Every year, around this time, skiers in Colorado start to watch out for the telltale signs of snowmaking equipment running. Combine the cold temperatures with some surprise early season snow, and pretty soon the lifts are turning.
It’s not just bragging rights for Colorado that’s at stake for being the first resort to open. Frequently, the first ski resort to open in Colorado is also the first to open in the country. In years past, the battle has always come down to two – Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Ski Resort. Both are situated high on the Continental Divide – their location and base elevation favoring cold temperatures.
But this year, a dark horse snuck in, while no one was paying attention. The El Nino pattern predicted for this winter, brought up to 30 inches of early season snow to southwest Colorado. While no one was paying attention, Wolf Creek quietly announced it would open for skiing this weekend. Take that Loveland and A-Basin!
Wolf Creek is mainly a locals mountain for the people who reside in Durango and Pagosa Springs. Skiing at Wolf Creek can be feast or famine. Some years, it can be epic with light dry powder throughout the winter. Last year, though it was a disaster, with little natural snow for most of the winter. Their total for the season was about 35% of normal.
Skiing is big business in Colorado. Economists estimate that the ski industry’s effect is huge state-wide, generating 5 billion dollars in economic impact. This includes everything associated with skiing – lodging, food, rentals, etc. So it’s understandable that bragging rights for first to open is a big deal. I think it’s good another resort has gotten into the mix and provided some friendly competition.
Though I wish I could have been there to get those first runs on my skis again, Wolf Creek is a little far to drive from Nederland – five hours each way. I did enjoy the photos of fellow skiers slicing through the new snow. Though, I’ve been dreaming of sliding down the mountain the last week, I can wait another month for our local ski areas.
For me, the thought of a new ski season beginning anew brings anticipation and joy. Few things in my life have consistently made me happy to be alive like sliding around in the snow.
Ski season has begun once again.