In the ever-competitive ski market, the county’s resorts invest millions of dollars every offseason to make improvements and keep the crowds of skiers and snowboarders coming.
Although three of the region’s five resorts aren’t scheduled to open until this Friday, following historically dry Octobers and starts to November, fresh offerings and upgrades are intended to make the delay worth the wait. Meanwhile, early-season snow junkies are already taking advantage of some of those updates at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (Opening Day: Friday, Oct. 21) and, as of last week, Loveland Ski Area (Opening Day: Thursday, Nov. 10).
Once full snow coverage arrives this winter and all the lift chairs are turning, here’s all that skiers and riders can look forward to at each of the local ski destinations:
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA
The first ski area in North America to open primarily spent the summer and fall months working on renovations to its Base Area Plaza. Specifically, that entailed a major re-grade and resurfacing of the base area, guest walkways and administration parking lot, all of which will provide better accessibility to patrons. Wider walkways, means of entry for ramps and improved pedestrian passageways complete the look and feel of the Basin’s base area at a cost of about $1 million.
In addition, the ski area doubled the square footage of Arapahoe Sports, its base retail shop. The added space allowed new vendors to move in to diversify customer options while visiting this favorite locals’ ski and ride spot.
Vail Resorts’ Epic season pass holders receive free riding at Arapahoe Basin, or visit arapahoebasin.com for A-Basin specific options.
BRECKENRIDGE SKI RESORT
Breck’s largest investments of late have been in its Epic Discovery summer activities, opening in 2017 with a canopy tour, rock-climbing wall and zip line tour. Upcoming retrofits on the Peak 8 plaza base area in collaboration with Breckenridge Grand Vacations are also on the horizon. That doesn’t mean visitors to the area ski hill aren’t in for something new this season.
The Pioneer Crossing restaurant near the Peak 7 Independence SuperChair is scheduled for completion and opening by the end of December. The 490-seat restaurant will offer guests Mediterranean cuisine and made-to-order salads, among a variety of other options, all in a décor that celebrates the region’s mining past.
Finally, Vail Resorts’ $1 billion August purchase of British Columbia’s Whistler Blackcomb will provide owners of the Epic and Epic Local season passes five free days at the Canadian gem. Epic season passes are available now through Nov. 20 at snow.com.
COPPER MOUNTAIN RESORT
Aside from several new season pass offerings, Copper boasts the addition of a bar-restaurant this season called On the Rockies just steps from the American Eagle chairlift in Center Village. Serving American fare for lunch, dinner and late-night snacks, the sandwich and salad setting specializes in craft beers and cocktails and brands itself a Colorado whiskey hangout.
Other new dining choices in Center Village include The Eagle BBQ, a Colorado-themed après spot just off the snow in the Copper Junction building, as well as Mahi’s Street Tacos with its outdoor patio and margaritas. While The Eagle BBQ features traditional favorites like brisket chili, pork ribs and smoked chicken, Mahi’s offers a variety of sustainably caught fish, in addition to grilled chicken and steak selections.
For the energy and environmentally conscious, Copper will also be providing a new electric car charging station this season after securing a grant through the state. Four Level 2 electric car charging spaces at the entrance of the Beeler parking lot in Center Village will be available to guests free of charge, and the ChargePoint smartphone app allows customers to reserve a spot ahead of time.
As for the season passes, Copper owner Powdr Corp.’s recent purchase of Eldora Mountain Resort means unbridled access to the Boulder-based ski area via the Rocky Mountain Super Pass Plus, in addition to limited perks at places like Steamboat, Crested Butte and several international resorts. A recent deal with Utah’s Powder Mountain Resort also means three free days at the neighboring state ski area for owners of a Copper season pass. Finally, for the first time, the availability of the All Access Pass now lends unlimited riding at Copper Mountain for the ski season and full access at the Woodward Copper Barn through April of next year. Season passes are on sale now, for more information visit: coppercolorado.com.
Looking ahead, once this year’s ski season is complete, Copper’s improvements at its East Village Plaza, located at the base of the Super Bee lift, will offer a new area for wedding bookings and other summer events. Until then, it’s time to ride the pow.
In its continued effort to be known as the region’s family-friendly destination, Keystone presents the first-ever Colorado Family Ski Month in December. To kick off the celebration, the event includes free skiing and riding on Thursday, Dec. 1, for all kids 12 years of age and younger and accompanied by an adult season pass or lift ticket holder.
Following that up, Keystone will offer the inaugural Kidtopia Mountaintop Spectacular. The Dec. 16-18 event will showcase a variety of activities, from free snow tubing, snowcat photo opportunities, hot cocoa and fireside stories with Santa Claus. A special lighting ceremony on the world’s largest Snow Fort, Bigfoot adventure walks and a ski patrol dog meet-and-greet will also provide plenty of fun for the whole family.
Keystone’s Ski & Ride School is also hosting free clinics throughout December: the 2nd-4th, 9th-11th and 16th-18th. Classes include an introduction to moguls, skiing parallel and linking snowboard turns, as well as terrain selection tips and mountain safety. Participants must be 16 years of age or older and register in advance by calling (800) 255-3715.
And once again, Epic season pass-holders are privy to the five free days at Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb this season. Visit snow.com by Nov. 20 to buy your season pass.
LOVELAND SKI AREA
Located just outside Summit County on the eastern end of Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland’s biggest offseason investments went toward maintenance and upgrading aging infrastructure to bring it up to modern standards. While a new treated water storage facility is not the most exciting addition to unfurl, such improvements are a logistical necessity to keep operations rolling through the winter.
Season passes to Loveland are available now. Depending on the option you select, it includes free days at Crested Butte, Monarch Mountain, Purgatory, Powderhorn Mountain Resort and — new for 2017 — three days at Utah’s Powder Mountain. Visit skiloveland.com for more.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2016-17
Resorts around the state combined for a banner year during the 2015-16 ski season. The 21 resorts represented by industry trade association Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) — Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas (Beaver Creek Resort, Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail Ski Resort) are the lone nonmembers — reported a new record of 7.4 million skier visits last season. Vail Resorts also reported a 14-percent increase in visits spanning its holdings in six states and Australia, for an estimated total of 13 million skier visits this past season across Colorado.
“Colorado’s world-class ski resorts continue to focus on ways to ensure guests have a great experience during their visit,” Melanie Mills, CSCUSA president and CEO, said in an October statement. “From on- and off-mountain dining upgrades and new ski lifts, to the return of the (Winter Park Express) ski train and new flights providing more access across the state, our resorts’ commitment to improving their guests experience keeps visitors coming back to Colorado season after season.”