Vail postpones Opening Day to Thanksgiving due to lack of snow
For the second consecutive year, Vail Resorts has delayed by a week the opening of Vail Mountain. The new scheduled opening date is Thursday, Nov. 23 — Thanksgiving Day. Beaver Creek is still expected to open Wednesday, Nov. 22.
The delayed opening didn’t particularly surprise Matt Carroll, general manager of the Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead.
Carroll said a neighboring shop owner has snow records dating back to Vail’s first year, and those records show a dry fall every three to five years.
“We’ve seen years like this plenty of times,” Carroll said. “It’s Mother Nature — there’s not a lot you can do about it.”
The mountain operations team on Vail Mountain had been making snow on the Simba and Born Free runs as much as possible, with a focus on Born Free. Ultimately, though, lack of natural snow forced the resort company’s hand.
“Vail Mountain is dedicated to providing the best snow surface conditions for our guests,” Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Doug Lovell wrote in a company statement. “We are hopeful that the colder temps and snow in the forecast for later this week will will be impactful, and we look forward to providing our guests with a quality opening day ski and snowboard experience.”
Everyone is eager to begin the season and with current conditions we are targeting Thurs. Nov. 23 for opening day. We are dedicated to providing our guests with the best early-season conditions & will continue to focus our efforts on opening with a high-quality snow surface. pic.twitter.com/5BDxzSWelp
— Vail (@vailmtn) November 14, 2017
The last measureable snowfall at Vail was Nov. 7. The next forecast storm isn’t set to hit until the early morning hours of Friday, Nov. 17.
While the dry conditions that led to the delay aren’t surprising, Hannah Benson, a manager at the Arriesgado Clothing Co. store in Lionshead, said the decision to delay is disappointing.
“It’s going to delay our training of new employees,” Benson said, adding that the delay will also affect employee scheduling at the store. “It’s just unfortunate.”
Carroll echoed that sentiment.
“You plan for a certain date to start bringing in revenue,” Carroll said. “In some ways, this may give us a little time to hire some folks. But the people we have coming back we’d planned to have working will have to wait a few days.”
While this is the second straight year Opening Day has been delayed, it’s also not unusual to have bountiful snow to open the resort’s season. In fact, Vail’s 2015-16 season opened with more than 1,000 acres of available terrain.
This year, though, the snow is slow in coming. After Friday’s predicted storm, the forecast clears again for several days. The Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast for Vail shows a good chance of snow on Tuesday, Nov. 21, but little else beyond.
Still, the prospects are somewhat encouraging for snowfall in the near future. The U.S. Climate Center is predicting a better-than-average chance of above-average snowfall over the coming weeks. In addition, a weak La Niña weather pattern has developed in the Pacific Ocean west of Peru. That’s usually good, if uncertain, news for snowfall in the northwestern part of Colorado.
If there’s a silver lining to the delay for valley residents and employees, it could be this: Paid parking in Vail’s parking structures and outlying lots will coincide with the start of Vail Mountain’s ski and snowboard season. That means parking remains free until Thanksgiving Day. Increased early-season transit service will begin as scheduled on Friday, Nov. 17.
Parking passes are available for purchase from 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday throughout the season, with the exception of Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, on the lower level of the Vail Municipal Building, 75 S. Frontage Rd. For more information on parking pass sales and descriptions, call 970-479-2104 or go to http://www.vailgov.com/parking. For information on bus schedules, call 970-479-2178 or go to http://www.vailgov.com/transportation-services.
While Vail has delayed its opening, other resorts in the Vail Resorts universe are still set to open Nov. 17.
Tuesday’s news release from the company states that its Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Stowe, Vermont and Heavenly, in the Lake Tahoe area, resorts will all open Friday. However, Park City Mountain Resort’s opening also was delayed from Friday to Thanksgiving.
In the region, Vail Resorts’ resorts at Breckenridge and Keystone are open, and, according to the company, will add terrain in the coming days. Copper Mountain and Arapaho Basin also are open.
Carroll said that although he’s disappointed in the delayed opening, people in his shop have talked about their excitement for the season to come. That’s a good sign, he said.
“It’s going to snow; it’s just a matter of when,” Carroll said. “If you’re surprised (about the delay), you haven’t been here too long.”
That sentiment was echoed by many of the comments on the Vail Daily’s Facebook post announcing the delayed opening.
But there was also optimism, as expressed by Matt Jones: