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Saturday, October 15, 2011
Winter is open for business

By Megan Michelson

Images from Colorado: Wolf Creek, Loveland and Arapahoe Basin.

Colorado's Arapahoe Basin opened for the winter season on Thursday, followed by neighboring Loveland Ski Area, which opened Friday. Four ski areas are now open for operation in the U.S, including Colorado's Wolf Creek, A-Basin, Loveland, and Oregon's Timberline.

Early-season storms and cold enough temperatures to make snow have helped cause earlier-than-normal opening days. "When the cold temperatures settled in, we were able to make a lot of progress very quickly," said Eric Johnstone, Loveland's snowmaking manager. "We started last Thursday and have been running non-stop."

At the start of every winter season, there's a heated (but friendly) race amongst the ski areas to see which will open first. A few of the same resorts always seem to be top contenders in the battle, including Arapahoe Basin, Loveland, Wolf Creek, California's Mammoth Mountain, and Maine's Sugarloaf and Sunday River. But this year, a dark horse stole the title. On Saturday, Oct. 8, Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort opened first, a mere 27 minutes before Wolf Creek opened for the season.

"We didn't plan it that way, everything just fell into place," said John Morelli, the director of business affairs for Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort. "We had this freak storm blow in on Wednesday and dump nine inches and we made another three inches, so we were able to open the park at the bottom of the hill."

After announcing that Wolf Creek was the first resort to open, Colorado Ski Country's Jennifer Rudolph sent out a retraction email to the press that said, "Wolf Creek is not the first resort in North America to open, as was previously mentioned in the earlier press release."

The Las Vegas ski area did shut down after the weekend and will re-open again in November, conditions permitting.

Timberline, in Oregon, is open practically year-round and is currently open Fridays through Sundays. Technically speaking, they were open before all the rest, but, says Timberline's Jon Tullis, "We basically don't get involved in the whole who opened first thing because other than a couple weeks of scheduled maintenance, Timberline is open year around." Tullis added, "Conditions on the Palmer Snowfield are excellent."