Breck snowfall above average 4 months in a row

Fourth-snowiest year on record in Summit County

Big snows coated the Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

Big snows coated Colorado’s Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Another month of above-normal snowfall has put Breckenridge on track for its fourth-snowiest winter on record, according to National Weather Service observer Rick Bly, who measured 37.4 inches at his backyard gauge.

That makes it the 10th-snowiest March, a month that sees average snowfall of 25.5 inches. Bly said precipitation has been above average for four straight months. During the current water year, which started Oct. 1, only November saw slightly below normal snowfall. Precipitation (the combination of melted snow and rain) for the water year to date is already at 15.2 inches, nearly six inches more than average. Continue reading

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.

Skiing: Breckenridge extends season by a week

It's deep at Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS.

It’s deep at Breckenridge, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS.

Peaks 6, 7 and 8 will stay open through April 27

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado skiers will get a few bonus days this year, as Breckenridge Ski Resort announced that it will extend the season by a week, keeping Peaks 6, 7 and 8 open through April 27.

The resort has tacked on extra days the past few seasons, but generally only on weekends. Due to plentiful snow and the timing of Easter, Breckenridge execs said they made the decision early this year. Continue reading

Vail bails on Peak 6 skiing, plans EpicWildlife sanctuary

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Lynx kittens will have the run of Peak 6 as it becomes Colorado’s biggest wildlife sanctuary.

APRIL FOOLS!!!

Wolverine reintroduction part of the plan for new nature preserve

By Snob Beerwhine

SUMMIT COUNTY — In a surprise move, Colorado’s biggest ski company announced April 1 that it will not pursue the Peak 6 ski area expansion after all. Instead, Breckenridge ski area and the town will expand the Cucumber Gulch preserve into a full-fledged wildlife sanctuary encompassing part of the Tenmile Range from the valley bottom up to the ridgeline.

With sponsorship of the ski area, the new preserve will be called EpicWildlife, set aside for lynx, elk, moose and boreal toads. Partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Breckenridge also plans to reintroduce wolverines to the area, where they will find great habitat in the alpine cirques and couloirs along the crest. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges lynx mistakes in Breckenridge Ski Area’s Peak 6 expansion plan

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A transplanted Canada lynx watches a Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/ Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Federal approval missed a key step in addressing requirements of Endangered Species Act

Click here to read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists have acknowledged that they left out a key step in their approval of the proposed Peak 6 ski area expansion at Breckenridge, a project that would degrade a patch of lynx habitat in the Tenmile Range.

“We reviewed the … biological opinion, and we agree that our incidental take statement lacks a meaningful mechanism to reinitiate consultation if the project exceeds the anticipated incidental take,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Western Colorado Supervisor Patricia Gelatt wrote in a March 6 letter responding to a formal legal notice from Rocky Mountain Wild and the Blue River Group of the Sierra Club.

Gelatt said her agency plans to meet with the Forest Service and modify its biological opinion to address the deficiencies before the Notice of Intent expires on April 19, but she didn’t explain how agency biologists missed including the required regulatory mechanisms after discussing the expansion with the Forest Service for several years. Continue reading

Colorado: Planners eye Breck-Alma trail link

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A recpath could someday connect Breckenridge and Alma via Hoosier Pass.

Workshops set to get community input

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Long-range planning for a potential paved trail connection between Breckenridge and Alma, in Park County, continues this month with a pair of community workshops aimed at reviewing a draft plan prepared by a Boulder consultant.

Summit County open space and trail planners said in a press release that previous rounds of input from various stakeholders, including landowners in the area, has resulted in the development of a couple of alignment options, none of which are “set in stone” at this stage.

These community workshops are a chance for Summit and Park County residents to take a look at the proposed draft plan and give their feedback.

The workshops are set for Tuesday, March 19 5:30 – 6:45 p.m. at Alma Town Hall (59 E. Buckskin) and Wednesday, March 20 6:30 – 7:45 p.m. at Breckenridge Town Hall.

For more information, please contact Katie Kent of the Summit County Open Space and Trails Department at (970) 668-4092 or via email at katiek@co.summit.co.us.

February snowfall near average in Summit County

Temps run well below normal at Dillon weather station

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A satellite photo from the NASA Earth Observatory collection shows extensive snow cover prevailed across parts of Colorado after storms in late January and early February. Click here to learn more about this image.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Temperatures in at least parts of Summit County ran well below average in February, while snowfall totals were near average for the month at the two official National Weather Service reporting sites in Breckenridge and Dillon.

In Breckenridge, long-time weather observer Rick Bly said he tallied 25.4 inches of snow for the month. The long-term average is 23.5 inches. The snow-water equivalent was also slightly above average, at 1.88 inches compared to 1.71 inches.

The snowfall, combined with cool temperatures, helped maintain the snowpack but didn’t make much of a dent in the seasonal deficit. For the year to-date (starting Oct. 1), snowfall is still about 30 percent below average, at 69,5 inches. The average, based on records going back to the late 1800s, is 101.5 inches. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service rejects appeal of Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area

Opponents of controversial expansion considering legal action

The Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski area would add about 550 acres of new terrain.

*Read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Barring legal action, Breckenridge Ski Area could start implementing the controversial Peak 6 expansion as soon as early December after regional Forest Service officials rejected an appeal filed by a coalition of conservation groups, skiers and local residents. Read the appeal here.

Scott Armentrout, Supervisor of the Gunnison, Uncompahgre and Grand Mesa National Forests, the appeal reviewing officer, wrote Nov. 14 that he found that the approval for the project did not violate any federal laws, regulations or policies and recommended upholding White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams’ decision to approve the 550-acre expansion.

The formal decision was made by appeals deciding officer Brian Ferebee, a deputy regional forester for resources. Read the full appeal decision here, and a summary of the appeal decision here.

“I agree with the ARO’s analysis as presented in the enclosed letter. All appeal issues raised have been considered and the record is adequate to support the Forest Supervisor’s decision,” Ferebee wrote in his Nov. 19 decision letter. “I affirm the Forest Supervisor’s decision to approve the Breckenridge Ski Area Peak 6 Project. I deny requested relief to set aside the decision or complete additional analysis.” 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.

 

Skiing: Winter reservations up in Breckenridge

Lodging community recaps strong summer performance

Winter reservations in Breckenridge are pacing ahead of last winter.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Tourism in the high country continues to climb back from the deep  recession, with the Breckenridge Chamber reporting that 2012 summer occupancy and average room rates both climbed in tandem for the first time since 2008.

For now, Breckenridge is outpacing some other resorts in terms of winter reservations, 16 percent ahead of last year at this time, according to Scott Fortner, marketing director for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber.

Fortner said the encouraging trend can partly be attributed to the town’s status as a mature resort that offers plenty of activities along with skiing and snowboarding. Group business has also been increasing, which helps push occupancy rates up, he said. Continue reading

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