Vail Mountain opening from Vail Village causes grumbling from Lionshead merchants
Expanded snowmaking will be a good thing, but businesses would like some skiing from Lionshead
VAIL — Vail Mountain opens Nov. 15, about a week earlier than normal. But that earlier opening will be out of Vail Village, not Lionshead.
Vail Resorts this year took on the biggest one-season snowmaking project in North America. That project added snowmaking on higher-elevation terrain, adding both acres and diversity.
The new system also allows the resort to open a bit earlier than normal. Vail has traditionally opened the week before Thanksgiving. This year’s opening is almost two weeks before Thanksgiving — although that holiday is about as late as it can be this year.
Snow in October got people across Colorado’s High Country excited for the season to come, with several resorts opening early. But it’s been dry and on the warm side for several days. That makes high-elevation snowmaking a good thing.
There’s a catch
The new snowmaking project comes with a catch, though. Vail’s opening historically has featured terrain out of Lionshead Village. The new snowmaking area is accessed from Gondola One out of Vail Village.
That change stings for businesses based in Lionshead Village.
“It hurts — we don’t know what to expect, to be honest,” Moe’s Original Bar B Que founding partner Jeff Kennedy said. Moe’s has locations in Lionshead Village and Eagle.
Kennedy said the Vail location usually has a big party on Opening Day. This year, that party may be postponed until skiing opens out of Lionshead.
“We’re hoping for the best,” Kennedy said. “We’re going to push out specials all day (Nov. 15).”
The Double Diamond Ski Shop is just down the street from Moe’s. Matt Carroll, the general manager there, called moving Opening Day to Vail Village “kind of a bummer.”
But, Carroll added, Opening Day isn’t a “super busy” time for the shop. “We’ll just have to staff a little lighter,” he said.
At Ski Base in Lionshead, Austin Chajka agreed that staffing the store will be different this Opening Day.
And, he added, given the amount of snowmaking he’s seen at Lionshead so far, it’s “frustrating” that the first runs Friday will be from Vail Village.
“Most of us understand — but we’re having to deal with the guests,” Chajka said.
‘Great news’ in Vail Village
In Vail Village, Buzz Schleper, owner of Buzz’s Boards, said moving the mountain’s opening to Vail Village is “great news” for businesses there.
“When we didn’t have enough snow to open (the lifts from Vail Village), the village was a ghost town,” Schleper said.
But, he added, Vail Resorts “should be opening Lionshead, too. … It’s not like I want to take business from Lionshead. (Vail Resorts) should have a run or two open there.”
Still, Schleper said, he’s excited about the new snowmaking system on Vail Mountain.
“Opening at Mid-Vail you’ve got easier terrain for a beginner to handle,” Schleper said. “Lionshead didn’t have a beginner run — we were told (in the past) not even to rent equipment to beginners. But how do you tell someone who drove out here from Nebraska that they can’t rent equipment?”
Wherever the lifts start running, Schleper said it’s time to get going.
“People are ready for it — it’s time to get back on skis,” Schleper said. “They can’t open soon enough.”
In Lionshead, Carroll said he’s a fan of the new snowmaking, even if it means first tracks lead to Vail Village. Making snow at higher elevations gives Vail good terrain earlier in the winter, he said. That’s good for everyone, he added.
“We’re still opening a week earlier (than usual),” Carroll said. “If we get opened up (in Lionshead) by the end of next week, it’ll be fine.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.
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