Colorado Ski Resorts are Rocking the Early Season

Posted By: The Ski Channel on December 1, 2012 1:20 pm

Winter has officially arrived in the great state of Colorado. Thanks to a series of autumn storms throughout the months of October and November, many of our favorite Rocky Mountain ski resorts were able to open early this year. This has been fantastic news for the many skiers and snowboarders across North America who have been chewing at the bit in anticipation of an amazing 2012/2013 winter season. Unfortunately, the “Debby Downers” at the Denver Post would tell you to NOT to go skiing at these world-renowned snow sports destinations!

Arapahoe Basin - Parent and Child

A father guides his young child towards their first tracks at A-Basin | November 15, 2012 | Dave Camara

In an article published this past week, author Steve Lipsher cities a number of a unfounded opinions and anonymous sources, on par with popular conspiracy theorists, in an effort to discourage readers from visiting resorts in Colorado during the early season. With no supporting statistics, he claims that the early resort openings lead to increased injury rates, crowded slopes with uneven skill levels riding together and environmental detriments caused by snowmaking operations.

Needless to say, Lipsher’s article has sparked the ire of the entire Colorado Ski Industry!

Melanie Mills, the President & CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA published a response to the piece, stating, “There’s nothing new or particularly unusual about the early ski season in Colorado being primarily supported by manufactured snow. The super-snowy early season is the exception, not the rule. And as for whether the early season sees more injuries, he might want to check with resort spokespersons willing to speak on the record about injuries, rather than citing unnamed buddies in the ski patrol. He’s simply wrong with his sweeping statement about injuries.”

Winter Park in November

Winter Park, Colorado | November 15, 2012

Mills went on to explain, “Ski areas strive to open by a certain date each year because it gives their employees and local businesses predictability, something that all who rely on the ski economy want and need. Many early season skiers, like Lipsher, are season pass holders who have checked the snow report and are quite knowledgeable about the amount and difficulty of terrain available. Some are out of state visitors for whom Colorado man-made snow is the best they’ll ski on all year. No one’s being fooled in the age of webcams, ‘round the clock snow reporting and social media. Believe us, ski areas aren’t opening early because it’s a huge boon to their bottom lines – they’re opening because skiers and snowboarders love to get out and make some turns at this time of year. There is a great deal of pent up demand.”

Copper - Snow Wave

Making snow waves at Copper | November 11, 2012 | Tripp Fay

These statements make a great point — no one is being fooled in the age of the Internet. Nearly every mountain resort has web cams streaming live footage of their slopes. All visitors have to do is visit their resort’s website and check the cameras and the trail conditions. And if they have any reason to question the figures, there are a wide variety of independent weather services and ski industry news providers that are just a click away. As with any business, the goal is to foster repeat customers. Ski resorts have very little to gain in duping their clientele. Many even have policies that provide vouchers to visitors that are dissatisfied with the conditions, if they hit up the ticket window before mid-day.

For the most part, coverage in Colorado shouldn’t be an issue. Snowmaking operations have improved leaps and bounds within the ski resort industry. In fact, this foresight has been credited as one of the saving graces during last season’s snow drought. Ski areas like Vail Resorts have invested millions over the years into efficient, state-of-the-art snowmaking. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in November, Vail’s snowmaking and slope grooming crews have been able to open more and more terrain as conditions permit.

Crested Butte Opening Chair

There’s nothing quite like that “first chair feeling”! | November 21, 2012 | Photo by Alex Fenion

Anyone that is amped up enough to race up to the mountain to catch the first chairs of the season clearly have snow sports on the brain. These are individuals that live and breath snow. They are well aware of what it means to be skiing and snowboarding during the fall months, and regard it as a privilege. Is snow coverage sometimes limited? Of course! But if you are a true enthusiast, it is a treat to just be back on the mountain. 

Aspen Snowmass - Groomers

Fine corduroy at Aspen | November 22, 2012 | Photo by Jeremy Swanson

“Over the last few days, I was lucky enough to ski at Aspen and Vail.” said Jon Rucker of Head Wintersports, USA. “Those early-season turns are the best way to get your ski legs back, dial in your gear, and to get in the swing of things. We had a blast. Smart skiers know those early laps are going to make each ski day of the season that much better.” 

As Rucker states, the early season is an excellent opportunity to get your “ski legs” back under you and get your equipment in check. During the first few months of operation, resorts are focused on establishing a solid base pack across their main trails. With limited access to the glades and side country, there actually are far fewer things to hurt yourself on! As long as you heed trail signage and warnings, you should have no problem taking an easy cruiser on some plush groomers.

Eldora Groomers

Picturesque groomers at Eldora | November 16, 2012

Vail Mountain, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone are currently offering some of the best snow surfaces possible, and have the most terrain open in the entire state. 

U.S. Ski Team athletes consistently praise Colorado race courses for being among the best to compete on. The Nature Valley Aspen Winternational went off without a hitch last week, and Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey is currently in full swing with Thursday seeing a record crowd of 8,000! 

Travis Ganong in the Audi Birds of Prey downhill | November 30, 2012 | Photo by Eric Schramm

After racing the Lake Louise super G last weekend, Olympic and World Cup Champion Ted Ligety went out of his way to praise Beaver Creek’s Birds of Prey course, saying, “I’m looking forward to getting back to Beaver Creek, it’s such a pleasure to race because they do such a good job with the hill preparation.”

On Saturday, after the Audi Birds of Prey super G concluded Ted described the snow conditions at Beaver Creek, saying, “The snow is the best it’s been in a long time.”

Not a single ill word has been said about the snow or terrain conditions during these World Cup stops (and you can be someone would have said something if there was). There was plenty of great snow last week for Mikaela Shiffrin to pull off her breakthrough 9th place finish! 

Mikaela Shiffrin at the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational | November 24, 2012 | Photo by Jeremy Swanson

There is so much to see and do at Colorado ski resorts during the early season. In addition to the personal satisfaction gained from achieving your first turns of the year, the calendar is jam-packed with events and activities. There are some great après-ski and dining, ice-skating, snow tubing and cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Shops are fully stocked with the latest gear, with deals guaranteeing it flies out the door. Resort towns and neighboring communities are absolutely abuzz with excitement as the first guests trickle in.

Enough time has been spent addressing this nasty article. There’s just no time for hate when there is so much to celebrate. Shredding down a snow-covered slope is one of the most amazing expressions of creativity and athleticism known to man. The most magical time of the year has begun, and we cannot wait to get the party started.

Lets go skiing. Lets go snowboarding. Winter is here, and Colorado ski resorts are rocking it!

See you out on the slopes!