Vail, Beaver Creek on course for ski season despite warm weather
Vail: Nov. 18.
Beaver Creek: Nov. 23.
Keystone: Nov. 11.
Breckenridge: Nov. 11.
Copper Mountain: Nov. 11.
Arapahoe Basin: Now open.
EAGLE COUNTY — With resorts across Colorado delaying openings, Vail and Beaver Creek are holding steady to their anticipated starts to ski and snowboard season.
“Everyone at Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek Resort are just as excited as our guests to begin our season, and we are targeting Nov. 18 and Nov. 23, respectively, for the resorts’ opening days,” said Sally Gunter, senior communications manager for Vail Resorts, in a written statement. “We are dedicated to providing our guests with the best early season conditions possible and will continue to focus our efforts on opening with a high quality snow surface.”
Arapahoe Basin opened on Oct. 21, but both Keystone and Wolf Creek (in the San Juan Mountains) pushed their openings back one week from Friday, Nov. 4, to Friday, Nov. 11, the same day Breckenridge and Copper Mountain are anticipating opening.
Loveland, which normally opens in mid-October, is still waiting on the weather to cooperate before setting an opening date.
The month of October was warm and dry, said John Kyle, of the National Weather Service. The outlook for this winter depends on the La Nina weather pattern, with a higher chance of above normal temperatures with average snowfall, Kyle said.
Open Snow meteorologist Joel Gratz has taken a historical look at the warm lead up to winter in his latest post.
During seasons when we had no or very little snowfall on ground as of Nov. 10, like we are anticipating this year, Gratz found no correlation between the November snowpack and the snowpack by late December.
“Thus, it’s not time to panic just yet,” Gratz wrote. “All we need is a pattern shift and consistent storminess for about two weeks, and we’ll have a lot of ski terrain open very quickly.”
On the heels of the best snow year ever at Vail in 2010-11, the 2011-12 season provided the opposite. For the first time in 30 years, the Back Bowls weren’t opened until a week into January.
Both seasons were La Nina weather patterns.
‘WE’RE NOT WORRIED’
The folks preparing for the annual Birds of Prey World Cup ski races coming to Beaver Creek aren’t hitting the panic button quite yet, either.
Since 1997, only one race was canceled due to conditions, and that was in 2001, said Tom Boyd, of the Vail Valley Foundation.
“Last year, we were talking about this same thing around the same time,” Boyd said. “Maybe a week later, and Beaver Creek had the biggest opening weekend and Birds of Prey had the biggest amount of snow that they’ve ever had. And all that takes is a couple of snowstorms in the system to shift.”
For the Talons Crew that helps work on the course at Beaver Creek, too much snow can be an issue and so can not enough snow. Fortunately, prime racecourse conditions are the opposite of prime powder day conditions. Racers really want that “rock hard, icy snow,” Boyd said.
“It it’s a lot of manmade snow on Birds of Prey weekend, we’ve done that before and it makes for really good race conditions, so we’re not worried,” he said.
For the Birds of Prey course, cold weather is really the key so that the talented snowmaking crews can help build the course.
“If we get that, we’ll have a race,” Boyd said. “It seems like this every year, just because it’s so important to us.”
For the U.S. Forest Service, road closure dates will remain the same no matter what weather comes. Many of the roads start closing in mid-November.
Acting Eagle-Holy Cross District ranger Aaron Mayville said the set closure dates can create problems for those who travel on Forest Service roads. If snow does fall, a road may be technically still open but not passable because of conditions. If the snow doesn’t fall, then the road will technically be passable but will close no matter what.
“It will never be perfect,” Mayville said. “Personally, I’m ready to ski.”
CHANGING OF SEASONS
Both Eagle Ranch and Gypsum Creek golf courses are still open. Eagle Ranch is schedule to close Nov. 13, and Eagle Ranch is aiming for the last Sunday in November, like they normally do.
“We’ll see what the weather does,” said Jeff Boyer, general manger at Eagle Ranch. “If it continues to stay this nice, we’re certainly going to have a hard time closing.”
Boyer said he’s seen a few golfers getting in a late round after spending a morning on the slopes at Arapahoe Basin.
At Gypsum Creek, the course won’t stay open any later than Nov. 27, said Tom Busby, general manager.
“People are so over golf right now,” Busby said. “They’re so amped to ski. Plus, we’ve got that daylight issue, and it’s cold. Well, it’s supposed to be cold, I hope.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.