Vail, Beaver Creek ski season begins | VailDaily.com

Vail, Beaver Creek ski season begins

VAIL — From the top of Vail Mountain on Thursday, it was hard to believe there was hardly any snow there one week earlier.

Six inches of fresh powder on top of a hard pack surface — groomed down by the resorts' massive snowmoving operations — greeted snowshoers hoping to get a sneak peak of the conditions. From the bottom of the mountain it was hard to tell the resort wasn't open to skiers, as lifties scanned passes and gave well wishes to groups of families ascending the mountain to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday together.

The scenic rides and snowshoe tours were an unusual start to the season in Vail, where top-to-bottom skiing is often available before the Thanksgiving holiday. With warm fall temperatures resulting to less-than-ideal snowmaking conditions, Vail had scenic rides and snowshoe tours going before the actual skiing this year. Local skier Brad Forth said he was surprised to discover Vail's Forest Road still open to through traffic on Wednesday. Forest Road becomes two cul-de-sacs during the ski season, between them snowpack is compressed atop the road to allow skier access to the Lionshead Village skier bridge and the ski lifts there.

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"They're still moving tons of snow there to get ready for Opening Day," Forth said on Thursday morning.

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Joined by his wife, Elizabeth, and friend Ken McCann, Brad Forth used backcountry equipment to climb up Vail Mountain and do some skiing in the 4 to 5 inches of fresh snow Vail received on Thursday morning. The group avoided their usual Simba Run climb as snow moving in that area had disallowed uphill access.

"They told us to take Born Free up, which I thought was a little unusual," Forth said. "But we'll take it."

Early season restrictions on uphill access are currently in place; contact 970-754-5907 with any questions regarding uphill travel routes and mountain access.

VISITORS GALORE

For those nervous about a lack of early season snow affecting tourism, the visitor presence on Vail Mountain Thursday was a welcome sight.

Visiting from Memphis, Andrew Brylov said earlier this month he was worried that he wouldn't see snow on his first-ever trip to Vail. On his gondola ride to the top of Vail Mountain on Thursday, Brylov said now his only worry was hurting himself when he tries skiing for his first time ever at Beaver Creek Friday.

"That's why I'm up here Friday, just to get a little feel for the snow," he said from Eagle's Nest on Thursday. "But I've scheduled an all-day lesson so I'm sure I'll be OK."

Groups of families enjoying the snow was a true symbol of Thanksgiving in the mountains, said Jenna-Leigh Hoffmann, who is originally from South Africa but visiting Vail from Florida.

"We wanted to do something a little different, so we decided to go for a snowshoe tour," she said.

Hoffmann was joined by her parents, Bronwyn and Michael Hoffmann, her brother Michael, and their friends Omar Elgeziry and Chiara Tranquilli. Elgeziry is an Olympian pentathlon competitor from Egypt who trains with Michael Hoffmann in Colorado Springs. It was his first time on snowshoes.

"It's fun and very beautiful," he said from the Game Creek trail on Thursday. "It's so quiet up here, great for meditation."

BEAVER CREEK FESTIVITIES

In addition to Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek Resort will also open Friday starting at 9 a.m. Beaver Creek reported 8 inches of new snow on Thursday morning, bringing their total to 22 inches in the last week.

"The weather has shifted in our favor this last week, and our snowmaking and mountain operations teams have been taking advantage of every moment of cold temperatures," said Doug Lovell, chief operating officer Beaver Creek Resort.

There is more snow in the forecast during the next week, reports local meteorologist Joel Gratz with opensnow.com.

"A series of cold storms will bring snow to all of Colorado from Sunday through Tuesday," Gratz wrote on Thursday.

Lovell said the nearly 2 feet of snowfall Beaver Creek recorded during the past week helped the resort in preparing 46 acres of skiable terrain on Gold Dust and Haymeadow, which will open Friday.

"We are hoping to open additional terrain as soon as conditions allow," Lovell said.

Beaver Creek will also offer free ice skating at the village ice rink from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. The annual tree lighting ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. and will be accompanied by a holiday poetry contest, ice skating show, performances by various artists and a fireworks display. An early visit from Santa in the Santa's Workshop, located in Gerald R. Ford Hall, will take place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Children of all ages are invited to participate in the workshop, where they can make holiday gifts for the whole family, decorate cookies and take photos with Santa. Santa's elves will also be on hand to help with crafting and photos. The fireworks show is scheduled to begin at approximately 6:30 p.m.

SCHEDULE OF FESTIVITIES

Friday at Beaver Creek

3 p.m. to 5 p.m. — Santa’s workshop; Santa photo op No. 1

5 p.m. — Ice skating show

6 p.m. — Tree lighting ceremony

6:30 p.m. — Fireworks

7 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Santa photo op No. 2