Visitation to high country tubing hills climbed over the holidays as snow-strapped ski resorts struggled to open more terrain. The tubing hill at the new Frisco Adventure Park saw booming business over the holiday. (Jason Blevins)
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FRISCO, Colo. - Colorado ski resorts are opening to light crowds because of a dry fall and lack of snow. But a relatively new activity is coming in handy for skiers bummed by lack of snow - snow tubing.
Frisco Adventure Park says it set a Thanksgiving record this year on its tubing hill. The record-breaking opening day drew 600 people.
The Summit Daily News reported Friday that the tubing hill is exceeding expectations in its third season.
"We have seen great growth from the first season to last season and expect to see growth this season," said Jennifer Printz, guest services manager. "With the beautiful days we're going to have, the tubing hill is one of the few places to find snow to play on. I know a lot of people would like to see a snowstorm and ski runs opening up like crazy but we don't- this is the best alternative for sure."
Mike Immer from St. Louis, bringing with him a group of 11, said the activity was great for the whole family. But he was disappointed with the amount of snow.
"In general we're disappointed that there's not more snow. We arrived here 15 years ago for a similar vacation and there was a ton, it's a little disheartening that there's not more snow," he said.
Snowmaking operations for the tubing hill began Oct. 15 but having the conditions to open, has been a challenge, Frisco Adventure Park operations manager Josh Olson said.
"It's been a bit of a struggle with the temperatures and weather we've had. We've only had one cold week for snowmaking since we started," Olson said. "But we're really happy being able to open on Thanksgiving, we scraped it together and managed to get it open and we're pretty excited about that."
Even with the lack of snow, the holiday spirit among the families that traveled far for Thanksgiving weekend and the employees working the holiday, was abundant.
Thursday was opening day at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. A lack of winter weather kept the Aspen Skiing Co. from opening as many runs as it normally would on opening day, most people kicking off the ski season Thursday were taking a positive outlook on the conditions.
"It was awesome today," said Shayna Yellon, of Snowmass Village, who rode Snowmass on Thursday and got to the slopes around 9:30 a.m. "The quality of snow is better than I expected. The crowds picked up later in the afternoon, but it was just a great day to get out there and get it started this season."
Others said they don't expect great snow on opening day and didn't mind the conditions. Dennis Lytle of Basalt told The Aspen Times he felt he had to get a couple runs in for opening day regardless of how few were open.
"You wear your best Christmas sweater and get up and do it," he said. "It's a goofy day, right. We're not really out to shred today. It's just coming out to hang out and get excited about the winter."