Vail to open Back Bowls Saturday |

Vail to open Back Bowls Saturday

Snow-starved skiers and snowboarders will be able to gorge on a feast of terrain at Vail Thanksgiving weekend, as resort officials Tuesday, Nov. 12, announced an historically unprecedented start of the season.Vail Mountain opens Saturday, Nov. 16 six days ahead of schedule with 10 lifts serving 2,330 acres of terrain, including Sun Up and Sun Down bowls and most of the front side of the mountain.By Nov. 23, more terrain comes on line with Game Creek Bowl, and on Wednesday, Nov. 27, virtually the entire mountain will be open, with Blue Sky Basin, China Bowl and Tea Cup Bowl increasing the total skiable acreage to more than 5,000.Nearly seven feet of snow have fallen since Nov. 1 (including more than two feet over the weekend), prompting resort officials to lift all pass restrictions for the Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 29-30). Beaver Creek is sticking to its original opening schedule, hosting national team race training until it opens for the season with 950 acres on Nov. 23. Breckenridge opens Friday, Nov. 15.Not bad considering that by Thanksgiving Day last season there had been virtually no measurable natural snowfall. In fact, the past three or four ski seasons have been at or well below historical averages.A desperately dry summer and a flagging economy had Vail Resorts executives spending most of the fall slashing budgets rather than gearing up for the best early season conditions in at least a decade. Now crews are engaged in a mad scramble to groom runs, test lifts and make even more snow.”In our short-term memory it’s never snowed like this the first 10 days of November,” Vail Chief Operating Officer Bill Jensen said. “If someone had called us and told us it would (snow like this), then maybe we could have changed some things.”Even as lift operators are still being trained and snowmaking crews are pumping synthetic snow on cat tracks and other high-traffic areas, maintenance workers are faced with an even larger challenge, Jensen says. A defective bull-wheel bearing on the Vista Bahn Express, the main quad chair out of Vail Village, means that lift may not be up and running by opening day.”I can’t tell you if that going to happen or not,” Jensen said as of Nov. 12, adding he expects record crowds for Saturday’s opening.But an abundance of snow and terrain are good problems to have, he added, emphasizing that the resort is not rushing to open limited terrain, but instead will offer the most skiable acreage of any resort in North America on opening day.Vail has received 78 inches of snow at the mid-mountain marker as of Nov. 1, for a settled base of 32 inches at Mid-Vail, and has already exceeded the November average amount of snowfall. More snow is in the forecast for later this week.&quotIf you’re not psyched, you’re crazy,” says Steve Sheridan of Performance Sports in Lionshead, who adds that his shop has been swamped with people getting a last-minute tune before opening day. “It’s the best I can remember. I hiked up Vail on Sunday and PHQ (patrol headquarters at the top of the mountain) looked like the middle of February, with a settled base of four or five feet. In fact, I don’t think it was that good even in February last year. The mountain is buffed better than it was all of last year probably.”

Support Local Journalism