Ski season arrives this weekend at two more Colorado resorts, both opening weeks earlier than last winter thanks to a snowy autumn.
"It's early-season conditions, which means there are going to be rocks and grass and ravines and all kinds of things, so we're telling skiers to be aware," said Rosanne Haidorfer-Pitcher, vice president of sales and marketing at Wolf Creek.
The mountain will open with three lifts and a handful of trails, with a mix of machine-made and natural snow. Lift tickets will be $28.
Opening day was in doubt until this week's storm that delivered 10 inches of snow, which was heavy and wet and great for building a base, she said. Before that, warm temperatures had hampered snow-making.
Wolf Creek will be open weekends only until Thanksgiving week, when it will be open Wednesday through Sunday. As far as when they will open for daily skiing, that's in Mother Nature's hands.
"We just need to have more moisture come through and keep adding to our base and we'll be set."
New for the season is the Lynx Lift, a 290-foot conveyor that will take beginners from the rental shop to a new ski school center, where they can learn the basics as well as warm up.
"A lot of times the people who are really eager to get going don't know what to do with themselves. Now they can walk out of the rental shop and go up the conveyor lift without skis on," Haidorfer-Pitcher said. "They can just kind of wander around and learn some things at their own pace when they go up there."
The other major change to Wolf Creek is the ticket system. Wolf Creek was one of the few resorts where passholders had to wait in line each morning to get a daily paper ticket, which was then marked with a hole-puncher at the lift. Now passholders will get scanned at the lift.
Since last winter, Wolf Creek was also granted approval by the U.S. Forest Service to build a new lift, the Meadow Lift, which will connect the Alberta Lift with some of the more remote terrain, eliminating what had been a frustrating walk or scoot for skiers and snowboarders who strayed too far off. Construction of that is expected to take place next summer.
Meanwhile, at Copper Mountain, skiers will have three runs to enjoy off the American Eagle lift when the ski area opens Friday. Resort spokeswoman Taylor Prather said the first 50 in line on Friday will receive a free YETI Rambler. The first 50 on Saturday will get a free Copper Mountain Tote bag.
Expect live music and general merriment at Copper as the resort welcomes skiers "home."
Like Wolf Creek, Copper Mountain also built a new lift this summer catering to beginners, the Kokomo Express Lift and Koko's Hut, serving beginner terrain in the West Village. The Center Village will welcome three new restaurants: Toast & Co., a laid-back space for savory breakfast, brunch or evening libations, Downhill Dukes, where the menu features dog friendly items, and Ten Mile Tavern, an inviting restaurant and taproom featuring rustic modern interior décor, an indoor/outdoor fireplace, walk-up bar and elevated patio space for guests to gather. There's also a brand new roller coaster that will run year-round.
The resort also upgraded its pass scanning system at eight lifts, where automatic scanners using RFID technology means visitors can leave passes in their pockets.
Copper will be open daily skiing. It's also earlier than last winter's opening, which had to be delayed.
"We've gotten a bunch (of snow) in the last few days, which provides a nice natural cover all over the mountain. Mother Nature has been cooperating and we've been able to blow some man-made snow," Prather said.
"We're on-schedule, on-time, so it's really exciting."