How we open new terrain at Breck

You refresh the webpage with the anticipation of a kid on Christmas. “When will the extreme terrain on Peak 6 open?” you think to yourself as you search around for clues. Countless hours of work and preparation go into opening new terrain at any ski resort. The bottom line with opening new terrain, however, is safety. With incredible amounts of snow and wind loading this season, ski patrol has been working harder than ever to prepare the high alpine slopes.

There are three sequential classifications with opening terrain at Breckenridge. “The first category is our snowmaking or early season terrain. We start making snow around October 15 for our November 8 opening. It takes about three weeks to make snow on our ‘opening package.’ About 650 acres of our 2,908 acres are snow making trails,” Director of Mountain Operations Gary Shimanowitz said.

Once snowmaking terrain is opened and safely marked-off, ski patrol focus their attention on the below tree line natural terrain. “When you have decent cover, and there aren’t too many rocks exposed, it can be safely skied. It is patrols’ job to make sure obstacles and runs are appropriately marked off,” said Shimanowitz.

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As the season comes to fruition, which has happened quickly this year, higher alpine terrain takes the stage. This is the hardest and most dangerous terrain to prepare. Ski patrol puts in a ton of hard work to make sure everything is safe.

“The third category is the high alpine terrain, which is all the avalanche areas. Will Barett is our Safety Snow Supervisor here at Breckenridge. He goes out and assesses all the terrain. We shoot it, we patrol it, we put ski pressure on it and we put in ski cuts. You will see ski patrol ‘z’ing’ that terrain to cut it up to consolidate it. Early season we are primarily worried about having a weak layer on the bottom. Now with Peak 6, we have 4 ava-launchers that we use to create controlled slides,” said Shimanowitz.

VailResorts_BRK6446_Nate_Zeman_HighResCurrently, all lifts are running at Breck including the two new lifts on Peak 6. The big question is, now that Peak 6 is open, when will the extreme terrain open? “Patrol is working on Peak 6 now. They have been doing a lot of avalanche control,” said Shimanowitz.

Now that the storms have temporarily passed, leaving Breck with 90 inches in the month of January, control work and blasting is in full swing at Breckenridge. In the coming weeks expect more terrain to open as it becomes safer to enjoy. For now, click here to see what terrain is available at Breckenridge.

–Michael Suleiman