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Beaver Creek offers quality ski product for kids despite lack of snow
The "Buck" at the Beav. Nick and Max Williams whisk along to the “top” of the Beav’s beginner Haymeadow area Sunday, enjoying the new Buckaroo Express Gondola.
Photo by David Williams 

Beaver Creek offers quality ski product for kids despite lack of snow

Week ahead looks promising for fresh snow, additional terrain
By David O. Williams

November 26, 2007 —  It’s either the world’s shortest gondola or the world’s fastest moving warming hut suspended above the snow by cables. I rode the new Buckaroo Express at Beaver Creek four times Sunday, and I’m still not completely sure which it is.

The Buck takes exactly three and a half minutes to whisk you to the “top” of the Beav’s beginner area, and the Haymeadow run – in surprisingly good shape given the lack of snow of late – takes about the same amount of time to get down, even with my 4-year-old son Max in tow.

Then you begin the process of taking off your skis and schlepping them on the gondy all over again. Max and my 7-year-old son Nick enjoyed the novelty the first couple of times but then started complaining about having to take their gear off and drag it onto the Buck.

Maybe it’s just because they’re hardy mountain kids (or so I’d like to think) but they seemed to prefer the old, open-air chairlift on what is undoubtedly the best base-area beginner ski terrain in the valley.

But if I put my marketing hat on and look at the long-term thought process behind the Buck, it starts to make more sense. Beginners are freaked out by inclement weather, and though we’ve had precious little of it lately, the snow will come, and when it does there will be some never-evers who will appreciate the comforts of the Buck.

Sunday was not one of those days. While it was only in the 30s and blessedly not one of the balmy, near-60-degree days common throughout most of the month, it was still quite sunny and pleasant. The good news, though, is that change is on its way.

The possibly season-saving cold snap and little bit of snow that rolled through the valley last week will be followed by a string of likely snow days beginning Sunday night and stretching into mid-week and on into the weekend (of course, just in time for the World Cup – see story in Real Sport).

After a hair-raising run with Max on Vail’s Born Free trail last Wednesday (the largest single ski mountain in North America currently only has 76 acres open after a mere 3 feet of snow has fallen so far this season), the Haymeadow run was a far more relaxing experience. And the new gondola will clearly be a great boon in the summer when the new alpine slide is installed.

We pulled the plug on a Moab trip over the Thanksgiving weekend due to the more winter-like temps and headed up to the Beav’, which opened Friday. It was surprisingly worthy, and coupled with catching the last day of free ice skating in the Village, the boys and I had a really good day.

Monday, Nov. 26, Nick and I are off to Summit County to explore some of the resorts with a little more terrain open – maybe aiming for an A-Basin/Breckenridge double. As of Monday, half of Colorado’s 26 ski resorts (13 total) are open for the season with very limited terrain.

My goal is to hit all 26 this season, and after five days on skis so far, I’ve tallied six (A-Basin, Loveland, Keystone, Copper Mountain, Vail and now Beaver Creek). Let’s all pray to the snow gods that I haven’t chosen the absolute worst season to launch this quest.

Channel 9, the NBC affiliate in Denver, reported Sunday night that snowpack throughout Colorado is 70 percent of normal, and that there were only 136,000 vehicles traveling through the Eisenhower Tunnel on Interstate 70 between Wednesday and Saturday over the Thanksgiving weekend compared to 159,000 during same period last year.

But, most ski resort officials will tell you the Thanksgiving holiday is not a big moneymaker anyway. It’s more of a set-up for the rest of the season, i.e., early snow translates to early reservations. If the snow comes, the bookings will pick up. And weather forecasts are looking promising for the coming week.



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