Go Play: Loveland joins A Basin as only ski areas open in North America
It’s been more than 20 years since Loveland Ski Area kicked off winter operations this late in the year. But the year that happened — the 1992-93 season — it also recorded 514 inches of snow — close to 100 inches more than its annual average.
If that’s not a compelling enough number to ease the concern over a late start to ski season, then the numbers for the ski area’s 2011-12 season should do it. That year was Loveland’s fourth-latest start, Oct. 24, and it went on to get a record 574 inches of snow.
So while Saturday’s, Nov. 1, opening day might not be the early opening Loveland director of business operations Rob Goodell had hoped for, there’s plenty to smile about with the start of a new season.
“Even with this delayed opening there’s still a lot of excitement. … It’s like the first day of school,” Goodell told the Daily Saturday morning, shortly after first chair was loaded up. “We wish we’d been opening the last two weeks, but it just wasn’t going happen.”
He credited Arapahoe Basin’s increased snowmaking efforts for the neighboring ski area’s victory in their annual competition to be first to open.
Watching the first chairs load up, Goodell was joined by an old friend in A-Basin COO Alan Henceroth, who made the morning trek over the pass to congratulate his neighbor for getting the season started.
“I wanted to say hi to Rob,” Henceroth said of his visit. The two used to work together as raft guides long before taking over at their respective ski areas, and they’ve been friends ever since.
“I couldn’t let him go another weekend,” Goodell later joked about the friendly rivalry between the two mountains.
While no one camped overnight before opening, eager skiers and riders arrived early to get at Loveland’s 8:30 a.m. first chair.
Two weeks removed from camping out for first chair at A-Basin, Silverthorne’s “Trailer” Tom Miller, 37, was at it again — this time on a solo mission without his regular first-chair crowd.
Miller was at Loveland at 4 a.m. to claim his ride on first chair, a tradition he’s kept since he was a teenager.
It was a relatively intimate affair Saturday compared with the spectacle on the other side of the Divide a few weeks earlier.
After the initial wait, the few hundred skiers and riders at Loveland had to wait just a few minutes for their second, third and fourth laps.
“It’s definitely more laid back,” Miller said comparing the two openings.
And Goodell likely wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We feel we have a niche,” he said, describing Loveland’s locals’ mountain feel. “We know our season-pass holders, they’re like old friends,” he said describing the privately owned mountain.
Still, while Loveland might attract smaller crowds throughout the season than their several neighbors on the other side of the Eisenhower Tunnel, Goodell said the ski area’s numbers have been growing steadily for each of the last seven years.
Whether that’s a credit to the ever-increasing congestion on Interstate 70 or simply Loveland’s lower prices, Goodell couldn’t say. But he’d like to think the ski area has won over a number of guests who decided to give Loveland a try over the last few years.
“I believe they’ve liked what they’ve tested,” he said over coffee, explaining that he finds that guests seem to be continually surprised by the amount of terrain the mountain has to offer.
Both Copper Mountain and Keystone resorts had initially hoped to get their seasons rolling Friday, Oct. 31. But the two resorts both announced that they would have to push back their opening days. Copper officials have said they plan to open Friday, Nov. 7 — the same day as Breckenridge.
Keystone has yet to announce when it will kick off the new season.
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