Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, and Loveland are all open and ready for a safe season of skiing and riding.
(Featured image: Opening day 2020 at Wolf Creek. Photo Credit: Samual Bricker courtesy of Wolf Creek Ski Area)
The thing we all need most is finally here. Wolf Creek kicked off the 2020-2021 Colorado ski and snowboard season when it opened on October 28. With storm cycles hitting the mountains and more on the way, three resorts are open and prepared to stay open with COVID-19 precautions in place.
Renowned for getting the most snow in the state and cultivating an independent vibe, Southern Colorado’s Wolf Creek took the title of first Colorado resort to open in this upended year of 2020 thanks to a storm that deposited 22 inches of the good stuff here. “We got 10 to 15 inches back in September,” says owner Davey Pitcher. “It was too early to open—but the skiing was good!” With another 10 inches in the past 48 hours, Wolf Creek is now open seven days a week with a 48-inch base. Don’t expect any amenities—rentals, lessons, food services are all closed—just people who live to ski and ride.
“We have been pleased to see a large contingency of people who just want to ski,” says Pitcher, who is one of the few independent owners in a state dominated by corporate players Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Co. (Pitcher’s family owned and operated Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico before purchasing Wolf Creek in the 1980s). “They didn’t ride buses. They walked through the parking lot. They skied all day.”
For now, Pitcher is content to cater to those who value that joy of skiing and riding and he will work to ensure Wolf Creek continues to stay open as the pandemic spikes in Colorado. “The only indoor facilities open are the bathrooms and we clean them every hour,” he says. “I think we will find out our guests are pretty resilient. We have a plan for increased operations that the state is reviewing and we are going to be cautious and dynamic. Things are still topsy-turvy and we don’t want to jeopardize skiing.”
Last season Arapahoe Basin was able to reopen with pandemic precautions in place after COVID-19 shut down skiing in the rest of the state. This year, the reliable independent resort opened up on November 9 with those same safety measures in place, including required face coverings, social distancing on lift lines, tickets sold online only, and Ikon pass holders required to make reservations. Often the first resort in North America to open (that honor went to the snow guns at tiny Wild Mountain in Minnesota this season), A-Basin did make a big show of starting operations this year to cut down on crowds. “It may only be one run, but it was a really good run today and it kept snowing all day,” says Katherine Fuller, Arapahoe Basin communications manager, of the low-key launch. “Should be a fun week ahead!”
The new season is a big relief for core skiers and riders looking for some joy in a year that has been tough to navigate. “I’m going to Arapaho Basin because of how wonderful the people are, and how it doesn’t feel super commercialized. I still feel like I’m in a small-time resort with big-time resort amenities. They are also very supportive of the military,” says LTC Romell Ward of the U.S. Army, who put a callout on the Colorado Outdoor Afro Facebook page on Wednesday looking for others to join him at A-Basin for Veteran’s Day skiing and riding.
Arapahoe Basin is now open seven days a week with the Black Mountain Express Lift serving the High Noon run. Fuller says most of the resort’s dining options will also be open with social distancing protocols in place.
Check out video of opening day here:
A reminder: A-Basin tickets are only available online. No on-site/walkup tickets will be available. Ticket sales will be limited each day to help with capacity restrictions. Arapahoe Basin and Mountain Collective passholders do NOT need to make reservations. Ikon Pass holders DO need to make reservations to visit A-Basin (via Ikon).
Epic pass holders got in on the action on Friday, Nov. 6 when Keystone Resort, which celebrates its 50th birthday this year, started up the River Run Gondola. “Our guests were excited to get back on the snow,” says Loryn Roberson, Keystone communications manager. “We are grateful to have our reservation system in place which helps us safely manage how many people are on our mountains. As we learned during the summer, there is lots of appetite to safely recreate outdoors during this pandemic. Because of our reservation system, we can adapt to meet local guidelines and still provide that outlet for skiers and riders this season.”
The resort has put a premium on the on-mountain experience and is working to ensure that its guests do not impact the local communities in Summit County.
“We all want a successful ski season start to finish and we all want to keep our employees, guests and mountain communities safe,” says Roberson. “So we’re asking that guests focus on the basics—skiing and riding—and avoid any activities that disregard physical distancing while in our mountain communities. We’re all in this together.”
You can see opening day video of Keystone here:
Make reservations to ski or ride Keystone here.
The independent ski area closest to downtown Denver, got things going on Wednesday, Nov. 11, with 1,000 vertical feet of skiing in sunny weather on Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run. With a plan to stay open through May, Loveland is requiring visitors respect social distancing protocols and requiring day visitors to buy tickets ($75 adult, $35 children 6-14) online in advance of visiting. Unlike many areas, it is not currently enforcing a reservation system, however. Starting on Dec. 11, the are will be offering private lessons for adults and children. And good news if you are anxious about buying a season pass this year, Loveland will be offering a 130-day guarantee on its season passes and prorate the cost of a 2021-22 pass if it does not operate all of those days this year. Passes cost $439 for adults and $359 if you had a pass last year. Plus, Loveland is part of the Powder Alliance and the pass gives you days at 18 other independent resorts, including Monarch Mountain here in Colorado and Bridger Bowl in Montana.
Check out a video by Dustin Schaefer of opening day 2020 at Loveland here.
Breck plans to open 90 acres of terrain (mostly on Springmeier, 4 O’clock and Trygve’s) on Friday, Nov. 13, giving Epic pass holders and Summit County locals two mountains to choose from when the next storm cycle hits. Reservations and face coverings are required for mountain access and the resort will only be open to pass holders through Dec. 7. Reservations for Breck’s Opening Day are available starting at 2 p.m. today. You can make that reservation here.
Ikon pass holders and locals on the Front Range will rejoice when Eldora Mountain Resort west of Boulder opens on its planned date of Nov. 23. The mountain is busy making snow and has implemented a parking reservation system to comply with pandemic precautions. That means you will have to make a bit more effort—but you won’t have to deal with the insanity for rushing up for a parking spot. Make parking reservations here.