VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) – Measurable snowfall in Colorado’s high country on Sunday evening provided the perfect conditions for ski resorts to engage snowmaking operations, some for the first time this year.
“I think I saw the stake at Blue Sky Basin, it looks just about 3 inches … we’ll take it!” exclaimed John Plack, the Senior Communications Manager for Vail and Beaver Creek.
Vail Mountain was among several ski areas to fire up the snow guns in anticipation of the season.
“We fired up the snowmaking guns las night at the upper elevation so, mid-Vail and then all of our upper elevation terrain where we have snowmaking — over 500 acres. We started that process to make sure we have a great opening scenario on Nov. 20,” said Plack.
Resorts always aim to open as much terrain as possible, as early as possible, but this year it’s crucial.
“With our upgraded snowmaking system, we are hopeful we can get even more terrain open this year. All of that is to provide a safe experience with as much physical distancing as possible.”
Vail Resorts has yet to comment on capacity but Plack says the number of people allowed on each mountain will vary.
“Based on the lift capacity, based on snowfall and open terrain, that will look a little different so we’re really optimistic here at Vail, almost every day you should be able to get out and ski and ride as you want, we’re just asking guests to plan ahead.”
Vail is one of the largest ski resorts in the country. The more terrain it can open early, the more likely people will be able to reserve the ski day they want. Epic Pass holders have reservation priority and can begin booking the days they want to ski on Nov. 6. Vail Resorts CEO, Robert Katz, recently stated that if the reservation system proves to be unnecessary, they will lift it.
“We would rather have the system in place and be prepared than have to change course and put a system in place after the season started,” said Plack.
That depends on guidance from the state. On Monday, the Press Secretary for Gov. Jared Polis told CBS4 via email the state is expected to release more details for the season soon:
“Colorado was the only state to get skiers and boarders back on our world-class slopes in June and the state is working closely with local government and industry stakeholders to collaborate to ensure a successful season and provide guidelines in the near future,” said Conor Cahill.
For the time being, Vail Mountain will focus on what it calls an aggressive opening plan.
“We’re going to try and open terrain out of Golden Peak, right here at Gondola 1, and out of Lions Head — and that’s to ensure that we have enough space for guests to physically distance,” said Plack.
Other ski areas, like Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin, took advantage of the cold weather and snowfall Sunday and got their snowmaking operations into full swing.
Arapahoe Basin has historically been the first resort to open to skiers. While it told CBS4 Monday it had yet to set a date set for opening day, like Vail Mountain, it had plans to continue snowmaking operations this week.