersed drop-off and pick up area.
Lift-line attendants enforce a strict face-covering policy, making sure guests cover their entire noses. Outside the lifts in Beaver Creek’s village area, security guards keep a consistent policy, enforcing masks and making sure guests consuming alcoholic beverages are doing so in the appropriate vessels and staying within a portion of the village that Beaver Creek calls the “common consumption area.”
It’s a tightly controlled atmosphere, but that’s the whole idea at the moment, said Jessie Vandenhouten, communications manager for Vail and Beaver Creek.
“We have a very consistent safety experience from the village to the mountain right now,” Vandenhouten said on Wednesday. “Honestly, I think it makes it easier for people, from the minute you get on our village transportation, to coming up to the village, masks are required through that entire process. I think it’s easier, once people get to the lift, and they see everybody with their face coverings on, too, that this is just how it is this season, and we’re happy to enforce those safety protocols.”
Limits on occupancy represent the other big change for the season.
“The early season,” a nebulous term which was once heavily dependent on the depth of the snow, is now an officially defined period of time at Vail Resorts’ 34 North American ski areas. The company calls the early season any day of the season before Dec. 8, and during the early season, pass holders only are allowed on the mountain – no day-of lift tickets are being sold at the walk-up window. Skiers and snowboarders must book in advance using a “week-of” reservation which is offered with a season pass.
Reservations are booked full for Beaver Creek’s Opening Week; and on Opening Day Wednesday, the limit on guests did keep crowds down at the base area.
“So far, so good,” Vandenhouten said. “You can tell there’s a lot of happy skiers and riders out here today.”
’Wall to wall’
Local skier Trevor Gauthier, of Edwards, enjoyed a few runs with his daughter, 8-year-old Elsie, at Beaver Creek on Wednesday.
Elsie said she was having fun in the little jumps that had formed on the sides of the run. She started skiing at age 1.
“She’s gonna be better than me,” Trevor said.
The Pandey family of Dallas, Texas, decided to visit Beaver Creek for the Thanksgiving holiday to improve their snowboarding skills.
Saryan Pandey, 10, said his brothers Saarav, 8, Shayan, 7, were starting to pick it up. He said he shared with them the secret to improving.
“You have to practice,” he said. “We’ll be here tomorrow and Friday, too.”
But it wasn’t all skiers and snowboarders. Hovland Snowskates team rider Dan “The Wrench” Rolfe dazzled crowds with his skills on the bindingless device, passing out discount cards (promocode: Wrench) in the lift lines.
Zach Griffin, of Summit County, also used a snowskate to shred the wide runs of Beaver Creek on Wednesday.
Vandenhouten said she was proud of the surface the team at Beaver Creek was able to ready for skiers, snowboarders and snowskaters.
“Our snowmakers went wall to wall on Gold Dust and Latigo,” she said. “Everything you’re seeing here is the hard work of our team, with a little help from Mother Nature.”
The snow cannons were firing all day long on Wednesday at Beaver Creek; Vandenhouten said the resort is hoping to open the Cinch (No. 5) and Red Buffalo Express (No. 8) lifts soon. The opening of those lifts will open more reservation slots; reservations are full at Beaver Creek through Nov. 29, but that could change with the opening of more terrain.
Vandenhouten said the reservations policy is a Vail Resorts system and is not mandated by the state.
“That is, 100 percent, us leading the way for safety – requiring reservations in order to manage access to mountain and ensure that people have the space they need while they’re out skiing,” Vandenhouten said.
The Bachelor Gulch lift also opened on Wednesday, expanding the footprint of open terrain into another village in an effort to give guests more space. While there was no on-snow connectivity yet available between Beaver Creek’s main village and Bachelor Gulch, that’s next on the list, Vandenhouten said.
The Lower Beaver Creek Mountain Express (No. 15) will also open soon, Vandenhouten said, allowing access to the mountain from the Beaver Creek Landing base area soon.
“That’s a short ride, especially from the Bear Lot,” Vandenhouten said. “So guests can spend more time on skis, and less time on the bus.”
Vandenhouten said the 130 acres Beaver Creek opened with on Wednesday was double the amount of terrain the resort opened with last season.
At Vail, which opened Nov. 15, the Opening Day terrain offering was also double that of 2019.
Vail opened more terrain in the Wildwood Express (No. 3) area on Wednesday, opening that chair and a few more runs.
“We currently have 272 acres and 22 trails open,” said Vail Mountain spokesperson John Plack. “Among the new terrain, we opened Christmas, Hunky Dory, Kangaroo Cornice, Eagle’s Nest Ridge and Minnie’s.”
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