Ski season about to begin |

Ski season about to begin

Stephen Lloyd Wood
Special to the Daily/Jack Affleck, Vail ResortsBruce Ruff blasts down early season powder on Vail's Cookshack on Wednesday. The resort will open its lifts to the public Friday having received 51 inches of snow in November - just 7 inches less than the average for the entire month - and a settled, mid-mountain base of 15 inches.

Vail, North America’s No. 1 ski resort, opens Friday for its 41st season with 637 acres of accessible terrain, 10 lifts, 33 runs and a settled, mid-mountain base of 15 inches of untrampled powder.

“I realize other resorts are happy to open with white “ribbons,'” Bill Jensen, the resort’s chief operating officer, said Wednesday, referring to single runs consisting of mostly man-made snow. “But at Vail we tend to do things on a grander scale.”

The mountain, which has received 51 inches of snow in November – just 7 inches less than the average for the entire month – opens at 9 a.m. with seven chairlifts, as well as the Eagle Bahn Express gondola and two “magic carpets” for children.

“We’re looking at a very strong opening day, better than anticipated,” Jensen said Wednesday as crews continue to make snow and groom the slopes above Lionshead and Mid-Vail. “We’re excited with the amount of lifts and terrain open on Friday.”

What’s open?

Lifts scheduled to be running Friday include:

– The Vista Bahn, or Chair 16, and the Giant Steps LIft, Chair 1, from Vail Village.

– The Eagle Bahn Gondola, or Chair 19, and the Born Free Express, or Chair 8, from Lionshead

– The Wildwood Express, Chair 3, and The Mountaintop Express, Chair 4, from Mid-Vail.

– The Little Eagle Express, or Chair 15, a beginner’s lift at Eagle’s Nest.

Jensen said not to expect an epic powder day like last year’s opening day – “a once in 10- or 15-year experience” when 4 feet of fresh snow greeted ecstatic skiers and snowboarders – but conditions still should be exceptional. Jensen says he’s hopeful Vail will be able to open even more lifts and terrain by Wednesday.

“Knee-high powder shots’

“Nice! That’s a decent amount of terrain,” said Matt “Tooth” Toth, a seven-year Vail veteran, as well as a ski technician at Vail Ski Tech in Lionshead. Toth, infamous for his “addiction to skiing,” said he hiked the mountain Tuesday – through the 8 inches or so of fresh powder that had fallen overnight – to ski Riva Ridge, top to bottom.

“When we got to Patrol Headquarters, it looked pretty good,” Toth said. “I got some knee-high powder shots.”

“Still, I’m stickin’ with rock skis on Friday, though, because you never know what’s under there. You still have to watch for rocks,” Toth adds.

Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain, warned skiers and snowboarders seeking out turns on the mountain before the lifts open to be extremely careful.

“There’s already a lot of tracks up there by people hiking up the hill,” Brown said. “But we’re still doing a lot of work in preparation for opening day, so keep an eye open. There’s still a lot of obstacles, as well as a lot of heavy equipment moving around.”

What’s else is open?

Brown said until more snow arrives, downloading is being encouraged at the end of the day, as there is limited access to Vail Village and Born Free is the only top-to-bottom run open.

On-mountain facilities opening Friday include Marketplace at Eagle’s Nest and Look Ma at Mid-Vail. On Saturday, Buffalo’s restaurant opens at the top of the mountain.

Hours of operation on Vail Mountain will be 9 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. until the resort opens China Bowl, one of the Back Bowls, later in the season, probably before the Christmas holidays, Brown says.

Early season, single-day ticket prices will be:

– $39 for children

– $49 for seniors

– $59 for adults

Ski the Beav on Saturday

Beaver Creek, meanwhile, opens Saturday at 9 a.m. with four lifts serving 450 acres of terrain and 35 runs. Those lifts will be:

– The Centennial Express Lift, Chair 6.

– The Haymeadow Lift, or Chair 1.

– The Cinch Express Lift, or Chair 8.

– The Rose Bowl Lift, or Chair 4.

The Beav has received nearly 5 feet of snow since Nov. 1 and is reporting a 23-inch settled base at mid-mountain. The resort’s Operation Cookie chefs will be handing out homemade cookies at the base of the Centennial Express, and the first 2,000 skiers and riders will receive a special Beaver Creek lanyard on which they can hang their ski pass.

“We’re on track for a strong winter season. Mother Nature has been

good to us and our crews have been working hard to prepare a quality

snow surface for our guests,” John Garnsey, chief operating officer at Beaver Creek, said Wednesday.

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