Loveland sees fewer riders on opening day
Vail, CO Colorado
LOVELAND PASS, Colorado – The hype is always palpable on opening days, and at A-Basin and Loveland the excitement was no different – but the lift lines were.
Though Wolf Creek began weekend operations Oct. 8, Arapahoe Basin was the first to open for a full season Oct. 13, with Loveland Ski Area trailing by 24 hours.
But apparently, being the third ski area to crank up the lifts for the season makes a bit of a difference.
Just before the rope dropped at 9 a.m. Oct. 14, about 75 skiers and riders formed a neat, single line at Loveland. From there, locals and Denverites made uninterrupted laps on the 18-inch depth, which skied a little faster (and near the end of the run, a little chunkier in terms of small frozen snow balls) than A-Basin’s run.
I’ve been to a couple of opening days at Loveland when it won title as forerunner of the season, and I recall lift lines that filled the maze – and beyond, so as I got in twice as many runs (eight) at Loveland Friday as I had at A-Basin on Thursday in just less than 90 minutes both days, I kept wondering: What is up with an opening day where I consistently ski onto the lift, without waiting in any line, whatsoever? And how come there are still so many free doughnuts at 10:30 a.m.?
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Apparently, bragging rights, day of the week and the season passes Vail Resorts offer all factor into the number of skiers at Loveland.
“There’s definitely a first-day opening crowd that is die-hard,” said Duncan Maxwell, Loveland events and promotions coordinator, explaining how it’s a novelty to say you got the first run of the season, so a lot of people ended up getting their adrenaline fix at Wolf Creek. “It brought down our numbers.”
Maxwell also said when Loveland was the first to open on a weekend a couple years ago, the “numbers were huge,” backing up lines well past the maze. He expects a healthy turnout this weekend though, especially with nice weather forecasted.
Skiers and riders at Loveland seemed to agree that Arapahoe Basin’s association with Vail Resorts’ passes is mostly responsible for longer early-season lift lines.
“A-Basin’s great, but with all five mountains getting funneled into one lift, it gets a little crowded,” said Golden ski racer Phil Beer.
But on Oct. 13, no one seemed to mind waiting in lines that spilled out just past the end of the maze at A-Basin. In fact, the entire morning, the “waiting” area buzzed with chatter while strangers bonded over the exhilaration of making turns once again and friends kept it light, without any complaint of lap delays.
On A-Basin’s second day open, Oct. 14, demand decreased by about a third, said Leigh Hierholzer, director of marketing and communications.
“(Opening day) is not indicative of our usual season lift lines,” Hierholzer said, adding that crowds thin further when the Basin opens top to bottom, which often happens around the time Keystone opens (scheduled for Nov. 4 this year).
While locals usually are tightly tuned into when ski areas fire up their guns and wait to see who will open first – A-Basin or Loveland – Denverites aren’t always convinced the areas could have an 18-inch base (at least on one well-groomed run) when Indian-summer temperatures seem to indicate otherwise.
As Front-Range rider Chad Ritter heard from his friends when he told them he was heading for Loveland: “Why would you go (up there)? It’s terrible. There’s no snow.”
But ski-area officials, as well as riders, beg to differ. Both ski areas opened with “packet powder/machine made” coverage, but technology has made it so that skiers don’t need racer-sharp Eastern edges to carve.
“It’s just as good as always,” said Frisco resident Clint Ketchum, at Loveland Friday.