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Strong Cold Front Fuels Resort Openings

A strong cold front that continues to sweep through most of the country this week blanketed some ski areas with nearly two feet of fresh snow, allowing snowmaking crews to piggyback off of Mother Nature’s graces as they work to open for the 2014-15 season.

The National Weather Service said that the front is the result of a developing El Nino weather pattern, and that, as resorts know, could have season-long impacts.

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Good snowfall and snowmaking weather enabled Lake Louise, Alberta, to open today, making it the first Canadian resort to open for the season. Neighboring Sunshine Village had its countdown to opening posted front and center on its website (15 hours to go at press time), and Marmot Basin is also just hours away from opening. The area’s Eagle Express and Magic Carpet will be operating and foot-packing and grooming continues in the upper area as mountain crews work to get an additional 15 runs ready to open. The Paradise Quad Chair, along with some of Marmot’s best advanced and intermediate terrain will open in the upper mountain by the middle of next week.

In Colorado, Breckenridge Resort reported that 23 inches of snow fell over the course of the past seven days. Tomorrow’s 9 a.m. opening lets skiers and riders break in the seats of the area’s newly upgraded Colorado SuperChair, now a six-seater. The upgrade increased capacity of Peak 8’s primary lift by 30 percent.

In Minnesota, Buck Hill and Afton Alps also open tomorrow. Buck Hill offers a special rate $20 lift ticket tomorrow, and $30 lift tickets through the weekend.

Meanwhile, Amy Reents, marketing manager at Afton Alps, says the future looks snowy. “We’ve been enjoying ideal snowmaking weather here in Minnesota, and the forecast looks great for the next eight days,” she said. Reents said crews were busy this summer fine-tuning some of the area’s $10 million in investments put in place last season. In Wisconsin, Ski Brule is open weekends until Nov. 21 when daily operations begin.

Meanwhile back in Colorado, Winter Park opens for its 75th season on Saturday with three lifts (Gemini, Endeavor, and Arrow) and three runs (Parkway, Porcupine, and Sorensen Park). “We’ll be celebrating all winter with anniversary events and activities,” said Steve Hurlbert, director of PR and communications.

It’s a birthday that comes with an exceptional present. This season Mary Jane shows off its new Lunch Rock Restaurant, an $8 million, 16,000 square-foot lodge that is the largest on-mountain building construction project at the area in more 20 years. Opening day festivities include a social media contest that encourages skiers and riders to take photos of themselves on a decorated “first chair” and post it to their social media account for a free Coors Light and free soda for kids.

More areas are set to open Saturday. In Vermont, Okemo literally bursts its bubble, treating skiers and riders to its new six-passenger bubble chair, the biggest lift project the area has ever undertaken. The Sunburst Six transports skiers and riders more than 6,400 feet in 6.4 minutes and is the longest lift at Okemo.

Dozens more resorts, including Whistler, are planning to open on the following weekend, Nov. 21-22, ahead of the US Thanksgiving holidays.

Warren Miller’s Journal

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