Colorado resorts open for 2001-2002 ski season 

Kelowna's Big White gets first tracks in B.C.

Ski resorts in Colorado and the B.C. Interior kicked off the 2001-02 ski season last week after they opened their slopes to limited skiing and snowboarding.

Intrawest-owned Copper Mountain garnered this year's first-open bragging rights as it opened on Oct. 17.

Skiers and boarders carved up a 270 vertical-metre intermediate run on a 45-centimetre base of manmade snow.

Copper Mountain, located in Colorado's Summit County, 120 kilometres west of Denver and 30 kilometres east of Vail, was closed to the public after the initial two-day opening but will re-open Nov. 3.

In the meantime, national ski teams from the U.S and other countries will be using Copper to train for upcoming World Cup races and in preparation for the Olympics.

On Oct. 18, Colorado's Loveland Ski Area opened a trio of 300 vertical-metre runs on 45 centimetres of manmade snow.

According to published reports, some skiers and snowboarders had been camping out in Loveland's parking lot waiting for the first chair of the season.

"Opening days generate an excitement that can only be felt on the mountain," explained David Perry, president of Colorado Ski Country USA.

Located atop the Continental Divide at 3,900 metres, Loveland has North America's highest lift-serviced terrain and will open more runs as conditions permit.

Thirty years ago, the Colorado ski area opened even earlier, on Sept. 30.

Big White, near Kelowna, was the first B.C. resort to open this season as skiers and boarders made tracks Oct. 20 down a 100 vertical-metre run on 30 centimetres of natural snow.

"It's just fantastic that we're able to offer reasonable early season conditions to ski or snowboard on," said Michael Ballingall, Big White's vice president.

The resort spent $1 million on an extensive summer grooming program this year in order to open as early as possible.

Big White will be open on weekends until the rest of the mountain is opened on Nov. 22.

The open beginner run is located close to Big White's village, which sits at an elevation on 1,750 metres.

Whistler Village, by comparison, sits at 675 metres. Whistler's Roundhouse Lodge and Blackcomb's Rendezvous are at an elevation of 1,850 metres.

Meanwhile, Whistler-Blackcomb is continuing to prepare for its Nov. 22 opening. Snowmaking guns are currently being put into place on the two mountains.

According to the Whistler-Blackcomb public relations department, there is more than 40 centimetres of natural snow on the mountains, with more expected through this weekend.

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