Skiers, Resorts Rejoice Over Early Snowfall

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It's been a snowy fall across the West, and that has skiers and ski resorts in the region cheering. The chairlifts typically start moving around Thanksgiving. But this year many ski areas are boasting their earliest ever openings.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Thanksgiving normally marks the start of the ski season, but like the holiday season itself, it's been creeping earlier and earlier. This year, resorts from Canada to California to Colorado are boasting some of their earliest ever openings. Kirk Siegler of member KUNC visited Arapahoe Basin in Colorado which opened in early October, the earliest in its 63-year-history.

Unidentified man: Whoooo!

SIEGLER: It's only mid-November, but imagine already logging 38 days of skiing. Ralph Hoyt(ph) does need to imagine.

Mr. RALPH HOYT (Skier): If I can, I'm going to ski every day.

SIEGLER: Hoyt moved to Colorado from Florida a year ago and quickly caught on to the local diehard ski culture.

Mr. HOYT: Sadly, before it even started snowing, I was hitting the ice rink in Breckenridge and bringing their snow to my house. So I had a pretty good head start.

SIEGLER: But he's happily making turns in the real stuff now. Enough snow has fallen to tempt a big crowd of powder-hungry skiers to the hills.

(Soundbite of people talking)

SIEGLER: Today it looks like any other busy January day at the bottom of the Exhibition chair lift.

Mr. MIKE CLIFF(ph) (Snowboarder): This is my chair ride up.

SIEGLER: All right.

On the lift, snowboarder Mike Cliff of Denver scans the Rocky's snow-covered peaks along the resorts famed east wall. The cliffs send steep chutes above tree line or Arapahoe - or as local call it, A-Basin's namesake. It's a bastion for extreme skiing.

Mr. CLIFF: Yeah, I've never actually hiked to the top, but I've traversed down low and dropped in. I feel I haven't had enough courage to hit the top yet though.

SIEGLER: And he probably won't today either.

Mr. CLIFF: I might not hit hard until probably the end of November, December, but I'd definitely like to get a couple days in before that.

SIEGLER: Sort of warm up the legs a bit?

Mr. CLIFF: Exactly.

(Soundbite of ski lift)

Ms. JENNIFER KAY(ph) (Skier): Woo-hoo, it's snowing.

SIEGLER: Jennifer Kay is giggling and squinting in the light snow. She's just skidded to a hockey-style stop midway down the Durkham's(ph) Gulch run.

Ms. KAY: I just skied down the blue run from the top of A-Basin. I don't know the name.

SIEGLER: How was it?

Ms. KAY: It was good, yeah, pretty decent snow.

SIEGLER: This too, is Kay's first day on the mountain and she's excited that she can ski from top to bottom even this early in the year.

Ms. KAY: Yeah, well we had a big snow storm in Boulder. We had close to two feet just a couple weeks ago, so it's actually not my first time skiing. I skied in Boulder.

SIEGLER: Further down the mountain along the Ram Rod run, Robbie Bundred(ph) is taking a breather, something that's recommended at 11,500 feet.

Mr. ROBBIE BUNDRED (Skier): It's not a holiday or anything like that, so we just took a weekend to come up here, snow ski, get some snow. We needed it. It's a good break.

SIEGLER: The Bundreds are up Houston visiting friends. They jumped on some early season deals at A-Basin and nearby Breckenridge.

Mr. BUNDRED: We bought skies while we were here and we bought skies for one of the other guy's daughters, and I bought new skies and boots �cause it just was a good time to buy - spend some money, keep the economy moving.

SIEGLER: That's what recession-weary resorts want to hear. Ski areas across the West saw their business take a big hit last year and they're hoping all the early season snow will get people thinking about booking ski vacations this year.

All right so all this chatter about how fun it is out here has made me want to get a piece of the action, so here goes.

(Soundbite of snow crunching)

SIEGLER: For NPR News I'm Kirk Siegler in a tuck at A-Basin in Colorado.

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