In Brief: Outdoor recreation good for $11.6 billion in Colorado; extra terrain open on opening day |

In Brief: Outdoor recreation good for $11.6 billion in Colorado; extra terrain open on opening day

Staff Report

A little extra for Opening Day

Snowmass will add skiing to the top of Village Express Lift to the 78 acres of open terrain on Opening Day, Aspen Skiing Co. announced. This terrain adds a great option for families, officials said.

Upper Scooper, Lower Hals, Fanny Hill, Elk Camp Meadows, Upper Hals, Upper Velvet, Pocket Park on lower Fanny, and the ski-back trail to the clinic are already scheduled to be open. The operating lifts will be Sky Cab, Village Express to midway, Elk Camp Gondola, and Elk Camp Meadows. The Coaster will be open for Thanksgiving weekend (Thursday through Sunday) and then weekends after that until Christmas.

Elk hunt to close Sky Mountain Park trails

Five trails at Sky Mountain Park will close for the fourth rifle season, Nov. 23-27, while an elk hunt occurs on a portion of the park.

Cozyline, Airline, Incline, Skyline Ridge, and Ditchline trails will all be closed to public use during the hunt for safety reasons. Closure signs will be posted. Highline, Lowline, Viewline, and the downhill-only Deadline Trail will remain open. 

Five hunters are chosen each spring through a lottery. The hunt is limited to cow elk and takes place on about 1,200 acres in the heart of Sky Mountain Park — an area that stretches between Snowmass Village and Highway 82, between the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys. 

The management plan for Sky Mountain Park makes a provision for limited hunting to assist Colorado Parks and Wildlife in managing the elk herd in Game Management Unit 43. The hunt also increases elk movement and prevents a refuge effect in the park that could negatively impact the habitat through overuse and intensive browsing, officials said. 

Most of Sky Mountain Park closes to all public use for the winter, starting Dec. 1, to protect wintering wildlife. The winter closure extends through May 15, and the park re-opens on May 16.

Runway light out at airport diverts flights

A precision approach path indicator, or PAPI, light went out at the Aspen Airport around 11 a.m., Friday. SkyWest operated flights, or most commercial flights, were diverted to other airports in the region until the light could be repaired. Outbound flights may be affected if a plane is not available. Privately-operated airplanes were not affected. 

The PAPI light is a navigational system owned and operated by the Federal Aviation Authority. The Aspen Airport does not have authority to maintain or repair the light. According to Aspen Airport Director Dan Bartholomew, a maintenance crew came from Grand Junction to repair the PAPI light on Thursday afternoon.

“Service should be back to normal, but that is ultimately an airline decision,” he said around 5 p.m.

The Aspen Airport posts updates on their Twitter account @FlyAspenAirport.

Pitkin elections office completes ballot count

The Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder Office reported completed its final tally of ballots Thursday after processing military, overseas, and cured ballots. A total of 240 ballots were processed by two sets of bipartisan election judges. The uploading and processing of the remaining ballots were observed by watchers from multiple parties. 

The latest ballot count brings the total number of ballots returned in the county to 9,725. Voter turnout in Pitkin County was 71.2% of the electorate.

The effort to cure ballots in Pitkin County was significant, said Pitkin County Clerk & Recorder Ingrid Grueter.

“Representatives from both parties knocked on the doors of voters who needed to correct, or cure, their ballots. I applaud their hard work to help educate the public about the importance of curing ballots for a full and accurate count. I believe we cured more ballots this election than any previous election,” she said.

The earliest date the county can certify its results is Nov. 30. 

For more information and latest results:

Beach pop-up to return to Aspen Mountain

For 12 weekends this winter, ASPENX will revive the mountainside pop-up ASPENX Beach Club with Gray Malin at the top of Aspen Mountain, which includes music, food, drinks, and 360-degree views of the surrounding slopes and peaks.

Tickets are now available onlineDates of operation are Jan. 27 to April 16 (Fridays through Sundays) from noon to 3 p.m., with a limited availability of up to 100 people per day. Guests must be 21 or older to enter, and a lift ticket is required to access the Beach Club via the Silver Queen Gondola.

“We’re thrilled to bring the beach back to the mountains this season and give our guests another incredible venue experience in the beauty of Aspen,” said Darcy Loeb from ASPENX.

“This immersive après-ski beach club is a dream aesthetic and combines my photography from Aspen with my aerial beach and ski images, as well as my vintage-styled series,” said Gray Malin. “I’ve loved working with the ASPENX team to create an experience out of one of my photographs, complete with a DJ, games, a lifeguard tower, surfboards, and pillows.”

Steamboat aims to open day before Thanksgiving

Steamboat Resort is scheduled to open on Wednesday, Nov. 23, with 17 trails and nearly 100 acres of terrain, according to a news release on Thursday, Nov. 17.

The amount of terrain is the most available on opening day since the 2014/2015 season eight years ago. The release credits Steamboat snowmaking teams for the ability to open so much terrain so early, as well as five feet of pre-season snowfall.

Skiers and riders will have access to Christie Peak Express, the Gondola, and Burgess Creek, as well as two base-area magic carpets.

Outdoor recreation good for $11.6 billion in Colorado

The outdoor recreation economy in Colorado accounted for $11.6 billion last year, according to recently-released federal data.

Nationally, outdoor recreation accounted for $454.0 billion, or 1.9% of the country’s gross domestic product, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis said.

“Inflation-adjusted (“real”) GDP for the outdoor-recreation economy increased 18.9% in 2021, compared with a 5.9% increase for the overall U.S. economy, reflecting a rebound in outdoor recreation after the decrease of 21.6% in 2020,” the agency said.

The Boulder-based Outdoor Industry Association said in a news release that the bureau data is encouraging.

“These encouraging numbers showcase an industry that generates millions of jobs across the country and contributes billions to the total economy every year – $173 billion more than last year,” said Kent Ebersole, the association’s interim executive director. “This show of economic strength is coupled with data OIA released this fall, revealing the highest ever recorded number of new and returning participants in outdoor recreation.”

Beaver Creek ready to open Monday

Fresh snow, freshly-baked cookies, and an early start to the season — what’s not to love?

Following more than 50 inches of early season snow, coupled with favorable snowmaking temperatures, Beaver Creek Resort will open Monday, Nov. 21, for the 2022-23 winter season — two days earlier than planned. The opening terrain package will include top-to-bottom skiing, with more than 200 acres of terrain, including Red Buffalo and Haymeadow parks, as well as Gold Dust.

Centennial Express Lift and Haymeadow Gondola will spin from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., while Cinch Express Lift will spin from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Beaver Creek’s newest edition to its Signature Parks Collection, McCoy Park, will open later this season.  

“Opening Day is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Nadia Guerriero, vice President and chief operating officer at Beaver Creek Resort in a news release. “There’s nothing better than getting back to skiing and snowboarding together. As perpetual hosts, our team can’t wait to welcome our guests to experience the magic of Beaver Creek. From fresh cookies to perfect corduroy, we have been hard at work preparing for this season’s kickoff.” 

Town of Eagle has new police chief

Eagle has found its new police chief following a nationwide search to fill the job vacated by Joey Staufer, who retired in 2022. Derek Bos, who will officially start in his new role Dec. 12, was selected from the four finalists in the town’s search process.

Bos has served as the police chief of Brush, a small community of about 5,300 on Colorado’s eastern plains, since 2018. Prior to that, he worked for the Chaffee County Sheriff’s Office from 2008-2016.

“All four finalists for the job impressed us, but Derek was a standout based on his leadership style and longevity in law enforcement,” said Eagle Town Manager Larry Pardee in a news release.

During an Oct. 3 community meet-and-greet, Bos shared with Eagle residents and town staff that he believes policing is “about building trust and relationships with the community.”

During his tenure in Brush, he was a central figure in a case that captivated — and divided — the town throughout much of 2022: the arrest and prosecution of two Brush School District administrators who were charged this past summer with multiple counts of sexual exploitation of a child.

According to reporting by The Colorado Sun and other outlets, the two administrators — Bradley Bass, the assistant director of Brush High School, and Scott Hodgson, the secondary school assistant director — started investigating student sexting after a tip was delivered to both school and local police through Safe2Tell, a state-run, anonymous reporting site. According to the website, every Safe2Tell tip must be investigated. 

Birds of Prey good to go

It’s official: The International Ski and Snowboard Federation on Friday gave the green light for the Xfinity Birds of Prey World Cup scheduled for Dec. 2-4 in Beaver Creek.

As with every stop on the World Cup, each mountain must pass “snow control” ahead of the races to ensure course quality. Beaver Creek has enjoyed cold temperatures and early-season snow and will be opening early next week ahead of the races.

“Xfinity Birds of Prey is always an exciting time for our community. We are honored to be a part of a very small group that has been hosting World Cups for 55 years,” said Sarah Franke, vice president of operations and marketing for the nonprofit Vail Valley Foundation, which organizes the event each year. “Although Mother Nature gave a little help this year, all credit and thanks go to our longtime partner Vail Resorts, and their amazing and dedicated Beaver Creek Mountain Operations team. It is looking beautiful up at the race course, and we are looking forward to welcoming back the world’s fastest men on skis.”

Town of Vail finds $500,000 for employees

Using savings from unfilled positions, the town of Vail intends to distribute around $500,000 in inflation relief and retention bonuses to its employees this year.

Vail Town Manager Russ Forrest said at the Town Council’s Tuesday, Nov. 15, meeting that these bonuses are meant to “address the inflation and labor pressure we’re certainly feeling within the valley.”

The town of Vail’s largest cost each year is for staffing. In the proposed 2023 budget, $41 million of its projected $95.3 million in expenditures is allocated for salaries and benefits of the budgeted 347 full-time equivalent positions. This proposed budget passed its first reading on Tuesday, Nov. 15, and will have its final hearing on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

According to Forrest, the town of Vail is expecting to end the year with around $1.5 million worth of savings from unfilled positions’ salaries.

“Recognizing that employees have been impacted by the large inflation increases over the last year and most departments have been working short-staffed. The number of vacancies across the town has meant that many employees have needed to work extra, change schedules, and deal with increased workloads,” reads a report in the Nov. 15 packet.

Park City opens early

The whirring of snowmaking machines has been droning throughout the mountains in the Park City area, city and county officials have been vigorously planning, and skiers have been painstakingly sharpening their edges — all in preparation for the long-awaited opening day.

Park City Mountain launched its ski season Wednesday, moved up from Friday. The resort’s chief, as well as representatives from Deer Valley Resort, Utah Olympic Park, High Valley Transit, City Hall, and the County Courthouse, shared insight into the 2022-23 winter season earlier this week.

Deirdra Walsh, the vice president and chief operating officer of Park City Mountain, and Todd Bennett, the president and chief operating officer of Deer Valley, each reported receiving more than 81 inches of snow recently. For Park City Mountain, that was the same as Dec. 31 of last year.

The winter weather helped move up opening day, Walsh said, which takes a village, and she thanked staffers for their work. 

Court puts brakes on Olympic Valley development plans

Approvals from the Placer County Board of Supervisors to further develop areas within Olympic Valley have been rescinded following an Aug. 22 court order.

At its meeting last week, the Placer County Board of Supervisors unanimously rescinded the Village at Palisades Tahoe Specific Plan, which would have paved the way for the development of up to 850 hotel, condominium, and fractional ownership residential units along with new commercial, retail, and recreational land uses.

Build out under the specific plan would result in new 1,493 bedrooms in the valley. Additionally, 293,000 square feet of commercial development would include skier services, restaurants, and the Mountain Adventure Camp — a large indoor recreational facility that is anticipated to include a swimming pool, climbing walls, an arcade, movie theater, and bowling alley.

In total, the plan area encompasses approximately 93.33 acres, most of which consists of the 85-acre resort village located at the west end of the valley within the existing Palisades Ski Resort base area. In addition, an approximately 8.8-acre area (referred to as the East Parcel) is located roughly 1.3 miles east of the main village area and 0.3 miles west of the intersection of Highway 89 and Olympic Valley Road, across the street from the Olympic Valley Public Services District offices and fire station.

The project was originally approved of by the board in 2016. Soon after, Sierra Watch, a nonprofit environmental organization, filed a CEQA lawsuit challenging claims related to adequately describing the environmental setting of the Tahoe basin, impacts on emergency evacuations, impacts on traffic, noise impacts, and issues surrounding water sources.