The snow continued to fall intermittently Thursday evening in Summit County, priming the region for what it’s been impatiently awaiting for weeks on end.
Both Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort reported 11 inches each in the prior 48 hours, and predictions from OpenSnow.com suggested between 17 and 23 more for the two Vail Resorts ski areas through the weekend, with the same for nearby Copper Mountain Resort. Summit seems to have hit a much-needed sweet spot in the forecast, and for winter sports enthusiasts it couldn’t have come soon enough.
With uncharacteristically limited natural flurries to this point in the season, however, no local ski area has been able to open more than 10 percent of its terrain just yet. That appears likely to change with the ongoing storm front.
Copper, presently with seven of its 23 lifts and about 10 percent of its trails open by Thursday’s close, expects to start spinning chairs at the Timberline Express lift and three trails off it on Friday. The area where the U.S. Ski Team has been training the past few weeks opens to the public each afternoon after the pros get their morning turns through Saturday, but the Upper Encore, Oh No Bowl and Rosi’s Run each opens fully to guests on Sunday.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, which last reported 5 inches on Tuesday but could see as many as 10 more through Friday, has been moving as quickly as possible to pull more ropes and make additional terrain available. But much still remains reliant on the weather.
“We’re ready when Mother Nature is,” said Adrienne Saia Isaac, A-Basin spokeswoman. “The more natural snow we get, the more terrain we can get open.”
A-Basin ski patrol was able to get green runs Sundance and the Lower Chisholm Loop off the Black Mountain Express lift open by Thursday afternoon, and snowmakers have also been focused on Wrangler for the meantime. The Pallavicini lift won’t be flipped on until a base of about 30 inches, though, with the ski area currently reporting about 19-inch depth.
Keystone was able to get its A51 terrain park open on Dec. 5, and plans for the debut of the popular Flying Dutchman, central Schoolmarm, Last Chance and upper I70 trails Saturday. And the timing of the Dew Tour’s arrival for its 10th anniversary, Thursday through Sunday, Dec. 11, at Breckenridge is just about perfect with the snow. (Look for plenty of Dew Tour coverage this weekend.)
Arapahoe Basin may have taken the title as North America’s first opening on Oct. 21, but Copper now owns the continent’s first superpipe — all 22 feet of it — in preparation of its U.S. Revolution Tour competition stop through Saturday. The U.S. Grand Prix starts the day after on Sunday, Dec. 11, and spectators can come see the finals free of charge on Dec. 16 and 17.
Wednesday’s overnight snow had no impacts on the Summit School District, before or after the school day. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) lifted its traction law for passenger vehicles on Interstate 70 by about 10 a.m. Thursday between Eisenhower Tunnel and Silverthorne. It was later pulled between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass around noon.
As the snow persisted Thursday night, the transportation safety decree went back into effect around 4 p.m. from Georgetown all the way to Vail. No doubt, commuters can anticipate it — and commercial chain laws — throughout the weekend, with forecasts for Summit County calling for mild winter temperatures, but consistent snow showers and the biggest potential dump coming Sunday.
Skiers and riders rejoice — winter may have been delayed this season, but has now arrived in more than just a ceremonial gesture. Keep your tips up.
With the Vail Cascade Resort sale and rebranding announcement at the end of 2015, the future of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival was in doubt. Nearing the end of 2016, the 16-year-old event has restructured, found a new home, redesigned its website and communication strategy and is looking ahead.
“The fundamental mission of the Big Beers Festival is education,” said Bill Lodge, founder of the event. “We want people to learn about what is out there and to try new things. We also want to give back to our community and support the brewers who are living their dream.”
In 2015, that mission was at risk of ending, with no home and a business structure susceptible to legislative change. The first step seemed clear: Find out if the attendees and participants of the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival would support change. If not, the event would celebrate 16 years of amazing people and events and close down. If supported, many changes would be necessary in order to move forward.
Survey responses following the 2016 Big Beers Festival weekend were overwhelmingly unanimous: “Move it, change it, but please don’t end it” was the consensus. So the work began. Where would be the new home? How should the event be positioned to be the most resilient going forward?
“Bill and I agreed that the event would have the best chance of moving forward successfully into the future if we created a nonprofit organization that would be led by a board of directors,” said Laura Lodge, event coordinator.
In this manner, the mission of the founders would continue beyond their immediate involvement, in addition to providing the support of others knowledgeable in the industry. The nonprofit status has the additional advantage of being a more secure business model to continue the event as it was originally conceived.
Thus the Big Beers Educational Foundation was created, a Colorado 501(c)(6), with the mission statement: “To provide education for and about the brewing industry.” As a nonprofit, the organization no longer needs to partner with a nonprofit to hold the event, as Big Beers had with the Vail Valley Charitable Fund for 16 years. The change also provides the option to create other events or directions within the scope of the mission statement.
The new location was finalized in the spring, and the work of re-creating the Big Beers festival in Breckenridge began.
“Many different locations were considered, with proximity to (Denver International Airport), event space and access to the mountain being primary issues,” Laura Lodge said. “We really did some soul searching to define what the Big Beers experience really includes.”
Once defined, the town of Breckenridge and Beaver Run Resort went the extra mile to show they could partner for years ahead. Creating a permanent foundation and reintroducing the event on a more professional level are happening, as well.
“The need for education about and within the beer industry, especially when combined with the ability to offer support to our community, are more important than just ‘here and now,’” Laura Lodge said. “We want to continue and expand upon this mission in a way that will continue beyond us for years to come.”
For more information about the Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival, visit bigbeersfestival.com or contact Lodge at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO …
What: Big Beers, Belgians & Barleywines Festival.
When: Thursday, Jan. 5, through Saturday, Jan. 7.
Where: Beaver Run Resort & Conference Center, 620 Village Road, Breckenridge.
Cost: Reserved seminar seating is $15, commercial tasting tickets are $75 and culinary pairing events are $75 to $125; VIP packages are also available.
As Summit County government pulls itself further into the housing business, it is being forced to find additional solutions for how to protect the tax dollars used to construct these workforce units and ensure they remain affordable.
That was part of the conversation among the Board of County Commissioners and its staff Tuesday morning at the County Courthouse in Breckenridge. The discussion surrounding an individual case of a requested loan refinance on a deed-restricted property in the Snake River Village Townhomes in Keystone quickly turned to how to handle the situation the next time one cropped up.
“This is one ask, but we’re setting some precedent here,” said Nicole Bleriot, acting executive director of the Summit Combined Housing Authority. “We’re setting some policy for future expectations.”
A deed-restricted property is one that comes with a set of rules attached specifying how the unit can be used and how much it can be resold for over time. Depending on the limits of the development, it can also set requirements such as the tenant being a full-time employee, and how quickly the property’s value can appreciate.
These controls are included to guarantee the housing will remain attainable for locals for the foreseeable future, and available in a semi-confined market each time the current owner sells. This particular refinance petition stands to expose the county because more and more loan providers — in this case commercial bank Wells Fargo — require a supplemental provision that puts new mortgage in the first position should the home eventually go to foreclosure. From that point, a potential resale means the deed restriction would be dropped and could be sold to the highest bidder on the open market, which is precisely what the county hopes to prevent to safeguard its investment.
County senior planner Kate Berg estimated that there are approximately 33 of these units between the Monarch Townhomes and throughout the Snake River Basin. While other properties would grant the county the first right to reclaim the unit if an owner stopped paying their mortgage, these would not under this supplemental agreement.
To offset the risk with the handful of others, however, the county brought in Breckenridge senior planner Laurie Best to explain how the town has been handling such scenarios. Best, a 16-year veteran of the department, confirmed that these added agreements do indeed put the deed restriction at risk. But it’s been the current town council’s position to grant these home loans so the buyer sees improved terms. That means needing to maintain a reserve fund to step in and recover the property during a public trustee foreclosure sale to preserve the deed restriction when necessary.
“You want to preserve our deed restriction,” Best told the commissioners, “particularly when we have public investment in it and have worked hard to create those units at those price points. We get concerned when the lender can get the property back and sell it on the market unrestricted.”
She noted that during her tenure the town of Breckenridge has never lost a deed restriction. That’s in part because foreclosures on these types of properties are rare. She recalled no more than a handful — maybe 10 — since 2000 in town boundaries.
Best estimated there are 100 units dispersed in Breckenridge that don’t address foreclosures in the deed restriction. Newer properties in developments like the Wellington Neighborhood often necessitate the supplemental arrangement with a bank so the buyer can qualify. The town almost always obliges on a case-by-case basis after looking over the terms of the loan, but also keeps an eye out for times it may have to buy back the property to keep it deed-restricted.
The county made no official decision on the Snake River Village property on Tuesday, but took Best’s advice to move forward in reviewing these issues on a case-by-case basis. Bleriot also suggested a list of expanded criteria that would assist in making the safest decision on whether to permit supplemental paperwork to a buyer or owner on a refinance. Those may include close inspection of the debt-to-income ratio on the loan, its interest rate, or the loan-to-value ratio on a refinance. Certifying that it is providing housing to a local employee — as remains a primary intent of deed restrictions — is another.
“The key piece to this is making sure of a legitimate and valid use of the property ongoing if there’s going to be some benefit to whomever that owner is,” said county manager Scott Vargo, “that it remain in the inventory of workforce housing. That’s the big deal.”
And rather than coming up with some blanket rule or applying the prospective standards universally, Commissioner Thomas Davidson affirmed the need to review each circumstance individually to do right by the specific property, and the citizens who helped build them.
“In terms of protecting the taxpayer investment and the housing product that we’re putting our funds into,” said Davidson, “we really kind of need to do it this way. I realize that’s that more time intensive and labor intensive and all the rest, but my opinion is we’ve got a pretty significant dollar investment in each and every property. So the time we would have to spend on it is worth what we’re protecting.”
With beekeeping becoming more popular every year, the Keystone Policy Center’s Honey Bee Health Coalition recently released a series of videos to promote colony health and combat destructive mite infestations.
Honey bees help facilitate more than $20 billion in annual agriculture in the United States and Canada. But the critical worker insects have faced several years of declines in population, which led to the formation of the diverse stakeholder group in 2014 to improve hive management, increase forage and nutrition and control crop pests to safeguard pollinator health.
The videos provide helpful visual aids and step-by-step directions on how beekeepers can monitor and control the Varroa mite through a pest management strategy. The series covers a range of techniques and tools, including the use of formic acid, essential oils and other synthetic miticides.
“Healthy bees support out world’s food supply and farmers everywhere,” Danielle Downey, executive director of honey been health nonprofit Project Apis m, said in a news release. “Often keeping the bees healthy is a mysterious learning curve. These important ‘How to’ videos bring the Coalitions tools for Varroa Management Guide to life.”
The videos are available on the Honey Bee Health Coalitions website at: honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/#videos. More information about the more than 40 member collective and its efforts can also be found via the homepage.
For Jeff Lifgren, a ski or snowboard lesson starts long before someone sets boots to snow and ends long after the day is done.
“The entire day can really make or break the experience,” said Lifgren, director of skier services at Breckenridge Ski Resort. “Everything from the rental shop to the ski and snowboard meeting area to the lift lines to the restaurant they eat in — they all have an effect on the experience for the guest.”
It seems like a no-brainer, but these days, ski and snowboard lessons are deeper and richer than simply taking turns with an instructor. As Lifgren says, major resorts like Breckenridge consider the entire on-mountain experience when writing a ski school curriculum, and the lesson itself is just a small slice of the pie.
Breck’s approach is part of a larger push by the sport’s two professional organizations, Professional Ski Instructors of American (PSIA) and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI), to get back to the basics of good customer service. For years, ski lessons were rigid and regimented, based on a set of one-size-fits-all skills and drills. Scenes of hard-nosed instructors in ski spoofs like “Hot Dog” and “Aspen Extreme” weren’t far from the truth.
“We’re trying to get away from calling everything we do ‘lessons,’” said Nicholas Herrin, the new CEO for PSIA and AASI. “We need to take into consideration the experience, not just how you link a turn to a turn.”
MORE THAN A LESSON
At Breckenridge, changes to old ways of thinking and teaching are as simple as something known as “rolling starts.” For adult group lessons — a growing segment of the instruction population — clients have the choice to start anytime between 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m.
“If you want to get out on the snow early, we will be ready,” Lifgren said. “If you want to take your time and enjoy that cup of coffee first thing and then get out a little later, we can do that as well. It really is about making it easy for our guests.”
This dedication to flexibility is drawing more adult clients at resorts across the nation, Herrin said, and resorts now offer more lesson options than ever before. Gone are the days of beginner-only lessons, replaced with programs like Breck Guides, a half-day or full-day program that takes expert skiers to areas like Imperial Bowl and Lake Chutes to work on advanced skills with a veteran instructor.
“We take you to some of the most spectacular and challenging terrain that Breckenridge has to offer,” Lifgren said of the Breck Guides program. That kind of tailored experience doesn’t come cheap — a half-day program is $575 and the full-day program is $745 per person — but resorts have found that clients are willing to pay a little more for posh treatment. A major perk of skiing with Breck Guides: no lift lines, as you and the instructor have access to the special ski school queue at most lifts.
Along with new and expanded lesson programs, PSIA and AASI’s revised curriculum makes it easier for teachers to work with students of any ability, at any time, even when conditions are difficult. Look at the start of this year’s ski season, when lesson groups at Breckenridge, Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain Resort started on opening day, despite the fact all three mountains opened with hardly any terrain.
That is one of the great things about skiing and snowboarding: you don’t need specific terrain to work on your skills,” Lifgren said. “Every slope can be used to refine or improve your movements… Our instructors are doing what they are trained to do, no matter how much of the mountain is open.”
ON THE SLOPES
After clients pick the best lesson for their goals, the customization is just getting started. At Keystone, Greg Willis, director of the Ski and Ride School, encourages his instructors to buy into Herrin’s philosophy and do more than simply teach.
“They are constantly checking in with the guest to make sure the experience is tailored to their expectations, while at the same time helping the guest to understand what expectations are realistic,” said Willis, a 22-year PSIA veteran. “Most importantly, Keystone instructors keep it fun and make sure our guests are leaving with a smile on their face.”
Both Keystone and Breckenridge have dedicated ski school areas, just like most mountains, but modern lessons spend more time exploring than old-school lessons. Coaches at Keystone work on everything from tree skiing to terrain park jumping, and depending on the client’s ability level, practically no terrain is off limits.
“We can offer something for any ability skier or boarder right now,” Willis said. “But as we open more terrain, we can offer coaching to expand tactics for different types of terrain or conditions — whatever the guest is looking to master.”
No matter where the lesson takes a client, PSIA and AASI curriculum still outlines various skills and techniques for skiers and riders at every level. They range from basics, like balance and stopping drills on relatively flat ground, to advanced skills, like bump skiing and powder riding on extreme pitches. But there’s always a rhyme to the reason.
“Whenever we introduce a new task, we always back off on the terrain we choose,” Willis said. “This helps us to solidify proper movement patterns and technique, instead of creating bad habits that come from over-terraining ourselves.”
In the end, PSIA and AASI’s revised ski school curriculum and the resort’s lodge-to-lift experience both boil down to one thing: showing guests a damn good time.
“It really allows you to have a full understanding of what the guest experiences when they are first learning,” Lifgren said. “You can break down every movement and change what someone is doing to allow them to be more successful.”
The holiday season is here in Summit County, as towns celebrate Yuletide joy with festive events.
Towns throughout Summit hosted tree lightings during the first week of December. Dillon turned on the lights promptly at the start of the month on Dec. 1. Frisco followed suit the next day, with a tree lighting to start off the annual Wassail Days celebration. As part of the event, through Dec. 11 people are welcome to try 12 different varieties of wassail, a type of spiced cider, scattered throughout the town. Bring a completed “12 Sips of Wassail Card” to the Frisco Information Center to exchange it for a commemorative mug. Visit townoffrisco.com for a full schedule of Wassail Days events.
Silverthorne kicked off the season with a Holiday Bazaar held in the Pavilion on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Shoppers could spend the day finding the perfect homemade gift from 34 different Colorado-based vendors.
“It’s so fun to see what people make,” said Jaci Ohayon, a local author in Silverthorne.
Ohayon had a table selling her book “Food Dancer,” along with Karin Mitchell, another local author.
It was the first time that Carin Faust, the events and leisure coordinator for Silverthorne, helped to organize the event. She added that planning events like this is her passion.
“(Bazaars) are a good event to get everybody into the holidays,” she said.
Santa made the rounds through Summit on Dec. 2, making pit stops in Silverthorne for the Bazaar, Frisco for Wassail Days and finally Breck for the town’s tree lighting in the evening. Saint Nick will return to Frisco on Dec. 10 at the Frisco Historic Park and Museum.
Breck filled the day Saturday with several events, starting with the second annual Fat Bike Open, which started on Main Street at 2:30 p.m. While waiting for one the of the day’s most popular events, the Bernese Mountain Dog Parade, holiday enthusiasts were welcome to go to Handmade Holiday, a winter open house, in the Breckenridge Arts District.
Steamy cups filled with cocoa brought relief from the cold at Main Street Station as more than 50 of man’s best friend filled the plaza for the Berner Parade.
Thomas Carlin brought his 3-month-old Bernese puppy, Addie. He and several friends came from the Front Range to see the Breck tree lighting for the first time. Addie bore the “cone of shame,” but was ready for the parade.
“She got bit by another dog and had to get stitches, so she’s recovering from that,” Carlin said. “But she’s feeling good.”
The dogs strutted their stuff down Main, with a few extra breeds crashing the party. Their wagging tails led the way to the Race of the Santas starting line, where more than 400 Santas waited to run.