Vail ditches ‘Epic Pass’ as of April 1

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Front Range skiers may have to get lift tickets for Breckenridge through a statewide lottery.

Resort officials discuss best way to allocate tickets to powder-crazed Front Rangers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Vail Resorts announced Tuesday that it’s curtailing sales of the so-called Epic Pass effective April 1 due to overcrowding on the slopes of Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail.

The move came as part of a rebranding effort that will see Vail Resorts focus on quality rather than quantity, chairman and CEO Bob Slatz said in a prepared statement.

“This spring break, we’ve come to realize that enough is enough,” Slatz said. “We’ve listened to our customers and we’ve heard them loud and clear. Starting April 1, the Epic Pass will be history.”

The announcement came after a busy weekend at Breckenridge, when the lift line for the Colorado SuperChair extended from the base of the lift to within about 100 feet of the top.

“It was kind of ridiculous,” said Aurora skier Charles “Tazzie” Wayright. “We got on the lift, side-slipped down to the end of the line and then rode back up again. By the time we got to the top it was time to head back to Denver to try and beat the I-70 jam,” Wayright said, adding that the drive back to the Front Range “only” took five hours.

“A couple of weeks ago, it took us four hours just to get from Breck to the tunnel,” he said, wondering whether Vail will replace the Epic Pass with some other product.

Breckenridge Ski Area chief Cat Rambell said the resort is thinking about using a lottery system to allocate precious day passes among Front Range skiers who flock to the slopes on snowy weekends.

Another option is to direct skiers according to their vehicles, Slatz added, quickly saying that it wouldn’t be a case of vehicular profiling.

“If you think about it, it makes sense. Hummers and Escalades will be directed to Beaver Creek; all other giant SUVs go to Vail, and, oh yeah, Volvos, too,” Slatz said. Minivans will be steered toward Keystone, while Subarus showing the slightest bit of rust will have to make the trek up to A-Basin.

*Bwah-hah-hah-haaaa … APRIL FOOLS! I’m actually a big fan of Vail’s pass products. I think it makes skiing much more accessible and attractive. It’s absurd to blame Vail Resorts for I-70 traffic jams because it sells a product that people want.

That said, they could probably optimize their pricing to incentivize off-peak travel and skiing. In my mind, that would include a higher-priced unrestricted pass and deeper discounts for mid-week skiing.

And what about, finally once again, a locals pass that includes ALL local resorts, specifically Copper and Loveland.

Morning photo: Half-light

High in the Rockies …

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A curtain of virga hangs over the Colorado Rockies during a solar eclipse.

FRISCO — A couple of years ago, we had the chance to wander way up above treeline during a solar eclipse that started in the late afternoon and continued until after sunset. While we weren’t able to see the moment of totality, the shifting light of the clouds, combined with the filtering effect of the eclipse delivered some breathtaking light. If you enjoy our daily snapshots, visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for a selection of Summit County landscape and nature images.

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Morning photo: Emergent

Earth tones

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Emergent sage, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — Summit County gleamed white once again after a quick overnight storm dropped a few more inches of snow, the latest wave in a seemingly endless onslaught of winter. But it only took a few hours of warm spring sunshine start the inexorable thaw process in the valleys, where — surprise — there’s already a bit of brown earth showing. Melting snow on emergent sage has to be one of the best smells in the world, and if you don’t believe me, take a stroll along the Oro Grande trail in Dillon. Please visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature photography.

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Morning photo: Saturday set

Fire and ice revisited

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Daybreak.

FRISCO — Sometimes, when the fiery sun rises in a winter sky, it seems so improbable that the snow and ice can persist under the solar rays. But don’t be fooled by the hot colors — these images were all snapped on days when the temperature was well below freezing. If you enjoy our daily Summit Voice photo essays, visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature photos.

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Misty dawn.

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Alpen glow on the Continental Divide.

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Peaceful sky over Buffalo Mountain.

Sundog at sunrise, Frisco, Colorado.

Sundog at sunrise, Frisco, Colorado.

Morning photo: Summer daydream

The flip side …

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Morning dew near Straight Creek, in Dillon, Colorado.

FRISCO — The new snow Thursday morning wasn’t unwelcome, but it did spur a quick pang of yearning for warmer days, so I searched the Summit Voice archives for some of my favorite summer scenes, feeling the heat of the summer season, at least virtually. Check our online gallery for more Summit County nature and landscape images.

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Morning photo: Cloud 9

Vaporous …

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Collapsing thunderstorm.

FRISCO — Clouds. We often take them for granted, or see them as a nuisance if we’re in the mood for a bright, sunny day, but clouds are, of course, an essential part of the cycle of life on this planet, transporting water vapor throughout the atmosphere, distributing moisture and affecting climate in ways we are just beginning to understand. For a photographer, clouds are often the perfect foil for landscape shots, helping to soften the light and add drama to what otherwise might just be a blank space. Even if you’re not a photographer, take some time one of these days to check out what’s going on in the sky above you. Visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature shots.

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Morning photo: Lilting colors

Gleaming

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Unfiltered light along Dillon Reservoir that lasted just a brief moment during a dazzling November sunrise.

FRISCO — There are moments when the light in the mountains is almost unbearably exquisite, moments when you have to rub your eyes to make sure not in a dream. Those moments don’t always translate into perfect pictures but sometimes it all comes together. Please visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more landscape portraits of Summit County.

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Morning photo: Winter’s last gasp?

Comes a time …

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March sunrise over Dillon Reservoir.

FRISCO — Comes a time each year when you know that winter is on its way out, but just doesn’t want to let go quite yet. While lowlanders enjoy emerging snowdrops and daffodils, high country dwellers are chipping away at several months worth of ice buildup from their drives. For me, everytime there’s a late winter or early spring storm, I’m wondering it it’s going to be the last opportunity to take one more set of snow pics. This set includes images from the last few years all taken in the last two weeks of winter. Continue reading

Morning photo: Equinox!

It can go either way!

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It seems the first few willow buds start to open right around the vernal equinox, no matter how much snow is on the ground.

FRISCO —Winter or spring? The equinox is on the cusp, and if there’s anything I’ve learned after living in western mountain towns for 25 years, it’s that you just never know. Some years, like in 2012, there’s an early melt, and even though you know it probably means heightened fire danger and drought conditions, you welcome it, because the winter has been long enough. Some years, it’s just right, a few warm, sunny days followed by a shot of spring snowfall … And then, there’s this year, when winter really doesn’t want to ease its grip. Continue reading

Forests: Spruce beetles spreading fast in southern Rockies

State report details status of insect activities

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Spruce beetles are widely active across the mountains of southern Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Windstorms, mild winters and drought are the key factors in the continued spread of spruce beetles, which have become the dominant change agent in Colorado forests the past few years.

According to the latest annual forest health report compiled by state forest experts, spruce beetles were active across 398,000 acres in 2013, affected more than triple the amount of acreage than mountain pine beetles. Continue reading

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