Vail to open ski slopes six days early |

Vail to open ski slopes six days early

Matt Zalaznick
Carvings made by pre-season skiers can be seen on Vail Mountain under the Riva Bahn in Golden Peak. Vail Mountain announced Monday due to record snowfall, the mountain will be opening six days early. See page...

There still may be a drought in the High Country, but record early-season snowfall on Vail Mountain means skiers and snowboarders – those who can wait to ride chairlifts – will hit the local hill Nov. 16, a week ahead of schedule.

“I’m thinking it’s about time that Mother Nature gives us something back,” says Zack Jensen, an employee at Vail Mountain Adventure Center in Vail Village.

The slopes weren’t originally scheduled to open until Nov. 23. But several days in a row of winter storms dropped more snow on Vail Mountain as of the beginning of November than anyone can remember.

“This is the most snow that we have seen on Vail Mountain as of Nov. 1

in the ski area’s 40-year history, according to our records,” says Bill

Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

More than 6 feet of snow have fallen on Vail Mountain since September –

and nearly 3 of that has fallen in the past week alone. Mid-Vail already has a 20-inch settled base, which exceeds the record 19-inch base recorded Nov. 1, 1996. There’s nearly 3 feet of snow at higher elevations.

“I’m pumped, I can’t wait to get out there,” says Dan Astephen, an employee at Gart Sports in West Vail. “The earlier you can get on the mountain, the happier you are, the more days you get in.”

Vail Mountain will open 50 trails, covering 742 acres of terrain, accessed by six lifts:

– Giant Steps, Chair 1.

– The Avanti Express, Chair 2.

– Mountaintop Express, Chair 4.

– Born Free Express, Chair 8.

– The Vista Bahn Express, Chair 16.

– The Eagle Bahn Gondola. .

More lifts and trails should open before Thanksgiving, Jensen says.

After some dry weather, more snow is expected this weekend, says Gary Chancy, a hydro-meteorological technician at the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

“By Friday, a quite cold and moist Pacific storm system should be moving in from the West Coast. It should bring more snow and colder temperatures to the region,” Chancy says.

The El Nino weather pattern that has developed in the south Pacific may not be having a dramatic effect on Colorado’s weather, Chancy says. El Nino is expected to produce higher-than-normal precipitation in the southern United States and lower-than-normal moisture in the northern half of the county. Colorado appears to be right in between, Chancy says.

Beaver Creek Mountain, which has also been hit with heavy snowfall, will stick to its schedule, opening on Nov. 23. Of Vail Resorts other mountains, Keystone opens Friday, Breckenridge opens on Nov. 15 and the newly-acquired Heavenly in Lake Tahoe opens on Nov. 22.

Last year, muggy weather and sparse snow pushed opening day back almost a week – until a blizzard socked the valley on Thanksgiving Day.

The change in the weather this year is a spiritual and financial lift, says Cliff Stone, an employee at Kenny’s Double Diamond Ski Shop in Lionshead.

“Personally, I’m ecstatic,” Stone says. “This weekend it was like the mountain was open. People were hiking up and skiing.”

Unlike last year, people have been pouring into the ski shops, Stone says.

“This year, people are really thinking about getting up on the mountain,” Stone says. “Last year, when it was muggy, people didn’t think about it until after Christmas.”

Astephen says the same has happened at Gart Sports.

“It really helps. A lot of people have been coming in getting skis and snowboards,” he says. “They’re getting excited with all the snow falling.”

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at

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