As Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper open, shredders greeted with bluebird skies, solid snow
When Erik Richman of Thornton came across a Facebook advertisement a couple of months ago for a Tyrannosaurus rex Halloween costume, he knew it’d be the perfect outfit for what he and many other Coloradans regard as a holiday of sorts: opening day of ski and snowboard season at Keystone Resort.
He even had a name for his get-up: “Shredasaurus Rex.”
There was only one problem.
“Of course when I ordered it I didn’t know it was coming from Vietnam,” Richman said later Friday morning while taking a break at Keystone’s Dercum Mountain outlook.
“So it took six weeks to get here, but it came just in time for opening day at Keystone,” he added.
“It was meant to be.”
It was that kind of morning at Keystone on Friday. Clear blue skies and comfortable morning temperatures in the mid-to-high 30s greeted Richman, Shredasaurus Rex and the thousands of others who descended on Summit County to ski and snowboard opening day at the county’s three most-visited resorts.
Keystone, Breckenridge and Copper Mountain all opened for the season Friday morning, each with their own food and drink giveaways and pomp and circumstance of “first chair.”
Part-time Keystone local and Omaha resident Dan Cox, 67, said he was one of the first 30 skiers and snowboarders in line when he arrived at the base of River Run Gondola at 7:30 a.m., an hour and a half before the Bierman family was awarded “honorary first cabin.”
Greeting Cox, the Biermans and the crew that once again took “first chair” at Keystone — Nate Dogggg and company — was somewhat limited terrain. Beginner terrain was the only option after warm and sunny temperatures this past week limited snowmaking some, though opening day wasn’t pushed back like last year. Atop Dercum Mountain, School Marm to Silver Spoon to the bottom of the new Montezuma Express six-person chairlift was the main option, while lessons were also available at the Endeavor learning area.
Several skiers and snowboarders said morning conditions were better than they expected considering the recent weather.
“The snow is great,” Cox said. “The lifts are running very smoothly, coming up the mountain very fast. It’s getting more crowded all the time, of course, so dodging people is fun.”
“I’ve only been to A-Basin this year,” said Brandon Elliott, a snowboarder from Littleton, “and based on the lines and the waits at A-Basin, this is much more mellow, but then again you also have Copper that opened today and Breckenridge, as well.”
“One thing I wish,” Elliott added, “and I know it’s harder because of the warmer temperatures — I wish they had a run that went straight down to the bottom. But I understand it’s been difficult.”
Richman and Shredasaurus Rex were content with the conditions as well, though the shredder from Thornton said the poor wind-resistance of the costume did get in his way some.
“But this is his first season. This is his first day,” Richman said. “We’ve got three runs on, and he’s a natural, dude. He’s a natural.
“I’m ‘#LetTheDinosaursShred,’ ” Richman added, “but it’s been nothing but love. A lot of love from everybody out there.”
Breckenridge Ski Resort greeted skiers and snowboarders looking to carve the first turns of the 2017-18 season by offering up 1,000 giant cinnamon rolls, specially baked for Friday’s opening-day festivities.
The warm, gooey treats were “almost as big as your head,” said resort spokeswoman Sara Lococo, and a man carrying a snowboard off the gondola couldn’t help but notice: “They didn’t have these at A-Basin,” which opened with Loveland Ski Area on Oct. 13 last month. Fellow Vail Resorts property Keystone offered donut holes.
Before the first chairs were filled Friday, Breckenridge’s chief operating officer, John Buhler, offered a few remarks to welcome the start of the new season and honored a couple of military veterans, whom Buhler rode up the mountain with ahead of the crowds.
Keeping everyone occupied in the meantime was one resort employee armed with an air cannon blasting T-shirts into the crowd while Jonathan Oetken — aka DJ DC — kept the tunes playing throughout the day.
At the same time, anytime the TV broadcasters covering the event needed a hearty cheer in the background, all they had to do was ask.
“There’s just a fun energy,” Lococo said of the scene Friday at the base of Peak 8. “Everybody is super psyched to be back on the snow again and for the season ahead.”
At this point, Breckenridge only has one beginner’s run open, the Springmeier Trail, but it’s good to go, top to bottom. Access comes by way of the only lift currently spinning at Breckenridge, the Colorado SuperChair lift, in addition to a small, nearby beginner’s area for those less comfortable with the faster-moving ride up the mountain.
Weather permitting, snowmaking will continue on Peak 8 before crews move on to Peak 9 sometime around the Thanksgiving holiday. After that, they will progress to Peak 7, then Peak 6 and finally Peak 10.
“Ten is usually the last area of the mountain to open,” Lococo said. “But you know, if Mother Nature brings us the snowfall, we can get there quicker.”
New at the resort this year, a six-person Falcon SuperChair with access to some of Breckenridge’s more advanced terrain is replacing the four-seater that used to be there. The new, expanded lift up Peak 10 is expected to open sometime this December.
Additionally, Breckenridge has a couple sweet additions this time around, with a new candy shop opening at TenMile Station and the Pioneer Crossing restaurant, which opened last year, adding crepes to the menu this year.
Also, the Epic Pass, which grants season-long access to Breckenridge and Keystone in Summit County, Vail and Beaver Creek in Eagle County, and Vail Resorts’ properties all over North America, is available now through Nov. 19.
The lengthy, top-to-bottom run Copper Mountain Resort opened on Friday was a symbol of the long list of improvements the resort will implement this season.
Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders gathered to celebrate the start of the season, with some arriving as early as 6 a.m. to enjoy the festivities. They were rewarded with free swag and more than 2,300 vertical feet of terrain to carve and scrape.
Copper’s snowmaking operations were successful enough to open two chairs, the American Eagle and the Excelerator, which took guests above the 12,000-foot mark for a long journey back down.
Once at the bottom, those guests were able to enjoy an element of the more than $20 million in improvements that will be implemented at Copper this year — RF technology. That means they didn’t have to take their passes out of their pockets to board the lift.
“The chips inside our passes this year scan through your clothes,” said Copper spokeswoman Taylor Prather. “They then trigger a gate which opens automatically.”
Prather said Copper’s parent company, POWDR Adventure Lifestyle Co., shined a light on Copper as the company’s flagship resort for the 2017-18 season, evidenced by the many improvements taking place at the slopes and in the village. A new lift, new hut, new tavern, new restaurant, new alpine coaster and new basecamp hub are among the changes.
Also on Friday, all eyes were on Copper legend Frank Walter as the 95-year-old prepared the way for the crowd standing by. Walter didn’t ski but said he plans on getting out at some point this season. The Copper Mountain resident has lived in the village for decades.
“I bought my first place here on the second day I ever skied Copper, back in the 1970s,” Walter said on Friday. “The best thing about Copper is the people. The people make the difference.”
Opposite the age spectrum from Walter was 2-year-old snowboarder C.J. Drake, who rode his 80-centimeter Burton After School Special around the base area with the help of his mother, Kaylee Drake.
“It took us a while to find a board small enough for him,” she said. “He loves it.”
C.J.’s sister, 11-year-old Ashlynn, enjoyed a day off school to get some on-snow time with her father, Chris Drake. The family came in from Colorado Springs to enjoy Copper’s Opening Day.
Erie resident Jarvis Zoner arrived at 6 a.m. to claim the first chair spot. This year, Zoner celebrates four decades as a Copper Mountain season pass holder.
“It’s an exceptional place, there’s no place like it,” Zoner said.
While he usually makes first chair of the season at Eldora, Zoner opted for Copper this year.
“I don’t think I’ve ever made first chair here before,” he said.
He was joined by Colorado Springs residents Tristan Walton and Matt Correa, and a wig-wearing individual who referred to himself simply as “Skifunk, one word.”
Skifunk has been a Copper pass holder for decades, as well.
“Copper’s home, man,” Skifunk said. “The layout, the terrain, everything.”
Vail Daily sports editor John LaConte reported from Copper Mountain Resort.