The bragging rights to open Colorado’s 2018-19 season are poised to shift southwest.
While perennial openers Arapahoe Basin and Loveland ski areas had yet to announce by Wednesday when their lifts would run, humble Wolf Creek Ski Area was proud to report a kickoff party set for 9 a.m. Saturday.
The mountain near Pagosa Springs will continue to host skiers and riders only on Saturdays and Sundays until otherwise announced.
Davey Pitcher of the family-owned Wolf Creek expected three lifts to run this weekend, accessing beginner and intermediate terrain stocked with the powder that graces the state’s snowiest ski area. While the industry relies on robust snowmaking operations, including at A-Basin and Loveland, Wolf Creek counts on Mother Nature.
Pitcher said he still anticipated possibly sharing the opening weekend with other areas, but it could be “a people’s choice.”
“We’ll have all-natural snow, and they’ll have manmade,” he said.
Wolf Creek was nearing the 30-inch snow total that accompanied opening day in 2011, the last time it beat out A-Basin and Loveland to be the first Colorado ski area to open. Saturday would be the earliest start since 2013, when A-Basin hosted skiers and riders on the same date, Oct. 13.
With a base of 14 inches and building, Pitcher said visitors should expect typical early-season conditions. He was just finishing a run on intermediate slopes reached by the Treasure lift when he said, “It’s gonna ski pretty good.”
“The sun could come out and change it,” he added. “But people can have a good time, be with friends, have a burger and beer and kick off the year.”
Pitcher’s decision came as a storm rolled through Wednesday, forcing a chain law on Wolf Creek Pass. He was especially happy considering last season’s late Thanksgiving start at the ski area.
And surely, in the wake of the 416 fire, a whole region is happy. The white-capped San Juan Mountains were a welcome sight this week after a summer of record drought conditions.
The forecast late Wednesday called for a chance of snow showers Thursday over Wolf Creek, with clouds parting for a potential bluebird Saturday.
Tickets to ride the beginner Nova lift will cost $29. Users of the rest of the mountain, taking either the Treasure or Bonanza lifts, will be charged the local rate of $50. The rental shop will be open.
A news release Wednesday from A-Basin said snowmaking continued for 15 hours, and the plan was to keep firing guns through the night and morning with snowfall still expected. A spokeswoman said an opening had not been set, but the budget called for Oct. 19. Messages to Loveland’s spokesman were not returned.
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