Does it seem a little weird to anyone else to be posting about snow skiing in mid-May?!?!
Not around here in Colorado where some of the resorts are open a little later than what some of us are used to!
I actually meant to post this last Friday but I was on vacation and I ended up putting the blog on hold so I could spend some time with my little Irish cousins while they were visiting. Tough cookies!! The reason I specifically chose last Friday, May 8th, is because that was the day Loveland ski area closed for the season.
Some of the lifts at Breckenridge have white boards up on posts where you can see them while you’re going through the lift lines, and the mountain staff will write a trivia question each day. The first time I was there this year the question was, “what are the only two Colorado ski resorts that have a base above 10,000 feet?”
Answer: Arapahoe Basin and Loveland
I personally can feel the difference in my own easily strained breathing being that high up, and I take a couple short breaks on my way down. But all in all, Loveland is a really nice little gem that, like A-Basin, is a “where the locals go” type place that itself is not a resort with any lodging. Because of this, the lift lines tend to be a little shorter (although some of the lifts themselves are noticeably slower!) and lift tickets are cheaper. Being only 53 miles from Denver, it makes for a great day trip and has plenty of terrain to explore.
I’m going to lay this out like I typically do and start (where else?) at the historical beginning! Then I’ll throw in some fun facts to leave you with some conversation starters 🙂
I’m not gonna lie, I got a small shiver looking at this picture of the snow. I have to remind myself that it’s warm and sunny outside and regardless of what the Starks say, winter is NOT coming. Not right now, anyway!
(If we do get a late spring snowstorm, I give you all explicit permission to kick me for jinxing Mother Nature with a Game of Thrones quote. Deal?)
Loveland ski area was first opened in 1936, was operated by J.C. Blickensderfer, and only had one tow line upon opening. It was named after the Loveland Pass, an adjacent zig-zagging mountain road which brings you to Arapahoe Basin. Loveland is the second oldest ski resort area in Colorado, second only to Howelson Hill at Steamboat Springs. It is part of the Arapahoe National Forest system and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains.
After that first season, a man named Al Bennett took over the resort and he upgraded the singular tow line to work with a Model T engine.
In 1941, the official name became the Loveland Ski Tow, Inc. and three more tows were added through 1948. The tows were called A, B, C, and D. No one ever said the lift naming convention at Loveland was creative! 😉
Chair 1 was built in 1955, and chair 2 followed a season behind. The ski area was purchased by a group of stockholders in 1955 and throughout the 50s and 60s, work was centered around the planning and construction of the Eisenhower Tunnel. The tunnel officially opened in 1973.
Ready for your mind to be blown?
The “newer” part of the Loveland ski area is on top of the Eisenhower Tunnel, which is where I-70 (the mountain access highway!) passes through the mountain right underneath the Continental Divide.
Here’s an aerial view:
How cool is that?! The ridge at the top of the mountains in this photo is the Continental Divide. Per Wikipeida, the Eisenhower tunnel is “noted as the longest mountain tunnel and highest point on the Interstate Highway System”.
So, since the tunnel was in the planning phases and there was fresh land available and it was all just SCREAMING to be a part of Loveland’s recognized terrain, chairs 3 and 4 were built in the 1960s.
The owner at the time of tunnel construction, Chet Upham, along with his general manager, Otto Werlin, took note of how compressors and pumps worked in boring holes through a literal mountain, and using the same general idea they created the concept of making artificial snow. They brought the concept to life in 1984 and it’s now used at plenty of ski areas across the world.
The 80s and 90s consisted largely of equipment upgrades and expansion with the addition of chairs 8 and 9, bringing Loveland close to where it is now in terms of skiable terrain.
- Highest elevation is at 13,010′ with the base at 10,600′
- 94 total runs (46% of which is expert!) with 1800 skiable acres, 100 of which are hikeable
- Loveland begins the “Race to Open” in September when they begin making snow, culminating in Opening Day which is usually mid-October
- The resort horseshoes around the Eisenhower/Johnson tunnels sitting atop the Continental Divide and receives an average of 422″ of snow per year
- Actually broken into two different ski areas: the Basin and the Valley. The Valley is serviced by two lifts and is mainly for beginners and ski school classes. The Basin makes up the majority of Loveland ski area and contains all the rest of the intermediate and expert terrain. The two areas are connected by bus.
- The longest run is 2 miles in glorious, powdery distance
This is always my favorite part! The lesser known facts about my topics that give you an edge in certain conversations with locals. Study it. Remember it. Regurgitate it. Here we go…
Chair 9 was a later addition servicing an area of terrain called “the Ridge”. The Ridge consists of 4800 acres of terrain right off of chair 9 with much of the hikeable acreage as well. There is also a Ridge Cat that goes to the area’s summit where you can participate in free snowcat skiing.
And oh by the way, Chair 9 is the 3rd highest ski lift in the WORLD, 2nd highest in the country, second only to Breckenridge’s Imperial Express Superchair. Heyoooo!
Also free at Loveland, and definitely NOT at most other places, is the Uphill Access Pass which allows people who don’t ride the lift to ski for free.
If any of you are like me, you’re probably thinking, if they don’t take a lift, then how the heck do they get up the mountain?!
Remember how I mentioned 100 acres of hikeable terrain?
There is a special breed of outdoorsy adventurous folk who take Colorado mountain living to a whole new level, and they actually ski UP the mountain.
This act of bypassing the ski lift and literally skiing up the mountain is called skinning, and requires 1) special bindings, 2) synthetic skins that go on the bottom of skis allowing them to be used in an uphill fashion, and 3) energy. The energy of a hummingbird and supernatural lung capacity as far as I’m concerned.
But people do it all the time and get in a run or two in the mornings, along with a killer workout before going to work. I’d say it sounds awful… but I haven’t tried it, and I can’t knock it til I’ve tried it! That’s certainly ONE way to do it…
Loveland has a nice headwall off of Chair 1 and these runs have some of the steepest continuous stretches in the state of Colorado.
In 1995, the LUV received its highest annual snowfall on record, reaching 586″ of pow! In addition to the ski slopes, other winter activities to do here include sleigh rides, ice skating, cross country skiing and snowshoeing.
Loveland’s ski patrol is one of only a few in the Rockies that offer young adult ski patrol training, giving the students equal responsibility to that of the adults. Pretty rad.
Lastly, to leave some of you with some excitement for future terrain potential, there is a possible expansion area to the right of Chair 8! For now, we wait, but the future could hold a nice new addition to the ski area.
Now I got myself kind of pumped again for winter. And it’s only May.
Here are some photos from a couple of my trips to the LUV – beautiful days both times with great people!
Now who’s coming to visit?!