The snow may be melting fast, but those looking to bag more turns at local resorts still have a few options.
Breckenridge Ski Resort will close its season Sunday, April 27. Recent Olympians and members of the resort’s Epic Pro Team will showcase their talents in the mountain’s team Big Air Showcase exhibition Saturday, April 26, from 2 to 3 p.m.
Guests can watch from the Peak 8 base area or up on the hill as the pros launch off the slopestyle jump at the bottom of the resort’s Freeway Terrain Park.
Confirmed athletes include 2014 Sochi Olympians Bobby Brown, Keri Herman, Faye Gulini and Possum Torr, as well as pro team members Eric Willett, Zach Black and Brett Esser.
Willett recently returned to snow after cracking a vertebra during the Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain Resort earlier this season. Athletes will be on hand afterward for photos and an autograph signing.
Festivities continue Sunday with a closing-day luau and pig roast at the base of Peak 8 from noon to 4:30 p.m.
Breckenridge will be open all week from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but under limited operations. Peaks 9 and 10 closed April 20. Vail Resorts season passes are still valid, and the resort will offer discounted lift tickets for $66.
This season was one of the longest in Breckenridge’s 52-year history, according to resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart. The resort extended its season by a few days last year and in 2012, which was the resort’s first season extension since it merged with Vail Resorts in 1996. This year might be the longest season in about 20 years, she said.
Copper Mountain closed Sunday, April 20, but will reopen for its last weekend Friday, April 25.
Friday through Sunday, Copper will operate the American Flyer, Sierra, Celebrity Ridge and Timberline lifts from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All skier services, including restaurants, rentals and shops, will be limited to Center Village.
Parking will be free, and all Copper Mountain season pass products and coupons will be valid. Skiers with season passes to other ski areas will receive discounted lift tickets for $59 each.
Keystone Resort, Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek closed Sunday, April 20.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will close June 1, depending on conditions. Last year, the resort closed on June 2, then reopened June 7, 8 and 9. If the resort decides to extend its season this year, spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac said, that decision wouldn’t be announced until late May.
Loveland Ski Area’s closing day is set for Sunday, May 4.
It may not have been the nicest of spring days but the Keystone Resort faithful still came out Sunday for one last shot at hitting the slopes. A handful of the more daring among them also suited up for Keystone’s fourth annual Slush Cup pond skimming contest. With costumes ranging from an adult-size Easter peep to a bathing-suit-clad lifeguard, participants shot down the slope above the Mountain House base area to launch off a kicker and attempt to cross a roughly 20-yard-long man-made pond.
“This is always such a fun way to close out the season,” resort spokeswoman Laura Parquette said after the competition.
After a fair amount of unbalanced splash landings, it was a 360-throwing mustard bottle by the name of Oliver Umpleby that took top honors for the day.
“I had a bunch of friends that did it last year and it looked like it was a lot of fun,” a shivering Umpleby — still clad in a sopping wet mustard suit — said after winning. “I’m surprised. I didn’t think it was going to happen. I was just going to go out and have some fun with it.”
While both of Umpleby’s final run 360s ended with crash landings, the creativity was enough to earn the judges’ favor. For his shivers, Umpleby earned a season pass for the 2014-15 ski season. Passes were also awarded for best costume and best crash.
When asked about the wet landing, Umpleby said, “It was cold but your adrenaline’s pumping, so it wasn’t that bad.”
With the April 20 closure Keystone ended its longest season in over a decade. Breckenridge Ski Resort and Copper Mountain Resort will follow suit this coming Sunday, April 27.
Breckenridge going Big next weekend
Breckenridge will close its season with style next weekend as recent Olympians and members of the resort’s Epic Pro Team will showcase their talents in the mountain’s team Big Air Showcase exhibition Saturday, April 26.
Guests can watch from the base area of Peak 8 or up on the hill as the group of pros launch off the large slopestyle jump at the bottom of the resort’s Freeway Terrain Park. Confirmed athletes include 2014 Sochi Olympians Bobby Brown, Keri Herman, Faye Gulini and Possum Torr, as well as pro team members Eric Willett, Zach Black, Brett Esser and others. Willet only recently returned to snow after cracking a vertebra during the Olympic qualifier at Copper Mountain earlier this season.
Athletes will be on hand afterwards for photos and an autograph signing. Festivities will continue at the mountain on Sunday with a closing day luau. Breckenridge will be open all week leading up to the Sunday, April 27 closing, but under limited operations. Peaks 9 and 10 closed for the season April 20.
Copper Mountain will be closed during the week but will reopen for their final weekend starting Friday, April 25. They will also close for the season April 27.
If you live in a part of Summit County prone to floods, you might want to call your insurance company.
That’s advice from county assistant manager Thad Noll, who says the risk of flooding during runoff season this year will be higher than usual.
Most companies won’t cover damage unless clients have a policy 30 days before a flood. If you need flood insurance and your company won’t cover you, Noll said, you can always use FEMA’s national flood insurance program.
Flood risk is higher because the snowpack near Dillon Reservoir this year is about 35 percent above average, Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney said.
Comparing snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Noll said Friday’s numbers look just like they did on the same date in 2011, the year with the most snowpack on record.
The data also look similar to 1996, he said, a year when rapid snowmelt combined with a giant rainstorm to flood neighborhoods all over Summit County.
“That was a nasty runoff,” he said.
When Noll lived in Blue River that year, he said, he was shocked by the amount of water in streets, septic fields and basements. Parts of Silverthorne, Keystone and Summit Cove flooded, and Coyne Valley Road in Breckenridge washed out, he said.
“It was terrible,” he said. “It was a mess.”
To prepare, local water managers are meeting with Denver Water.
The utility, which provides West Slope water to the Denver metro area, regulates how much water comes out of Dillon Reservoir. The utility’s employees monitor Summit’s snowpack conditions, weather forecasts and the reservoir’s natural inflows and outflows.
This week, Denver Water increased the outflow to the Blue River. The increase, from 500 cubic feet per second to 600 cfs over Monday and Tuesday, was the fifth this season beginning in early March.
Though the utility isn’t legally required to do so, it lowers the reservoir’s level in years with high snowpack to lessen the risk of flooding north of Dillon Dam.
Denver Water can’t control flooding around the reservoir, but it can help Silverthorne, which faces the greatest risk.
The town will see problems if the reservoir outflow reaches 1,800 cfs, or triple what it is now, Noll said. That’s when the river will touch Silverthorne’s Sixth Street bridge.
Silverthorne’s public works director, Bill Linfield, said the bike trail under Bald Eagle Road is already closed because it’s under water.
Locally, water managers have one preventive technique they’re using now.
County and town employees, usually snowplow drivers, check and clear any clogged culverts, or underground water pipes. They shovel debris, pull sticks out by hand and use a steamer if ice is a problem.
Since 1996, government staff enlarged culverts and changed drainage patterns to prevent damage.
Denver Water’s primary goal is keeping the reservoir full for its water supply, which makes managers at the Dillon and Frisco marinas happy. A full reservoir means more boat rentals and slip sales.
In high runoff seasons, the utility lets water out of the reservoir until the end of June.
“Ideally the reservoir is full for the Fourth of July, and there’s no flooding,” Noll said. “Yay. Everybody’s happy.”
He said going forward residents can expect more public announcements and free sandbags.
To find out if your home is at risk, contact your local town government or Summit County officials or go to the FEMA Map Service Center.
For more information, visit https://www.floodsmart.gov.
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series about the history of the Peak 9 Restaurant. Visit www.summitdaily.com to read the first part.
The Peak 9 Restaurant has been a home away from home for many who have moved to or passed through Breckenridge, whether it was for one season or many decades. Patrons return year after year for the welcoming atmosphere and friendly greetings from owner Kevin Brown.
Dot Fears and her husband, Byron, moved to the mountains outside of Lyons on the Front Range about five years ago. They’ve been skiing Breckenridge for upward of 15 years, originally making the trip from Hawaii. Byron said there’s not a day the two ski Breckenridge that they don’t visit Peak 9 Restaurant.
“That’s the place that we go to because we like the non-corporate atmosphere there and the nice service,” Dot said. “We like the craft draft beer they have on tap there, and we do happen to know one of the bartenders, he’s an old-time friend. We’ve gotten to know some of the other folks — it’s just a friendly place that we stop, and we’re going to be sad to see it go.”
Byron said he likes the diversity of the menu at the restaurant and its affordable prices. He also said Brown’s ability to hire employees who “don’t fit the corporate mold” gives the place personality.
“They’ve got interesting food, really nice people working there, they aren’t all getting minimum wage,” Byron said. “The people working for Breckenridge or Vail (Resorts), they just have a job, but the people up there take a lot of pride in what they do. I think that’s part of it; having such a real person makes a little difference there. Being able to interact with the owner instead of eating at another corporate restaurant. I’m sad to see it go.”
Larry Thomas, of Naples, Fla., said Peak 9 Restaurant is his favorite spot to hang out when he’s on the mountain. Thomas stumbled into Breckenridge by accident when he was looking to purchase a mountain home, intending to browse in Vail or Aspen, and he never left. He’s lived here part time since 1985 and said Peak 9 is his favorite spot to grab a bite because of the staff.
“I think my favorite thing about it is the way (Brown) has managed to maintain the staff over the many, many years that they have owned and run it,” he said. “There are people who have worked there for decades, and the friendliness and the personal service sticks out, as opposed to the more cafeteria style or impersonal style that mountain restaurants are usually run.
“That’s one of the things I always enjoyed about it. If you had a special request or something you had before and maybe it’s not featured right then, their desire and ability to attempt to accommodate you has always been a hallmark of the hospitality that they brought to Breckenridge.”
Thomas said the attitude of the owner trickles down through the staff.
“It’s the way they treat their customers and go above and beyond the call of duty, whether you’re here for one day or they are going to see you 100 times during the season,” he said.
Laurie Phillips, of Savannah, Ga., said she and her husband, Aaron, have been visiting Peak 9 Restaurant for years and love all the people who work there.
“I love Kevin, and Mike the bartender, and I always get to know the people at the cash registers,” she said with a laugh. “I recognize everyone who works there, even if I don’t know all their names.
“It feels like home, and I’m going to miss everybody there, and I don’t know if it’s going to feel the same way as it has. The food’s good, prices are reasonable, it has a very relaxed atmosphere. When I go into the other restaurants, it doesn’t have the same feeling. You’re in there with all the tourists. I’m a tourist, but we’ve been going there for so many years that it feels like a second home.”
Reed Stilwell, of Denver, said he can’t pinpoint one particular thing about Peak 9 that keeps his family coming back but said it seems like the place is always filled with “townies.” Brown’s presence and personality add to the warmth of the restaurant, Stilwell said.
“You feel like you’re walking into someone’s cabin or something. It’s a pretty mellow, nice place to be. That’s why we go there all the time,” he said. “It feels like everyone is pretty friendly; it feels like you are being welcomed in as an old friend. … It’s the vibe of the place that we continually return to. It feels like a local joint, and it’s very personal compared with the establishments on the mountain.”
Stilwell said Peak 9 is great for kids because the meals have a good variety — “not just those chicken nugget things” — and kids can always find something they like. He and his family have been going to the restaurant regularly for about eight years, beginning when his son, Isaac, was a tyke.
“Once he was able to ride the chairlifts and get to that terrain, when he was 4 or 5, that was the only place he would eat,” Stilwell said. “He’s go really sensitive ears, and the music and the scene in all those joints is so intense and base-lodgy, he didn’t like how loud the other places were.”
And it’s not just Stilwell’s kids who love Peak 9.
“One of the things I like best about it is, quite often, all of the racer kids are palling around downstairs,” he said. “They leave their bags there, all their stuff is there — it’s just like a mountain home for a lot of different kinds of people. There’s clearly enough trust and good will they can leave their backpacks in the corner and pick up their gear. It’s pretty great.”
People from out of town and even out of state prefer the food at Peak 9 Restaurant, Stilwell said, citing a moment on the chairlift when one dad recommended to another that he take the kids there for “the best food on the mountain.”
“The food is not quite like home cooked, but it’s nicely made. It’s not fancy; it’s good, basic food. Our kids love the chili. He’s not quite a future chef,” Stilwell said of his son, “but he’s got a very distinct taste of things he likes. He won’t eat the chili elsewhere, but he likes the chili at Peak 9.”
Phillips also raved about the homemade soups, and she is one of many who will miss the restaurant’s $2.50 cups of coffee, a bargain at less than half the price of other mountain restaurants.
John Albertine, of Annapolis, Md., said he and his wife, Penny, agree that the soups are wonderful and Brown trains his staff well. The Albertines are largely retired and have been renting a house in Breckenridge for the past 10 years. John said Brown runs a first-class restaurant and he’s sad to see it go.
“We’ve very much enjoyed Peak 9 Restaurant,” he said. “I always enjoyed their soups and the bread bowls, those were always a good hit during midday. And the pastries, which I didn’t eat every day — I didn’t dare — and just visiting Kevin.”
Reed McClintock, of Marin County, near San Francisco, said the past several years he’s probably skied 50 days at Breckenridge and every day he eats at Peak 9.
“The food is fabulous; it’s way superior to anything that the Vail-owned restaurants do,” he said. “It’s about 60 percent of the price, and that restaurant has fabulous views. I never eat anywhere else.”
Though many will miss the food and the staff and the vibe of Peak 9 Restaurant, patrons were unanimous that the biggest loss to come of the change in ownership is not seeing Brown’s friendly face greeting customers every day.
“Kevin is a really good friend, a really friendly person, a helpful person, a considerate person, from my interactions with him,” said Ryan Biondo, of Colorado Springs, adding that he’s known Brown for about four years. “He expects a lot from his employees, in terms of professionalism and keeping a tight-run establishment, keeping it clean. He sets the bar very high as a proprietor of the establishment.”
Albertine described Brown as “a very personable, pleasant fella.”
“He knows an amazing amount of the customers who come through there,” he said. “He trains his staff very, very well; they obviously like him. He knows how to run a fine restaurant. We just wish him the best in his retirement, if he knows how to retire, no idea what he’s going to start up next.”
McClintock said he’s known Brown really well the past 10 or 15 years and they’ve talked about getting together and playing some golf down in Palm Desert, Calif., after he retires.
“I don’t have any particular anecdote or anything I can regale your ears with,” he said. “He always goes out of his way to come over to me and chat. We really hit it off since Day 1. I wish him well and hope to spend some time with him in the future as a friend, in addition to being a patron for all these years.”
Byron Fears said he’d like to see Brown go out with a bang, and he and Dot will be at Peak 9 this weekend doing their best to make sure that happens.
“Go give Kevin a great sendoff, all the staff there, show the support they have had all these years,” he said. “It’s great they’re going out on such an outrageous ski season with all the snow — give him a big, fond farewell; he deserves it.”
Biondo said he would be at Peak 9 on Sunday to say goodbye, too.
He said 40 years is a long time and he wants to wish Brown the best of luck in retirement.
“We’re looking forward to it, but it’s definitely bittersweet,” he said. “It won’t be the same next year. … I think the atmosphere will be a lot different, the type of atmosphere for us and our close friends and even friends we made week to week as we sat up there and hung out at the bar. That locals’ feel — I don’t get that other places up on the hill, plus having the porch on the nice spring skiing day will be missed with close friends.”
Spring might be in the air, but with all the extra snow this year it’s going to mean ski season is sticking around just a little bit longer. Breckenridge Ski Resort announced in March it would extend its season for an additional week and will close Sunday, April 27. Copper Mountain Resort also extended its season. The resort will be closed this coming week but will reopen Friday, April 25, then close for the season on Sunday, April 27. Keystone Resort will close this Sunday, April 20.
“It’s kind of like having two closing weekends,” Breckenridge resort spokeswoman Kristen Petitt Stewart said Thursday. The resort will kick off its final 10 days of the season in style Friday with the final scheduled offering of the “5 ’til 5” extended terrain park hours. Chair 5, which accesses the resort’s terrain park, will continue to run until 5 p.m., giving park rats of all ages and abilities an extra hour to play. As part of the event, the resort will also host a party in the park with hotdogs and rail jam competitions.
“Everybody from town is out there,” Team Breck freeride program coach Chris Hawkes said. “It’s like a beach party in the park.”
He said last week slopestyle Olympians Bobby Brown of Breckenridge, Great Britain’s James “Woodsy” Woods — who also calls Breckenridge home — and slopestyle bronze medalist Nick Goepper all made appearances while in town working on a project.
“Everyone’s just hanging out having a good time,” Hawkes said. “The kids are super stoked on it. Even ones that don’t get out of school till 3 o’clock were out.”
“5 ’til 5” festivities get rolling at 2 p.m.
“This is the time of year when Breckenridge is at its best,” Petitt Stewart said. “It’s a great event to show off our terrain park and give our guests something a little extra.”
Spring celebrations continue through the weekend with the resort’s Spring Fever concert series. Yonder Mountain String Band will take the stage Saturday, followed by Blues Traveler Sunday, April 20, in the Peak 8 base area.
Peaks 9 and 10 will be closed for the season starting Monday. Peaks 6-8 will be open through the week.
Next weekend the resort will also host members of its Epic Pro Team for a big air competition. Olympians Bobby Brown, Keri Herman, Fay Gulini and Possum Torr are scheduled to attend along with Breckenridge local Eric Willet — returning after breaking his back during Olympic qualifiers — and others.
Keystone Resort will close for the season as scheduled Sunday, April 20. Officials from the resort said this will go down as its longest season in 12 years. The resort will host its annual Slush Cup pond-skimming competition Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Copper will close during the week but reopen for a final weekend April 25-27. Its spring Sunsation festival will continue Saturday with performances by That 80’s Band and Funky Johnson. Saturday festivities will also include the Color Run 5K in which participants will run along an on-snow course in the resort. Runners are encouraged to wear white and will be hit with paint along various parts of the course, with the end goal being to cross the finish line with the most color.
During Copper’s final weekend it will give guests with season passes from other ski areas a reduced ticket price to ski for the day.
Arapahoe Basin and Loveland ski areas
Both A-Basin and Loveland will continue operations into May. A-Basin has not yet announced a closing date. Lovleand plans to close May 4.
The U.S. Forest Service released new guidelinesTuesday, April 15, for ski resort expansions of summer and year-round recreation.
The policy clarifies how the Forest Service will permit ski areas that want to host events and activities like mountain biking, zip lines and ropes and disc golf courses, and it clears the way for Vail Resorts’ summer plans for Breckenridge Ski Area, Vail Mountain and Heavenly Mountain Resort in Lake Tahoe, Calif.
“We want to retain that natural setting that people expect when they visit a national forest,” said Jim Bedwell, director of recreation, lands and minerals for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Region. “That being said, it is within one of our most highly developed settings, a ski area.”
The guidelines, which will be published in the Federal Register this week and take effect immediately, are revisions to the 1986 National Forest Ski Area Permit Act as part of an amendment pushed through Congress by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall.
Udall introduced the 2011 Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, as a way to create more year-round jobs in mountain communities and boost Colorado’s recreational and tourism economy.
The bill also addressed the vague language of the 1986 act. For example, its language didn’t allow for snowboarding, though it clearly wasn’t interpreted that way by resorts, said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest.
Though the policy changes were drafted in the agency’s Washington office, he said, its writers asked for input from regional agencies.
For the last five or six years, ski industry leaders have been asking the agency to allow more activities like those already in place at ski areas on private land in the Northeast and at resorts in Europe, Bedwell said.
The Forest Service recognizes, he said, that more diversification is important to ski resorts’ business strategies and long-term viability in the face of threats to winter activities, like climate change.
He said the economic development and the health benefits to individuals and communities fall in line with the Forest Service’s mission.
The policy change is also driven by the agency’s desire to attract different demographics, including more of the country’s urban residents, to outdoor recreation. Those who don’t like or are unfamiliar with camping, hiking, skiing and fishing could experience the forest in a different way, Fitzwilliams said. They might gain a deeper appreciation for nature and then want to explore other national forest lands.
“Ideally we’ll see people using ski area parking lots and lodging and spending the day in the national forest beyond the ski areas,” Bedwell said, which would help the agency avoid building and maintaining new trailheads and infrastructure, because the ski resorts would bear the cost.
The agency will approve some summer uses, like zip lines, canopy tours and mountain bike parks, that can encourage outdoor recreation and the enjoyment of nature and can harmonize with the natural environment. The guidelines specifically prohibit some activities and facilities, including those common at amusement parks like merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels and roller coasters.
“Beyond that,” Bedwell said, “we can use our existing processes that we use on anything from a timber sale to a road construction to a mining activity to guide us to maintain that natural character.”
Fitzwilliams said the Forest Service always goes through the same process analyzing a proposal’s effects on animals, watersheds and other ecological factors.
“No matter what the project is, whether it’s a new lift, a ski run or a zip line, we look at them similarly,” he said. And not every activity will go on at every ski resort, he said. Things appropriate in some areas might not be appropriate in other areas.
But the biggest question with the expansions, he said, is the social impact, or how new activities could affect other people.
“We know there’s a sector of people who want certain types of solitude, and then there’s people who don’t care,” Fitzwilliams said, citing debates over motorized and non-motorized trails.
That’s difficult, he said, because it’s not as easily quantifiable as the effect on elk habitat of removing a certain number of trees.
Of the almost 40,000 acres designated as part of the White River National Forest, only 6 percent is for ski resort use, Fitzwilliams emphasized, and people who want more solitude can experience backcountry in the other 94 percent.
Locally, Breckenridge and Vail have been on the forefront of expanding their summer operations, Bedwell said. Other Colorado ski resorts are planning expansions but haven’t filed proposals yet.
Its proposed expansions involve mainly winter activities, like adding skiing terrain and building and removing chairlifts, as well as zip lines and a ropes course. Communications manager Adrienne Saia Isaac said Wednesday that any summer plans are still a few seasons away