Colorado skiers warned about rope-ducking risks

Sketchy snowpack makes Summit County sheriff, resorts edgy

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A large Feb. 25 avalanche near Francie’s Cabin. Some of the hard debris chunks were 4-5 feet thick. Photo courtesy Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A sketchy snowpack and a series of avalanches in and near ski areas has prompted a joint warning on rope-ducking from Summit County Sheriff John Minor and local resorts.

Ducking a rope is also against the law as the part of the Colorado the Ski Safety Act of 1979.  “You can face charges for this,” Minor said. “Don’t be naïve about the risk you’re taking, and don’t put others in danger because of your bad decisions.”

In one recent accident, a snowboarder ducked a rope at Keystone within sight of numerous people and broke through a cornice that triggered a slide. The man was caught and issued a summons by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for skiing in a closed area. Continue reading

Colorado skiing: Catch a free ride to the slopes Dec. 15

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The Front Range Ski Bus at Keystone Resort. Photo courtesy FRSB.

Local bus company offering a free demo day; season bus passes, four-packs and discounted ski tix also available

SUMMIT COUNTY — Who say’s there’s no free ride?

To celebrate the start of full winter operations, Front Range Ski Bus is running a free bus from Denver up to A-Basin, Keystone, Loveland and Copper next weekend, right after what looks to be one of the first real snowy and wintry weeks of the season.

The bus has already been running on a limited schedule and will start operating four days per week (Thursday – Sunday) on Dec. 14, with basic round trip tickets for $35, down from $39 last year.

“Riding the bus up to the slopes is a great way to make new ski and snowboard friends before you even get to the slopes,” said  said chief marketing officer Martin Beran, who frequently rides the bus to ride up at A-Basin. “It’s a relaxing way to get up to the mountains.” he said. “This day is a great way for Denver residents to try out Denver’s best ski bus service without spending a dime.” Continue reading

Skiing: Summit County areas rev up for the season

Snowmaking the key to Thanksgiving skiing

U.S. Ski Team racers have been training at Copper Mountain the past few weeks; Friday, the Super Bee chair opens to the public. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After a few weeks of exclusively serving top ski racers, Copper’s Super Bee chair opens to the public today (Nov. 23), boosting the total number of operating lifts to eight, including the American Flyer, Gem Lift, Super Bee, Timberline Express and American Eagle, serving about 175 acres of terrain spread across 15 trails.

Saturday evening, Woodward at Copper presents the 12th Annual Yam Jam Rail Jam, an after-hours competition under the lights held in Copper’s Lower Bouncer Terrain Park. Skiers and snowboarders compete for tons of prizes, and entry is only $10. Registration is at the Cage from noon to 3:30 p.m., and practice begins at 4 p.m.

Saturday also marks the first En Fuego of the season, ringing in the holidays with a Snow Cat Parade and tree lighting, accompanied by cozy bonfires and tunes from DJ Kris Kringle. Festivities begin at 5 p.m. in the Burning Stones Plaza.

On the east side of the county, Keystone has nine lifts open, serving 170 acres spread across nine runs. Open lifts include the River Run Gondola, the Summit Express chair, the Ranger lift and the Peru Express. Open runs include Spring Dipper, River Run, Schoolmarm and Silverspoon.

A-Basin opened Lenawee Chair last week for top-to-bottom skiing on Lenawee Face, Dercum’s Gulch, Ramrod and High Noon.

Breckenridge is 6 percent open, with five lifts operating, serving 145 acres on seven trails, including Springmeier, Trygves, Crosscut and the Park Lane terrain park.

 

Colorado: Snowmaking impacts Snake River flows

Massive Snake River snowmaking diversions means tough times for trout after drought summer

This year’s snowpack is well below average and tracking just barely above last year’s.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The most recent snowstorm helped boost the overall Colorado snowpack just a bit, bringing it on par with last year’s level at this time, which is still well below average for mid-November. Statewide, the snowpack was at 57 percent of average, as of Nov. 15, with most West Slope basins between 50 and 60 percent of average. Even the North Platte drainage, which has seen some significant snows in the Never Summer Range, is only at 64 percent of average.

In Summit and Eagle counties, many streams are flowing at or below historic low levels, creating challenges for some ski areas that rely on direct stream diversions for snowmaking. Keystone, for example, has had to dial back its snow guns several times in the past week as the Snake River dropped to a flow of just six cubic feet per second, the minimum required under state regulations. Continue reading

Colorado: Keystone aims to boost lodging occupancy, destination biz with a kids-ski-free deal for overnight visitors

Keystone offering free skiing for kids under 12 this season, but not for day-trippers.

Youngsters under 12 ski free with a two-night stay at the resort; other family offerings beefed up for the coming season

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Keystone Resort is stepping up its already strong appeal to families with season-long free skiing for kids under 12 for guests staying at least two nights at a resort property.

The program is aimed at boosting occupancy and also helps Vail Resorts segment its Summit County business, potentially shifting a bit of business from hyper-crowded Breckenridge to its sister resort on the other side of Summit County.

Numerous other resorts also offer special deals to entice kids, but Keystone is differentiating its program by emphasizing the no-strings, no-blackout aspects.

“With the introduction of a Kids Ski Free offer that’s really restriction-free, we’re letting families travel as their schedule allows,” said Keystone VP and general manager John Buhler.

Keystone says it has also enhanced it s Kidtopia program with daily animation and entertainment all winter long, including the third installment of what the resort bills as the world’s largest snowfort, street performers in the base area commercial zone, kids’ apres gatherings, a weekly Kidtopia parade, on-ice dance parties at the resort’s two ice skating rinks, and the new Snowed-In Festival. Continue reading

Colorado: New uphill & downhill mountain bike races featured as Keystone launches the summer season

New mini-mountain bike park opening near the River Run base area

Family mountain biking fun at Keystone, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Uphill, downhill or just plain on the hill, Keystone  has it covered going into the summer season. Along with a summer opening weekend, (June 15-17), the resort has scheduled a series of enduro, op-to-bottom races, an ascent series, and has also created a new mini-bike park near the River Run base for kids and newcomers to mountain biking.

Opening weekend means the the resort will open its extensive system of mountain bike trails, and there will be music in River Run Village, along with a BMX showcase and a kids balance bike competition. Just like opening day of ski season, the fun starts with free hot chocolate and donuts at the base of the River Run gondola. For non-cyclists, there’s a free  kids fishing derby.

For unbeatable views of Summit County, Dillon Reservoir and big slice of the Rockies, join the Friday Afternoon Club, with free lift access from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Free live music, lawn games and drink and food specials are on tap at the Summit House. Continue reading

Front Range skier hits tree, dies at Keystone Ski Area

The latest skier death occurred March 9 on the Spring Dipper trail an intermediate run on the front side of Dercum Mountain.

Skier deaths spike above average in low-snow year

By Summit Voice

*Story updated 11:15 a.m. March 10

SUMMIT COUNTY — For the second day in a row, a skier died on the slopes of a Summit County ski resort, this time on the Spring Dipper trail at Keystone Ski Area.

According to Summit County Coroner Joanne Richardson, the accident occurred Friday (March 9) at about 1 p.m.

On March 10, he coroner’s office identified the skier as  Truitt Hunter, of Castle Rock.

On March 8, an 18-year-old high school student from Wisconsin died at Copper after crashing into structure on the Andy’s Encore trail.

According to witnesses, the 23-year old day skier from the Denver area skied off the side of the trail and crashed into a tree. According to the coroner’s office, witnesses said it looked like Hunter caught an edge before veering off the trail.

The Keystone ski patrol and a Flight For Life crew responded with life-saving measures and transported the victim to the Keystone Medical Center, where further life- saving measures were continued to no avail.

The cause of death is multiple skull fractures. The name will not be released until next of kin have been notified, potentially by mid-day Saturday.

Vail Resorts skier visits drop 14.6 percent

More spring powder in Vail's Back Bowls could help skier visits rebound during the last few weeks of the season.

In quarterly earnings statement, company says revenue holds steady and announces $75 million in capital improvements, including a new Vail gondola

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — With Tahoe-area snowfall at only about 30 percent of average, Vail Resorts saw skier visits drop by about 32 percent at its California resorts, contributing to an overall decline in skier visits of about 15 percent for the second fiscal quarter of 2012.

The company announced that skier visits at its Colorado resorts were down about 8.8 percent for the quarter, with net revenue for the company’s mountain division dropping about 0.7 percent for the quarter. Continue reading

Colorado: Snowboarder hits tree, dies at Keystone ski area

Keystone's Elk Run. PHOTO COURTESY COLORADO SKI AUTHORITY.

Helmeted rider suffers massive trauma in Summit County, Colorado ski area crash

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The string of on-slope ski and snowboard fatalities continued this weekend, as 24-yar-old Joshua B. Allen, of Tampa, Florida, died from injuries suffered in a crash at Keystone Ski Area. According to the Summit County Coroner, Allen, who was wearing a helmet, died of massive facial injuries and brain trauma.

The coroner’s office reported the accident as a transfer case at 3:25 p.m., reporting that Allen was found in the trees on the intermediate Elk Run Sunday morning. The Keystone ski patrol was contacted at 11 a.m. and performed advanced life support.

Joshua B. Allen.

Allen’s death is the fourth of the season at Keystone. For the season to-date, there have been at least 11 reported ski and snowboard related deaths in Colorado, close to the long-term average of 12 deaths per season.

Allen was subsequently flown to the Summit Medical Center for stabilization for a flight to Denver. He died in the emergency room at St. Anthony’s in Lakewood at at about 2:30 p.m.

Allen had been skiing in the area with two friends since Wednesday.

Op-ed: Keystone plan a golden opportunity for restoration

Resort, Forest Service should strive for environmental improvements, not just in the Summit House facility, but in the overall development footprint of the project area; full disclosure needed for the planned Bergman Bowl egress trail

A satellite view of the summit of Dercum Mountain at Keystone Ski area shows the level of development, including an open air sewage lagoon slated to be replaced in the lower right-hand corner of the image. The beginner conveyor lift is visible center-left.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — At first glance, plans to revamp the summit of Keystone’s Dercum Mountain and make other improvements to existing terrain and facilities appears to be a laudable step away from the normal ski resort expansion race, marked most recently by Breckenridge’s quest to add lift-served terrain on Peak 6.

Keystone’s proposal is to work within the resort’s existing development footprint, which already sprawls three mountains deep from the Highway 6 base area into the surrounding national forest. Improvements to existing trails, the addition of a few new mountain bike trails and enhanced visitor facilities at the summit of Dercum Mountain all make sense for one of the state’s busiest ski areas. Replacing the aging mountain-top lodge, cozy as it may be, with a new energy efficient structure is also a good move, both from a business and environmental standpoint.

But there are a couple of glaring questions that come to mind immediately. As part of its review, the Forest Service should look at how the new facility will affect the operation of the Outpost, built at great expense and with a lot of environmental fanfare. I’m not sure how, but Keystone earned green accolades for construction of that remote lodge, which could become a white elephant for the resort and the Forest Service. Continue reading

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