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This time of year, a ski battle takes place in Colorado, with resorts jostling for the kudos (and the press) that comes with opening first. The major contenders in recent history are Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Keystone Resort, and Wolf Creek Ski Area, three ski spots with either the elevation and snowmaking capacity—or the location and luck—needed to open ahead of the other 30-some ski areas in Colorado.
It’s worth noting that two tiny hills in Minnesota both opened yesterday (Oct. 18). Wild Mountain opened at noon central time with one trail served by a rope tow, and Andes Tower Hills followed at 1 p.m., but will be closed for skiing today (so does it really even count?).
Meanwhile, as shred-hungry skiers wait for the announcement, their skis waxed and waiting by the door, some are turning to Reddit to speculate over who will open first and reminisce over ski battles of years past.
Of the over 1,000 Reddit users who cast their vote on this unofficial forum, the majority think A-Basin will open first, while Wolf Creek is currently in second, and Keystone in third. Loveland, which has historically been in the running, lost its edge after A-Basin and Keystone pumped a ton of money into their snowmaking operations.
Obviously none of the resorts have an opening day listed online, but A-Basin and Keystone both say they plan to open “as early as possible,” while A-Basin notes they “always aim for a mid-October opening day.” For these two ski areas, which are just five miles down the road from each other, it comes down to temperature and the resort’s snowmaking capabilities and technique. You can follow A-Basin’s progress on Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth’s blog.
It’s a different game entirely at Wolf Creek, which sits on the other side of the state and relies more heavily on natural snowfall (something they historically see a lot of). The resort has snowmaking systems, but they’re nothing compared to what A-Basin and Keystone have to work with. For Wolf Creek, an opening day win tends to be in the hands of Mother Nature—who, it’s worth noting, has been handing the resort a series of wins as of late.
Last season, Wolf Creek won the race, opening on October 16, 2021, one day before A-Basin and six days before Keystone, according to SnowPak. The year before, Wolf Creek opened on October 28, 2020, over a week before Keystone and almost two weeks before A-Basin. But in 2019, Wolf Creek opened on Nov. 1, several weeks after A-Basin and Keystone duked it out. (As you may remember, A-Basin opened for just two hours at the last minute after learning that Keystone planned to open the following day.)
“A-Basin pulled the Crazy Ivan and waited until VR/Keystone announced they were going to open the next day, and then announced around ~11 that they would open in a few hours. Payback from Keystone opening early under lights several years earlier,” said Reddit user a_cute_epic_axis on the thread. To which user Clubblendi responded, “I love the Keystone and A Basin rivalry.”
No matter who comes out on top, Colorado skiers will be ready to go when the announcement is finally made. Redditor scorpion252 sums it up well: “Just wanna get after it ;( pray for snow.”