Where to Ski in Colorado in May

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While most ski areas in Colorado have closed their lifts for the season, a few resorts still offer skiers and snowboarders a chance to hold out winter, at least a little longer.

The Loveland ski area plans to close early May, while Breckenridge plans to stay open through Memorial Day, conditions permitting. The last day of Arapahoe Basin is expected to be in June. Winter Park didn’t announce a closing date, instead saying, “If there’s snow, we’ll ski and bike!”

As for Vail Mountain, it plans Sunday as the last day of the season. If that date stands, it would make Vail the longest ski season ever, and the first time it’s been held in May since 1996.

The long season comes even though it had a “hot, slow start,” said Vail’s John Plack. He is the senior communications manager for Vail and Beaver Creek, and he explained that while recent storms have helped support the longer season, the later closing date also relates to the snowpack that Vail started at the start of the week. winter, possible, in part, because of a huge and sophisticated snowmaking system that the resort purchased in 2019.

“So the investment we’ve made is the biggest snowmaking investment in North America,” Plack said, wearing a Vail hat with the words “All The Way To May” printed on it.

The new system, installed in the highest and coldest part of the mountain, is automated and more energy efficient. In “old” snowmaking, personnel had to be extremely agile and constantly aware of temperature changes across the mountain. As parts of the resort got warmer, “you had to turn all the snow cannons on or off,” Plack explained, “kind of like [turning] the tap closed.

In past years, employees had to race around the station to make it in time.

Now, however, the system senses where snowmaking is possible and continues production until conditions change. Instead of trying to figure out where snow can be made, Plack said employees can focus on maintaining and monitoring critical system components.

The snowmaking helped create a healthy snow base that people still ski on today, even as summer knocks on Vail’s door, with daytime temperatures often reaching the 40s and 50s. Tuesday morning , Plack said just under 40% of the resort’s land was still open for driving, although “this will likely decrease as we get warmer temperatures this week.”

And Vail’s ability to maximize snowmaking as land temperatures climb is likely to become increasingly important in the future.

“Climate resilience is definitely on our minds,” Plack said.

A few years ago, Vail Resorts launched a program called “Commitment to Zero,” aiming to reduce its “operating footprint” to zero by 2030. This means the resort wants to achieve net zero emissions, sending only zero waste to landfill and zero net operational impact on forests and habitat. In 2020, Vail Resorts invested in a wind farm in Nebraska that it says has allowed it to offset 85% of its electricity consumption across all of its 40 resorts.

Plack said he’s skied over 100 days this season and hopes it’s something he and others can continue to do year after year.

“Winters are really important to us,” he said.

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