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: Mountain love

Epic …

Another stunning Peak 1 sunset in Summit County, Colorado.

Another stunning Peak 1 sunset in Summit County, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —I’m still super-annoyed that Vail Resorts has tried to hijack the word “epic,” but I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me. It was such a great mountain slang word at one time — you’d ask a skier or snowboarder how their day was and they’d reply, with a powder-glazed look in their eyes, “Epic, dude.” Used like that, the word conjures up echoes of Homer and the Iliad. But when it’s debased by the advertising culture and mentality of Vail Resorts, well, it seems to lose all its class — epic pass, epic burger … how NOT classy is that?

Hmm, not sure how I got off on that tangent. Oh, I know, I was in Breck today watching clouds of dust rise off the new clearcuts on Peak 6 — you could just about see the lynx scurrying for safety up there. Yes, seeing that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and reminded once again how greed and the lust for money are at the root of so much misery, and it’s made all the worse when it’s cloaked in a hypocritical green mantle. I prefer my greed pure and naked, thank you very much, that way I know what I’m dealing with.

But in any case, I had the chance to see a couple of “epic” sunsets recently … If you like our snapshots here on the blog, check out the hi-rez versions available for sale at our online FineArt America gallery, and feel free to leave a comment on by rant in the box at the end of the post! Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation groups reach deal with Vail Resorts on Breck Peak 6 expansion and withdraw threat of lawsuit

Vail Resorts ups contribution to lynx conservation fund

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Development of the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area will probably begin sometime in the next few weeks and should be ready for skiing this coming season.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There will be no lawsuit challenging the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area, as conservation groups say they’ve reached an agreement with Vail Resorts that will help ensure long-term conservation of threatened lynx in the area.

“Our main concern was lynx conservation,” said Rocky Mountain Wild attorney Matt Sandler, who was involved in the recent talks with Vail Resorts. As part of the agreement, Vail Resorts will up its contribution to a conservation fund that will be used for habitat improvements in the region, benefiting lynx and other species. Continue reading

Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion set to start within weeks

Forest Service says resort has submitted construction plans

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Work will soon begin on a long-planned ski terrain expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area unless opponents make a last-minute legal bid to stop the project.

See more Peak 6 stories here.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forest Service rangers say they are in the process of reviewing the final plans for the planned Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area. The clear-cutting of new ski trails could begin in just a few weeks, according to the agency.

The resort has submitted detailed plans for tree-cutting, erosion control, stormwater runoff and other aspects of the project, according to Shelly Grail,  a winter sports program administrator for the Dillon Ranger District.

Grail said the resort could start clear-cutting the new ski trails as early as mid-June, depending on the weather. The Forest Service has certain requirements regarding snow cover for tree removal operations, so the rate of snowmelt will affect the exact start date of the project. The Forest Service also will do some nesting surveys before work starts, she added. Continue reading

Vail, Breckenridge and Copper extend the season

Late-season snow spurs limited re-opening April 19-21

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Fine spring skiing conditions at Breckenridge.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado skiers will get a bonus weekend at Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail, with all three areas firing up some of their lifts for a final spring fling.

“After skiing some amazing powder turns on closing day and more heavy snow in the forecast this week, we just don’t have the heart to shut down Breck’s lifts just yet,” said Pat Campbell, chief operating officer for the Summit County resort.

“Mother Nature is a fickle business partner and apparently she wasn’t ready for the ski season to be over. We can’t think of a better way to thank our loyal guests for celebrating our 40th Anniversary season with us,” said Gary Rodgers, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Mountain will open American Flyer, Sierra and Timberline lifts this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19-21, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day. Skier services including food and beverage offerings and rental and retail options will be limited to Center Village.

Breckenridge will open 1180 acres, lifts and terrain on Peak 8 only this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19-21, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day after picking up 60 inches of snow in April. Lifts open will include:  The BreckConnect Gondola, Colorado SuperChair, Rip’s Ride, 6 Chair, T-Bar and the Imperial Express SuperChair; Park Lane and Trygve’s Terrain Parks will also be open. Continue reading

Colorado: Breckenridge Ski Area wants to develop new summer recreation facilities on national forest lands

Resort submits plan to U.S. Forest Service

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A summer view toward Breckenridge from the flanks of the Tenmile Range near Peak 6.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Breckenridge Ski Area is preparing to create an outdoor-themed summer amusement park on the public lands it leases from the U.S. Forest Service. The resort wants to add  14 miles of beginner, intermediate and family oriented mountain biking trails across peaks 7 and 8, as well as adventure hiking zones, zip lines and ropes courses.

Vail Resorts submitted a formal proposal to the U.S. Forest Service this week. Following acceptance of the proposal, the agency will begin an comprehensive environmental review to analyze and disclose site-specific environmental impacts. If the U.S. Forest Service approves a plan, Vail Resorts would begin construction on Epic Discovery activities in the summer of 2015.

In a press release, the company touted the environmental and educational components of the planned new activities. According to the release, the company will partner with The Nature Conservancy and will donate 1 percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue toward forest restoration projects. 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

Vail Ski Area revamps management of Prima Cornice terrain after last winter’s deadly inbounds avalanche

Resort says it will use more ropes and signage when needed to discourage uphill traffic and warn of potential hazards

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A diagram prepared by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center shows the approximate locations of various gates used to access Prima Cornice at Vail Ski Area.

*Read more Summit Voice coverage of the inbounds avalanche deaths at Vail and Winter Park here.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With the discovery phase of a trial over last year’s inbounds avalanche death of a teenage skier under way, Vail Resorts this week announced that it has changed the way ski patrollers manage the Vail Ski Area terrain where the deadly incident occurred.

Based on its own review of the avalanche on Prima Cornice, Vail officials said there may be times when patrollers use more ropes and signage to indicate closures and potential danger. The changes were instituted at the start of this season, according to a statement from Vail Resorts.

“Vail Resorts takes safety as its highest priority, and we continually re-evaluate and adapt based on new information or changing skier behavior. The Company remains a defendant in a lawsuit concerning this incident and will not be making additional comments. We remain incredibly saddened by the events of that day, and our deepest sympathy continues to go out to the family of Taft Conlin,” the company said in it statement. Continue reading

Colorado: Vail Resorts says mid-winter business rebounded

Major capital investments announced for upcoming seasons

Vail Resorts is talking up the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge as part of its capital investment plan for the coming season.

Vail Resorts is talking up the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge as part of its capital investment plan for the coming season.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Vail Resorts said business bounced back after a slow start to the season, with some of the company’s resorts posting record business during the Christmas holiday period. VR’s net income climbed 30.5 percent, to $60.5 million in the second fiscal quarter compared to last season, with skier visits up 2.9 percent and mountain net revenue up by 9.5 percent.

“We are very pleased with our performance in the second quarter of fiscal 2013, which was notable for two distinct dynamics we experienced in the quarter,” VR CEO Rob Katz said this week during a call announcing the company’s second quarter earnings. “The first was our results through the middle of December, which were marked by unusually warm and dry weather in Colorado that limited the terrain we could open, leading to lower than expected results for our four Colorado resorts.  Continue reading

Colorado skier visits take another big hit

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An early season snow drought dampened skier visits in Colorado. Bob Berwyn photo.

Ski resort trade group reports early season double-digit drop for the second year in a row

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — For the second year in a row, Colorado ski areas were hit hard by a lack of early season snow, as skier visits dipped 11.5 percent for the period spanning opening day to Dec. 31. Last winter, the state’s ski resort association reported that visits dropped 10 percent from the year before that.

Variable snow conditions and some late openings were factors in the decline, according to Colorado Ski Country USA president and CEO Melanie Mills.

“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors, and an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradans from tallying lots of ski days,” Mills said. “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December, but when it came, it was in time for in-state and out-of-state guests to enjoy wonderful wintery holidays at resorts.” Continue reading

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