Courtesy Arapahoe Basin
Colorado ski season begins at A-Basin October 15, but is it too early?
October 13, 2008 —
It’s become commonplace, but that doesn’t make it less amazing: Arapahoe Basin announced that it will open for skiing October 15 of 2008, becoming the first ski area in the U.S. to open for the 2008-2009 season.
Loveland is likely soon to follow, and Colorado’s two high-altitude resorts will begin winter more than a month before Vail opens Nov. 21.
A-basin is already boasting an 18-inch base on the High Noon run, and some recognizable features on their High Divide Terrain Park.
As soon as I remember where I stored my skis over the summer, I’ll dig them out and head up to have a look.
But I’m not expecting much.
No, the early opening phenomenon of the past few years hasn’t produced much in the way of quality skiing. The exception was 2003, when huge early November snow made for the biggest opening day in Vail’s history and great early-season skiing throughout the state.
Opening early is a big risk, however, and last year the technique backfired.
When A-Basin and Loveland opened early they brought a lot of media attention to the Rockies. Keystone and Copper Mountain followed suit, and ski country’s media spin doctors had convinced the world that winter in the Rockies was in full swing by November 1.
The problem was, winter was NOT in full swing.
Colorado ski country’s eager public relations officials brought cameras by the score to the Rockies, but rather than filing snow-encrusted B-roll to TV stations around the nation, they were sending back visions of dry, brown mountain ranges well into November. Some ski areas had to delay their opening. Locals settled in for a mild winter and a year of drought.
I hate to think how many people re-scheduled their winter vacations during this time. Little did they know that the sky would crack open during the first weekend in December and dump snow almost continuously through February. More snow came in April, giving Vail just under 500 inches on the season (the average is 350).
The early season opening sets people up to think that big snow comes early in Colorado. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. December is when the snow really begins to come, and by January winter is in full swing.
High expectations early on are almost impossible to meet. Perhaps that’s why Vail recorded 1,569,788 skier visits in 2007-2008, compared to 1,608,204 in 2006-2007. The snow was better last year, the skiing was fantastic, but early openings from our neighboring resorts spoiled the season’s first impressions. People book their vacations in October and November – last year it’s possible that people saw our bare mountains and booked those vacations somewhere else.
Let’s hope this year is different, and big snow comes early and often.
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