Arapahoe Basin once again country’s first ski area to open, marking start of 2017-2018 season
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened to a crowd of thousands on Friday morning, becoming the first ski area in the country to open full-time and marking the start of a season featuring new expansions and upgrades at resorts statewide.
As 9 a.m. approached, the lift line extended nearly halfway up the High Noon run. The first chair loaded, and after a countdown, its riders ripped through a banner proclaiming the good news: Colorado is open.
“This is just incredible, there’s such a sense of excitement,” said A-Basin spokeswoman Adrienne Isaac. “We always expect a lot of people — but for how short of a time we’re closed, I think we’re always so surprised that people are ready to get back at it. It’s an incredible turnout.”
In the parking lot, huge piles of wood chippings were evidence of the work that has been going on all summer in the Beavers area, the site of the biggest terrain expansion currently underway in the country.
This season, the 371-acre area will be in-bounds for the first time but will still be hike-access only until a lift is built next summer. When the expansion is complete, it will cover 468 acres.
“Until then, it’s a great preview for our expert and advanced skiers who don’t mind hiking out,” Isaac said. “That new terrain is really something special. It’s incredible tree skiing and open bowl skiing at the top.”
Dillon resident Camden Latimer, who got in his first day of skiing in the backcountry on Oct. 2, said he was looking forward to seeing the progress on the Beavers.
“I’ve been skiing them for a couple of years now, but with those new runs cut that’s pretty exciting,” he said after finishing a run on High Noon.
The Beavers terrain expansion is unique this season, but Chris Linsmayer, a spokesman for industry group Colorado Ski Country USA, said there are plenty of other upgrades happening all around.
“Across the state, there are a lot of exciting things happening,” he said, citing new mountain coasters opening at four resorts, including Copper Mountain, which is also unveiling a new lift, pass-scanning technology and several new restaurants.
Copper began snowmaking on Oct. 6 and is currently slated to open Nov. 10, along with Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort.
An early winter storm helped A-Basin get a jump on snowmaking Sept. 24, and Friday’s opening was a week earlier than last year’s.
Owing to its favorable geography, A-Basin is typically the first to open and last to close, but nearby Loveland Ski Area is rarely behind.
“There’s a friendly competition between them every year,” Linsmayer. “Being high up on the Continental Divide gives them a big advantage for ski areas and some of the longest seasons.”
Loveland crews were set to continue snowmaking through the weekend. A ski area spokesman said in email that they would re-evaluate snowpack on Monday, when they would likely have a better guess on an opening day announcement.
The ski area will open when it has a run with tree-to-tree coverage and an 18-inch base, which A-Basin got this week on High Noon.
By most accounts, the skiing was good on Friday, although expectations are generally low for single, open runs. Still, for the thousands of people who made the trip Friday, it’s just good to be skiing and riding again.
“The snow is pretty good for early season. They’ve got good grooming here,” said Fort Collins resident and Colorado State University student Zach Goodenow. “I skipped class and a little bit of work today, but it’s worth it, right?”
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