Arapahoe Basin slides in on little notice to beat out Keystone as first to open for season |

Arapahoe Basin slides in on little notice to beat out Keystone as first to open for season

Deepan Dutta
Summit Daily
Skiers and riders line up at the Black Mountain Express lift, which opened at 3:30 p.m. Friday, kicking off ski season in North America.
Liz Copan / Summit Daily

FRISCO — Just as skiers and riders were getting excited for ski season to kick off Saturday at Keystone Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area announced at 1:45 p.m. Friday that it would start spinning the Black Mountain Express lift later in the afternoon.

The lift loaded at 3:30 p.m. Friday and ran for two hours, providing access to the High Noon intermediate trail. After closing for the 2018-19 season July 4, A-Basin was closed for only 99 days, the shortest offseason in its history, according to a news release.

“We did this because the snow is really good, our people are anxious, and we are ready to go,” A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth wrote in his blog. “We thought it would be fun.”

Lift tickets, which were $15 for Friday’s two-hour opening, will be priced starting Saturday at $95 for adults, $80 for youths ages 15-18 and $51 for children ages 6-14.

Keystone Resort will open at 9 a.m. Saturday, its earliest opening day in more than 20 years.

Keystone will operate the River Run Gondola and Montezuma Express lift with access to Schoolmarm, Silver Spoon and Last Chance runs. Skiing and riding will be open from the top of Dercum Mountain to the bottom of the Montezuma lift. At the end of the day, skiers and riders will download on the River Run Gondola to return to the base area.

Keystone credited the early opening to significant investments in its snowmaking infrastructure, including an automated system that allows the resort to operate more efficiently during the early season.

“With Keystone’s early opening, and Breckenridge’s plan to operate through Memorial Day, the two resorts will offer one of the longest ski seasons in the country … ,” Keystone’s new Vice President and General Manager Jody Churich was quoted as saying in a news release. “Our mountain operations team put in a tremendous amount of hard work to get our new snowmaking system ready for Keystone’s early opening.”

Both ski areas are reporting an 18-inch base on a mix of man-made and natural snow.

After the first major storm of the season dropped as much as 12 inches in the peaks surrounding Summit County on Thursday, the weather forecast looks warm and dry for the Colorado mountains.

“It’s kind of like Groundhog Day probably until late next week,” National Weather Service meteorologist Dennis Phillips said about a forecast that calls for highs in the upper 50s to low 60s for the coming week. “There will be some high passing clouds, but otherwise we’re going to be on a general warming trend through the rest of the weekend.”

Phillips said high temperatures are expected to be seasonable or slightly above normal. There is a possibility of a storm next weekend, he said, but it’s too soon to say with any certainty.

“If things pan out … maybe toward next weekend,” Phillips said about the next chance for snow.

The good news for ski resorts in the area is the overnight lows, which are forecast to be in the low 20s and even teens.

At Loveland Ski Area, which used to battle with Arapahoe Basin for the “first to open” honor, officials said the mountain will not open this weekend but crews are aiming for mid-October.

Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort are scheduled to open Nov. 8. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) and then Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands on Dec. 7.

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