Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin First Colorado Ski Areas to Open This Season

The race to be the first resort to open gets a little more thrilling — and competitive — each year.

The 2021-2022 winter season is closing in, and folks are getting excited. No matter where you live, the coming of snow is a cause for celebration each year. And the prospect of a more normal season, compared to the shutdowns and restrictions amidst a former pandemic winter, is extra exciting.

Wolf Creek Ski Area in Pagosa Springs, Colo., announced yesterday that it would open this weekend, Oct. 16 and 17. Arapahoe Basin in Dillon, Colo., followed suit later on Thursday, announcing it would open on Oct. 17.

“14 inches at Wolf Creek Ski Area allows for a weekend opening!” wrote Wolf Creek online. “Saturday and Sunday, 10/16 & 10/17, the beginner Nova Lift will be open for early season turns.” Arapahoe Basin also made a similar announcement, planning to open one lift on Sunday.

Later, Colorado resorts like Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park, Copper Mountain, and Steamboat — along with other Western resorts like Northstar, Heavenly, Tahoe, and Park City — are expecting to open in November.

But, as we’ve previously learned, it ain’t over until the last hour (like when Arapahoe Basin opened at 3:30 p.m. on a Friday, scooping Keystone’s big opening day by less than 24 hours).

What it all boils down to is this: You’d better have your skis waxed, your gear ready, and your game face on, because Colorado ski season starts this weekend.

What This Season Will Look Like

a lift line at arapahoe basin at the bottom of the Black Mountain Express
Skiers queue for the Black Mountain Express lift between 6-foot spaced flag ties at A-Basin; (photo/Mary Murphy)

Flashback to the pre-COVID days of the 2019-2020 season — you could pick up your pass in person, peruse a resort’s rental shop, and take advantage of things like water fountains, childcare, boot-fitting experts, and an on-mountain bar.

Then one spring day, on March 14, 2020, ski resorts shut down overnight. An executive order caused all Colorado ski resorts to close. Over half a dozen California resorts followed suit the same week. Spring skiing was over.

When many of us returned to the slopes in the winter of 2020, resort skiing looked markedly different. Flags, ropes, and stanchions were installed to corral us into 6-feet-apart lines. There were no indoor services, no tailgating, no food or drinks at the lodges or bars.

Reservations and caps on passes and crowds were in place. You had to reserve ahead for a parking spot. And masks were required everywhere — yes, even on chairlifts.

As of now, resorts — we looked at two of the big ones, Vail Resorts and Alterra Mountain Company — are still implementing some COVID-related protocol. And, of course, multi-resort passes now have policies built in for COVID-related closures.

With the Delta variant, nothing is certain — except that people will, no matter what, turn out to ski as long as resorts are open. We’re hoping that clam chowder in sourdough bowls makes a strong comeback.

So Wolf Creek, Arapahoe Basin, and all the other beloved ski areas out there — thanks for opening your doors. Here’s to the 2021-2022 season!

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