Breckenridge and Keystone resorts COO Roger McCarthy, Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth and Copper Mountain COO Gary Rodgers touted last season's successes and announced new developments at their respective resorts at the annual COO breakfast, held this year at the Keystone Conference Center.
McCarthy took the podium first, launching his presentation with a video focused on highlights from Keystone. In it, McCarthy talked about the success of last year's 36 Hours of Keystone event, which returns this December for the resort's 36th anniversary, and Snowboarder Magazine's signature Superpark 10, which attracted professional snowboarders from around the world to Keystone last April. This year, Transworld Snowboarding Magazine ranked Keystone's A-51 Terrain Park ninth among the top ten parks in the U.S. - a significant accomplishment because Keystone joined the snowboarding world later than other ski resorts, McCarthy said. McCarthy also noted the expansion of Keystone's catskiing operation this year, with Forest Service approval to run snowcats to the top of Independence Bowl, opening up 278 additional acres of high-alpine skiing. Growth will continue at Keystone and McCarthy told the crowd to expect more announcements from the resort in the coming months.
Across the county in Breckenridge, the obvious big news is the BreckConnect Gondola, slated to open around Christmas. Construction on the $17 million gondola, which will whisk skiers and riders from the parking lots in town to the Peak 7 and Peak 8 base areas, began last spring and crews will continue working in the snow to get the project done on time, McCarthy said. Crews experienced a slight setback when the gondola cabins that were supposed to arrive in Breckenridge two weeks ago ended up in Illinois, McCarthy said, adding that the cabins are now on their way via semi-truck to the county.
The Crystal Peak Lodge will be the first building constructed as part of the Peaks of Breckenridge real estate development project that goes hand-in-hand with the new gondola. Sales begin on the 46 high-end units in December, McCarthy said.McCarthy also mentioned 150 acres of new expert terrain that will open near the Lake Chutes off the Peak 8 summit this season.
The ski season momentum has already begun building at Arapahoe Basin, which was the first ski area to open in the country last Friday, ending Loveland's six-year streak of holding the title. In store this season at A-Basin is the completion of the Black Mountain Lodge, an 8,000-square-foot lodge currently under construction at the top of the Exhibition Lift. When it's finished this spring, the new restaurant will seat more than 200 people and the kitchen will turn out a new menu that will be a step up from the food served now in the mountain's base A-frame, Henceroth said. Another change A-Basin aficionados might notice: The ski area has renamed its park the Treeline Terrain Park. Henceroth also looked ahead to next year and the potential to include the 400-acre Montezuma Bowl off The Legend's backside. Henceroth said he expects a final decision from the Forest Service on the project in the next two weeks, and he hopes to have a new lift under construction in the bowl by next summer.
Copper Mountain is coming off of a record year for snowfall and visitation, and is off to a great start this year, said resort COO Gary Rodgers. Snowmaking crews have started making snow on the Main Vein superpipe, which was a new addition on the mountain last winter, and was the first superpipe to open in North America last year. The resort hopes to have the super-sized halfpipe open before Christmas in plenty of time for the U.S. Freeskiing Open Championships, a top skiing competition that will come to Copper from Jan.17-21. Visitors to Copper will also find three new restaurants at the Center Village base this season: Pizza Carlo, which fills the spot left by Blue Moose Pizza, The Covered Bridge Grille, which replaces Alexander's on the Creek, and Incline Bar & Grill, a new venture between three Frisco restaurateurs in the old Lazy Lizard space.Rodgers gave the audience an update on the pending sale of Intrawest, which owns Copper Mountain, to New York-based Fortress Investment Group, saying shareholders approved the sale on Tuesday, and that the deal should be complete by the end of the month. Rodgers said that the sale shouldn't stall plans for future capital improvements on the mountain like the Tucker Mountain lift and a gondola and learning center at Union Creek. He also said that Fortress isn't planning to come in and run the resort, rather the company is expecting existing management teams to continue executing the business plan. Rodgers also addressed Copper's new environmental initiatives, including a decision to offset 100 percent of the mountain's electricity use with renewable energy credits.
Copper Mountain is set to open Nov. 3, while Breckenridge and Keystone will open Nov. 10.