The Denver Post this morning published an unusual editorial regarding the early season opening of several Colorado ski areas. Obviously written by an avid skier, the opinion piece acknowledges the attraction of early November skiing but notes that the risks are not to be ignored:
No doubt, resort owners know they can make more money by opening early, as many skiers and snowboarders gladly accept the crowds for the chance to go down the few runs the snowmakers make possible. But when a resort uses its high-speed lift technology to give thousands of riders per hour the chance to descend only one or two runs, a chaotic atmosphere results.
The editorial argues that during mid-season conditions, the size of the typical Colorado ski area allows dispersion of skiers according to ability over sufficient terrain to maintain a safe density. But – “when a high-speed, four-person chair lift meant to serve several trails drops off 2,400 riders an hour at the top of a single trail or two, the expectation that such a concentration of riders can co-exist responsibly strains credulity.”
Advancements in snowmaking, grooming and high-speed lifts have increased the numbers of skiers on any given slope. Technology may have outstripped the ability of ski area operators to respond to the potential dangers created by the demand. See Deadly Season On Colorado Slopes.
Most ski areas post ski patrol and volunteers to remind guests to maintain safe speeds, but armed with only whistles these sentries are serving tough duty. The large orange SLOW signs are routinely ignored no matter how far the ski season has progressed.
The conclusion of The Denver Post editorial suggests that Colorado ski area operators consider restricting the number of guests allowed on the limited terrain, or slowing the speed of the lifts to reduce numbers, or, the obvious solution, delaying the opening date until a reasonable number of runs can be opened.