Vail Resorts promises new, more certain opening dates for Vail, Beaver Creek
Company says improved snowmaking will ensure Vail Mountain will open Nov. 15
- 2018: Nov. 14, two days earlier than planned.
- 2017: Nov. 23, a week later than planned.
- 2016: Nov. 25, a week later than planned.
VAIL — Despite humanity’s best efforts, certainty is hard to come by when it comes to nature. Vail Resorts is bringing a bit of certainty to Vail Mountain’s opening day.
Vail Resorts announced Monday that, thanks to work this summer on new snowmaking equipment, Vail Mountain will be open on Nov. 15 of this year. That’s a for-sure opening.
According to a release from the company, Vail’s snowmaking upgrades and expansion will ensure a pre-Thanksgiving Opening Day each year. Nearly 200 acres of new and enhanced snowmaking terrain will provide guests with earlier access to higher-elevation terrain, top-to-bottom skiing/ snowboarding, access from two base areas and improved early-season ski school terrain.
Beaver Creek will expand snowmaking capabilities at Red Buffalo Park, providing more reliable early-season terrain in a key beginner area of the upper mountain. The resort will aim to offer more than 3,300 vertical feet of top-to-bottom skiing/snowboarding on Opening Day each year. Beaver Creek will be open Nov. 27 to April 12, 2020.
The U.S. Forest Service in late March approved the company’s proposal for expanded snowmaking at Vail and Beaver Creek. When that multi-year project is complete, snowmaking will be available on roughly 25% of the mountain’s skiable terrain.
Where the work is
The first phase of the Vail Mountain snowmaking project will include 192 acres of terrain including Swingsville Ridge, Swingsville, Meadows and Ramshorn, in the mid-Vail area of the mountain; Bear Tree, Cold Feet, a portion of upper Lion’s Way and Lodgepole in the area of Avanti Express Lift (Chair 2); Coyote Crossing, Practice Parkway and Ledges in the Eagles Nest area; and beginner enhancements in the Gopher Hill Lift (Chair 12) area.
Guests will be able to download on Gondola One from the higher-elevation terrain.
Longtime resident Craig Denton said the expanded snowmaking won’t mean much to him personally. But, he added, “I’m sure a lot of younger types will enjoy that.”
Still, Denton said, he’s long advocated making snow at higher elevations.
“For paying guests, they want good product when they come,” Denton said. “It sets a precedent for the rest of the season.”
Certainty in marketing
Evergreen Lodge general manager Brian Butts said the expanded snowmaking will allow that hotel and other businesses to dedicate resources to early-season guests.
“We’re really excited about it,” Butts said, adding that the lodge until now hasn’t put much effort into attracting destination guests before about Dec. 10.
“It’s never been good business for us,” Butts said. “We’re hoping that with additional business we can jump-start the season and open up some of the destination markets.”
Butts noted that as the region’s weather has changed over the past few years — Vail’s opening was delayed in 2016 and 2017 — “guests have been burnt sometimes.”
New snowmaking will add predictability to the season, allowing businesses to spend more on marketing to early-season guests.
Venture Sports has shops in Vail, Avon and Beaver Creek. Venture Sports owner Mike Brunbaugh said he doesn’t expect a lot of early-season business to come in due to the announcement. Still, he said, “I see only upside potential.”
Getting work done this summer
Vail and Beaver Creek aren’t Vail Resorts’ ski areas with big summer plans for the coming season. According to the company, improvements are underway that will allow Epic Pass holders to ski one of the company’s resorts from October into late May or June.
According to a release, Keystone’s energy-efficient, automated snowmaking system improvements should allow it to open in October, as early as conditions allow. By its traditional opening day in November, Keystone will offer top-to-bottom skiing and snowboarding, doubling the terrain access that has typically been open at that time. Keystone plans to be open from October to April 12, 2020.
Breckenridge recently announced plans to regularly extend winter seasons through Memorial Day. Thanks to a cool, wet season, Breck’s Spring Finale was able to extend past Memorial Day for two additional weekends into June. The resort’s final weekend of skiing and snowboarding for the 2018-19 season will take place this weekend, June 8-9.
Breckenridge will open for the 2019-20 winter season Nov. 8 and will be open through May 25, 2020, conditions permitting.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort will replace the Teocalli Lift this summer, increasing uphill capacity, adding secondary egress to the base area and quick access to beginner and intermediate terrain. The fixed-grip quad chairlift will increase uphill capacity by 50 percent. Crested Butte will be open Nov, 27 to April 12, 2020.
Through the end of July, both the number of transactions and sales volume — the price of those transactions — lagged behind 2018’s numbers by about 10%. According to the most recent data from Land Title Guarantee Company, that situation changed in August.