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A visitor flies into Denver from sea level, rents a car and drives up to Summit County. Braving the traffic, potholes and white-knuckle turns along the Interstate 70 mountain corridor, they get to one of the more amazing sights in Colorado: a dazzling blue Lake Dillon framed by the majestic Gore Range with rolling, green pine forests all around.

They decide not to waste any time, and they go for a hike as soon as they get here. Not too long into the hike, they start feeling a little lightheaded, and a headache starts gnawing at their temples. Farther along, their breaths get shorter. Before they’re halfway up, everything in their body is telling them to stop. They’re nauseated, dizzy and their muscles are aching.

Suddenly, their trip to the Colorado Rocky Mountains becomes a medical emergency.

What they’re experiencing is called altitude sickness, and it’s caused by hypoxia, a lack of oxygen in body tissue. Understanding hypoxia is the key to unlocking many mysteries of human health at elevation, including why so many people who live at high elevation are able to thrive.

In this first part of the Summit Daily News’ annual Longevity Project series, we explore how high altitude affects the biological and physiological processes, what performance gains the human body can experience after spending enough time at high altitude, and why some people — especially endurance athletes — thrive here.

Running out of air

Hypoxia can be acute or chronic and occurs when body tissue receives less oxygen then normal. At high elevations, about 8,000 or more feet above sea level, hypoxia occurs because there is lower barometric pressure. Lower pressure means less air drawn into the body with each breath, which also means less oxygen in the lungs. The towns of Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco and Silverthorne are all above 9,000 feet, making them hypoxic environments.

Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos, a pediatrician who runs the Ebert Family Clinic in Frisco, has been studying the effects of high elevation on human health for two decades.

She said lower oxygen absorption in the lungs results in lower peripheral capillary oxygen saturation, measurable with a pulse oximeter, which in turn leads to lower oxygen saturation in red blood cells.

A pulse oximeter reading at sea level is normally at 100%. In Denver, peripheral capillary oxygen saturation is usually around 95-96%. Up in Summit, oxygen saturation is around 92%. Visitors coming to Summit from sea level might see their oxygen saturation drop to around 88% or lower before reaching levels typical at this elevation.

Any oxygen saturation level below 100% is considered low, while measurements in the mid-80s could be a real health concern. Below 80%, organ function is disrupted.

“If your oxygen saturation drops below 30%, you will probably die within a few hours,” Ebert-Santos said.

While people don’t drop dead from oxygen starvation in Summit, some do get very sick.

Charles Pitman, spokesman for Summit County Rescue Group, said his team goes out on calls all the time to help people who didn’t prepare properly for high altitude.

“People come up to altitude, but they don’t acclimatize. They drive up to Summit County and want to do a very arduous climb the next day,” Pitman said. “It takes three, maybe four days to acclimatize. By not allowing themselves to do that, they not only get tired, but they’re dehydrated and don’t use the best judgment.”

Pitman said the two primary indicators of a person experiencing altitude sickness are headaches and an inability to speak. He said people experiencing dehydration and altitude sickness often see the summit of whatever mountain they’re hiking, ignore the symptoms and push forward to their goal, making more poor decisions along the way. He said the rescue group has a term for that behavior: summit-itis.

“We’ve seen many cases of extreme dehydration over the years,” Pitman said. “When we find them, it’s very difficult to run a line to get fluids because their veins have collapsed.”

Pitman’s best advice for people coming up to high elevation from lower elevations is to be educated and to listen to their body.

“Don’t push yourself,” Pitman said. “A lot of people are short on time and try to maximize the number of things they’ll do, and it can be very challenging for them. We see that quite frequently. People need to take at least a day or two to acclimatize.”

For adventurers who want practical advice on how to avoid altitude sickness, there are few people on the planet with more experience or daring than mountaineer and explorer Mike Libecki, who was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2013.

Libecki has conducted more than 90 expeditions to the North Pole, South Pole and many of the unexplored, untouched parts of the planet found in between — even places that have never been named. While he prefers technical climbing, Libecki is well-versed on what it means to perform at altitude, having climbed to 23,000 feet above sea level.

Libecki said the most important part of a high elevation trip is preparation and physical training — the parts he calls “easy.” Beyond that, it’s about staying hydrated, taking your time, and being cognizant about how everyone can get altitude sickness, no matter what physical shape you’re in.

“One time, our whole team went up a little too fast, and we had to go back down to 16,000 feet to get hydrated and adjust,” Libecki said. “It’s a pretty simple concept: Take your time. I’m not an Everest guy, but these high altitude climbs can be just as challenging as climbing it.”

Acclimatization

Those seeking a high elevation panacea that will allow them to quickly acclimatize are out of luck — the human body just doesn’t work that way. Dr. Benjamin Honigman, director emeritus of the Altitude Research Center based out of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, said that should not be the goal for people traveling to high altitude.

“I don’t think quicker is the idea. Safely is a better way to put it,” Honigman said. “The body takes some time to adjust. Trying to speed the process along is one of the factors predisposed to making people sicker. If you’re trying to focus on speed of acclimation, we don’t have ability to do that yet.”

Honigman said there are medications that can lessen the effects of altitude sickness. One such medication is acetazolamide, which is better known under the brand name Diamox. Honigman said medications can decrease the incidences of getting sick from as high as 30% to 5-8%.

As far as the most readily available remedies for altitude sickness — like those bottles of oxygen you can buy at mountain gas stations — they’re more or less useless.

“Those oxygen canisters might make people feel better for three or four minutes, but once off it, you’re back at altitude, so there’s no real utilization for them,” Honigman said.


Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos consults a paper and discusses high-altitude health and living at the Ebert Family Clinic on Thursday, Aug. 29, in Frisco.

The oxygen saturation level at which the body starts trying to compensate depends on a person’s hypoxia inducible factor, which varies by individual and is determined mostly by genetics.

“The hypoxia inducible factor is a protein complex that affects the body’s response to low oxygen by changing the expression of hundreds of genes in various ways, such as increasing the number of small blood vessels bringing oxygen to tissues,” Ebert-Santos said. “It’s a response to your body recognizing that it is not getting enough oxygen as it had been getting previously. If it goes on long enough, the body knows it needs to do something internally because it’s not getting something externally.”

Once the hypoxia inducible factor is activated, kidneys send out a hormone called erythropoietin, also known as EPO. Ebert-Santos said EPO can be detected in the body as soon as two hours after arriving at high elevation, showing how quickly human physiology reacts to oxygen level changes.

The EPO pushes a signal to the bone marrow, which is in charge of producing new red blood cells. The signal tells bone marrow that it needs to pump up its production of red blood cells and hemoglobin, the iron-based protein in red blood cells that absorbs and carries oxygen throughout the body.

The bone marrow obliges and starts sending more hemoglobin-rich red blood cells into the blood stream. These new cells, having a higher capacity for oxygen, compensate for the lower oxygen at altitude by carrying more oxygen away from the lungs to the tissue as they circulate.

Honigman said the hypoxia inducible factor and its regulation of EPO is a primary reason for how the body is able to acclimate to high elevation environments.

“The hypoxia inducible factor is a regulator of oxygen and how it is utilized in the cell,” Honigman said. “The factor upregulates EPO over time so that your body can adjust to lower amounts of oxygen in that environment.”

Ebert-Santos said that, while the EPO effect starts kicking in relatively quickly, it takes a while for the body to acclimatize to the point where it functions as normal with lower oxygen saturation. It might be a few days, or maybe even months, before the body feels like it is getting enough oxygen.

EPO and performance

Aside from helping the body acclimatize, EPO has a performance-boosting effect. An athlete with a higher red blood cell count and hemoglobin concentration won’t get fatigued as quickly and will be able to perform longer.

After Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France wins and banned from competitive cycling for life, EPO is one of the banned substances he admitted injecting into his body.

“My cocktail, so to speak, was EPO — but not a lot — transfusions and testosterone,” Armstrong said in his confession interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2013.

Roberto Ebert-Santos, Dr. Ebert-Santos’ son as well as a researcher and communications manager for the Ebert Family Clinic, has studied human performance at high altitude. He said the performance gains from a low oxygen environment can be offset by detrimental effects.

“There’s this misconception that training at high altitude is advantageous because of the oxygen deprivation, but it is so much more complex that,” he said. “The oxygen deprivation limits your performance in every other aspect. You can’t exert muscles to their fullest capacity because you will run out of respiratory stamina before you even get to the point where your muscles are tired.”

Because of the lower oxygen saturation, athletes never will be able to reach their maximum oxygen uptake level, expressed as VO2 max.

“Your heart and lung capacity is the limiting factor in training at high altitude,” he said.

That is why some athletes live by the “live high, train low” philosophy, where they live at high altitude to maximize blood oxygen efficiency and train at low altitudes to max out their workouts.

“‘Live high, train low’ centers around this philosophy that if you expose yourself for a certain amount of time to a high altitude environment, your body will create enough red blood cells to compensate for oxygen deprivation,” Roberto Ebert-Santos said. “But you want to train at low elevation to push your body to the extent you can allow your muscles to be challenged and grow.”

Dr. Ebert-Santos added that being born at high altitude provides some physiological advantages that can give a definite edge for endurance sports.

“Being born at high altitude gives an advantage for cardiovascular fitness,” she said. “People born at high altitude have larger lungs and higher lung capacity, which can certainly be an advantage for endurance sports. Muscles also develop more capillaries because there’s more circulation.”


Local runner Nichole Sellon tackles a trail at the west ridge of Loveland Pass on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

High altitude performance

Summit County resident Nichole Sellon, 33, has been trail running since she was 22. Born in Los Angeles, Sellon doesn’t have the cardiovascular advantages of being born at high elevtion. When she first arrived in Summit County in 2015, Sellon said she experienced the same adjustment period others do when moving to high elevation.

“For the first six to eight months, I had the obvious signs. It was harder to exercise, as soon as I hit a hill, my breathing shot up a lot quicker than at sea level,” Sellon said. “I was more of a hiker the first six months than a runner.”

After she was fully acclimatized, Sellon embraced the high elevation life in Summit, with its endless trails to explore and ridgelines to ramble over. Her passion became her everyday workout, making her fit enough to do things at sea level most people would never dream of attempting.

In August, while visiting her father in Palm Springs, California Sellon decided on a whim to do the Cactus to Clouds hike, one of the steepest, most grueling hikes in the country. In summer 2009, three people died attempting what has been called “the hardest hike in America.”

The hike starts at 400 feet above sea level in downtown Palm Springs and ends at 10,833 feet at the summit of San Jacinto Peak. That’s more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain within 16 miles. San Jacinto Peak is the sixth most topographically prominent peak in the lower 48 states, meaning it is the sixth highest summit relative to the surrounding terrain.

The hike starts in the desert and ends at the top of a mountain, with temperature extremes at both ends. Sellon said it took her six hours to get to the peak.

“It went really well, and I think it’s because I live at altitude,” she said. “I felt strong, and it felt easy going the distance. I didn’t feel out of breath, and in fact felt like I had a lot more oxygen to work with. It’s definitely easier to do things at sea level than before I moved to Summit.”

ABasin to Join Ikon Pass starting winter 2019-20!!!!

by Summit Daily

FRISCO — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area announced Friday morning that it would partner with Alterra Mountain Co. and join the Ikon Pass starting this winter.

The news comes more than five months after A-Basin ended its more than 20-year partnership with Vail Resorts on Feb. 18 citing overcrowding in its parking lots, facilities and restaurants.

“We think we’re ready to go this on our own,” A-Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth said in February, and spokeswoman Katherine Fuller said in March that A-Basin was “discussing opportunities with several resorts and resort groups.”

In an email blast announcing the news Friday, Henceroth said the new pass partnership would provide more “elbow room” than in previous seasons.

“I think everyone that has been skiing here for the last several years has realized how busy we’ve become, and we really wanted to address that,” Henceroth said on the phone Friday.

Asked how joining another pass product would help with crowding, Henceroth said the scale of Ikon is nowhere near the scale of Epic.

“We are very confident this is going to address the crowding issues we’ve been talking about for a while,” he said.

Henceroth said the Ikon Pass partnership also will help reduce crowds because the passes offer a limited number of days with blackout periods.

Ikon passholders will have seven days at A-Basin with no blackout dates, and Ikon Base passholders will get five days with blackout dates over the holidays.

“We’re committed to getting quite a few less people here over those busy periods,” he said.

Also in the Friday email blast, Henceroth said he personally skis at many of the Ikon Pass resorts — including Alta and Snowbird in Utah, Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in California — and that their brands are “in sync” with A-Basin.

“We really think when we look at the Ikon partners … we think those are resorts whose brand is really in sync with our brand, and people who like to ski A-Basin will like to ski those places, too,” Henceroth said.

“For us, it’s really about maintaining the culture and the vibe” of A-Basin, he said.

The news means Summit County is now split with Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort on the Epic Pass and A-Basin and Copper Mountain Resort on Ikon.

The news also puts the pass war tally even in Colorado, with six resorts on each pass:

Ikon Pass: A-Basin, Aspen Snowmass, Copper, Eldora Mountain Resort, Steamboat Resort and Winter Park Resort
Epic Pass: Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Crested Butte, Keystone, Telluride and Vail

Need something to do in Summit County this mud season? Start here...

by Summit Daily Heather Jarvis

Mud season. The name says it all. While the sloppy trails keep some tourists away, the spring off-season is actually a time to break out and try some new adventures. After most of the resorts stop spinning their lifts in April, there’s a quietness around Summit County where residents have a chance to recharge and enjoy the season before summer hits.

While we call it the off-season, there are still plenty of activities and things to do around the county. In fact, it’s one of the best times of the year to find deals at local eateries and businesses. It’s also one of the best times to get outside and revel in the solitude.

OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

Hike along Lake Dillon (free)

While most of the trails are a muddy mess, the Summit County recpath system is a great option to stretch the legs. The recpath has plenty of routes to choose from with a variety of difficulty levels. For pathway locations, rules, regulations, etiquette guidelines and ADA accessibility information, go to: SummitCountyCo.gov/1130/Recreational-Pathway

Road biking (free with your own bike)

Bring your bike and cruise along the recpath system or on the roads. For a challenge, ride the 18-mile, 1,100-foot climb around Lake Dillon. The route has one significant climb and descent over Swan Mountain Road on the south side of the lake. A round trip from Breckenridge will extend the ride even further, for 31 miles with 1,600 feet of climb.

Bike and ski (free/$)

Bike and ski all in the same day by packing your gear and riding eastbound up Highway 6 to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the resort in Summit County that stays open the longest. Expect A-Basin to be open through at least May, but depending on snow conditions it sometimes stays open through the month of June. In a really good snow year, you might even be able to ski into June or July, making a ski-in-the-morning, golf-in-the-afternoon day possible.

Guided bike tours ($)

Discover Breckenridge on a bike with a guided tour from Breck Bike Guides (CycleBreck.com) or Colorado Adventure Guides (ColoradoAdventureGuides.com). Kick it up a notch and take a guided fat bike beer and distillery tour with Ridden Breckenridge (BreckenridgeBikeTours.com).

Ski and music (free/$)

Ski during the day or just come for the free music on Saturdays at Arapahoe Basin. The ski area’s Shakin’ at the Basin Spring Concert series begins April 27 with music from 1–4 p.m. in the Mountain Goat Plaza base area. For more information, go to ArapahoeBasin.com/events/

Take the Summit Stage from Keystone or town, visit SummitStage.com for route information and times.

Guided fly-fishing on the Blue ($)

While the spring runoff can make the temperatures in the Blue River downright chilly, those willing to suit up and brave the water will be rewarded. Water temperature fluctuates from February through March or April, and the bugs begin to hatch, according to the crew at Cutthroat Anglers. Fish such as rainbow trout and cutthroat trout are very active this time of year feeding on the bugs before they start to spawn.

“You definitely want to wear waders, that’s the main difference,” a Cutthroat Anglers manager said about fly-fishing in the spring compared to the summer. “Don’t hesitate to get out and give it a try.”

Don’t have your own gear or just want to find the best fishing holes? Check out these local shops for guided trips:

Cutthroat Anglers: 400 Blue River Parkway, Silverthorne. 970-262-2878

The Colorado Angler: 249 Summit Place, Silverthorne. 970-513-8055

Mountain Angler: 311 S. Main St., Breckenridge. 800-453-4669

Trouts Fly Fishing: 309 Main St., Frisco. 970-668-2583

Breckenridge Outfitters: 101 N. Main St. B, Breckenridge. 970-453-4135

Early season rafting ($)

May can be a fantastic time to go rafting: river flow is high, there are less people on the water and some outfitters offer early season discounts. Weather does play a part in early season rafting and May in Colorado is unpredictable, said Lauren Swanson, marketing and relations manager for Performance Tours Rafting.

“Weather in Colorado varies minute-by-minute and sometimes mile-by-mile,” she said. “We recommend getting the gear to prepare for colder water and changing conditions. Opt for the wetsuit, splash jacket and bootie rentals. You can also bring additional layers made from quick-dry outdoor materials like wool, fleece, micro-fleece, polyester and waterproof layers.”

While bigger spring flows equal more excitement, they aren’t always for beginners. Check with your local rafting company on river flows, which can vary from day to day in May. Swanson said sometimes they will raise the minimum age on specific trips or pull off some of the class 4+ sections during peak flows for safety.

“We will always communicate these changes with our guests and offer alternative options customized to their experience and expectations,” she said. “Because we are able to make these decisions for the safety of our guests, we are confident that early season rafting is a great experience for all skill levels and abilities.”

INDOORS

Escape rooms ($)

The weather in the spring can be variable, with warm temperatures and sunny skies one day and dumping snow the next. For those looking to stay indoors but still be entertained, check out Summit County’s escape rooms. The game involves getting a group of players together to solve puzzles and riddles using clues hidden around a room in order to “escape” within the allowed time.

“Escape Rooms are such a unique experience for all ages — everybody can have fun,” said Nicolette Cusick, owner of Escape Room Breckenridge. “They are a great way for family, friends or co-workers to work together and bond. It is also great during mud season because it is indoors so weather is not a factor.”

Voted “best indoor activity” in the Summit Daily’s annual Best of Summit contest, Escape Room Breckenridge was the first escape room to open in the county. EscapeRoomBreckenridge.com

Brewery tour ($)

There are an abundance of breweries in Summit County, requiring a designated driver and multiple days to try them all. Here’s the list by town:

Breckenridge

Broken Compass Brewing: 68 Continental Court Unit B-12

Breckernridge Brewery & Pub: 600 S. Main St.

Frisco

HighSide Brewing: 720 Main St.

Outer Range Brewing Company: 182 Lusher Court, Frisco

Silverthorne

The Bakers’ Brewery: 531 Silverthorne Lane

Angry James Brewing Company: 421 Adams Ave.

Dillon

Pug Ryan’s Brewery: 104 Village Place

Dillon Dam Brewery: 100 Little Dam St.

Recreation Center ($)

Get a day pass at either the Breckenridge or Silverthorne recreation centers and let the kids run loose. The recently remodeled Breckenridge Recreation Center offers all the traditional workout spaces plus a gymnasium, racquetball court, indoor rock-climbing wall and aerobic/dance studios. The aquatics area features lap and leisure pools, the Summit Plummit water slide, coed sauna, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs. 880 Airport Road. 970-453-1734.

The Silverthorne Recreation Center has a large aquatics area, gymnasium, indoor track, fitness equipment and offers classes for all levels. The rec center also offers on-site child care for parents using the facility. 430 Rainbow Drive, Silverthorne. 970-272-7370.

 

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Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Vail Resorts end pass partnership; VR announces new ‘Keystone Plus Pass’

Light shines on Arapahoe Basin Ski Area's East Wall as seen on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Hugh Carey / [email protected]

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area announced Monday it will not continue its pass partnership program with Vail Resorts next season.

In a statement announcing the news on its website, officials with A-Basin pointed to “a pinch on parking and facility space” as a reason for the breakup.

“Due to these constraints,” the statement read, “Arapahoe Basin believes its staff can take better care of its guests by separating from Vail Resorts.”

“With diverse ski runs including some of the most intense terrain in North America and a culinary operation that is regularly listed among the top 10 in the country, the ski area has developed a very special community that feels like home,” A-Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth wrote. “In order to continue to build on this spirit and the experience we have created, Arapahoe Basin and Vail Resorts will not be renewing their pass partnership for the 2019/2020 season.”

The announcement cited the growth both in popularity and skier visitation the ski area has seen after investing 40 million dollars over the last 15 years. On his A-Basin blog, Henceroth provided more explanation behind A-Basin’s perspective on the end of the partnership, and also said although there is that pinch on parking and facility space, the mountain “still has plenty of room for skiers and riders.”

“Looking forward,” Henceroth wrote, “we strive to provide ready and easy access for our guests. Our goal is to minimize waiting and crowding and maximize experiences and fun.”

The COO added that currently the ski area has no new partnerships to announce, however, in the coming months A-Basin will be discussing opportunities with several resorts and resort groups.

 

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area chief operating officer Alan Henceroth comments on A-Basin and Vail Resorts severing ties for the 2019-20 ski season and the possibility of A-Basin entering into an agreement with another ski area or group.

Posted by Summit Daily News on Monday, February 18, 2019

“Skiers and riders that call A-Basin home can feel good knowing the resort will still offer tremendous value and exceptional mountain experiences,” Henceroth continued on his blog. “These actions are designed to preserve that special culture and vibe people expect when they choose to spend a day at The Basin. The future for Arapahoe Basin is very bright.”

The COO also clarified that the 2018-19 Vail Resorts season passes will remain valid at A-Basin for the remainder of the 2018-19 season.

Vail Resorts announces new ‘Keystone Plus Pass’
Shortly after A-Basin announced the end of the partnership, Vail Resorts released its own statement announcing the “Keystone Plus Pass,” a new option to replace the Keystone A-Basin Pass.

In its statement, officials with Vail Resorts said the new pass will provide unlimited access to Keystone Resort with holiday restrictions, unlimited late spring skiing at Breckenridge Ski Resort starting April 1 and five days at Crested Butte, with holiday restrictions. The pass will have a starting price of $369 for adults and $259 for kids. The Keystone Plus Pass will go on sale when Epic Pass products launch in spring 2019.

The Keystone A-Basin Pass has historically been a popular choice among Summit County locals and transient skiers alike as a reasonably priced pass (less than $400) that provides an ability to ski and ride not only at the two destinations located just miles from one another, but also night skiing at Keystone.

Vail Resorts also announced that beginning next season, all of the company’s unlimited season pass products will include 10 buddy tickets, which is an increase from the six previously offered on the Epic Pass, Epic Local Pass, Summit Value Pass. Buddy tickets are daily lift tickets offered at a flat discounted rate for friends and family of pass holders. This will be included with the Keystone Plus Pass, Tahoe Local Pass, and Tahoe Value Pass when purchased before the customary April deadline.

“We are excited to offer a new pass that provides skiing and riding from mid-October through Memorial Day at Keystone and Breckenridge, at an incredible value,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer for Vail Resorts, in the statement. “We want to thank Arapahoe Basin for their partnership for over 20 years. We are disappointed but given the success they have had and their recent investments into the resort, we respect that this is the right time for them to move in a different direction.”

In its release, Vail Resorts also pointed to how it is positioning for both Keystone and Breckenridge resorts to offer “one of the longest ski and snowboard seasons in the country.” In recent months, Vail Resorts announced capital investments into Keystone Resort’s snowmaking that the company hopes will help position the resort to be the first to open in the U.S. The company also announced that, pending U.S. Forest Service approval, Breckenridge Ski Resort will annually extend winter seasons through Memorial Day, extending its season by more than a month.

Historically, along with Loveland Ski Area in neighboring Clear Creek County, A-Basin has been the first or one of the first ski areas to open in the country. It also typically stays open later than most any other resort in the country.

Christy Sports in Dillon Now Open!

by Summit Daily

Almost one year after the Christy Sports Ski and Patio in Dillon tore down its building to create a “signature store” in its place, the business is back with a spacious new structure that’s hard to overlook.

Christy Sports has more than 55 locations across four states, making it one of the largest specialty retailers of winter sports gear in the U.S. However, the company has only four signature stores, including ones in Avon, Boulder and Park Meadows.

The newest signature store is more than 17,000 square feet and occupies a prominent location at West Anemone Trail and Highway 6 in Dillon, just off one of Summit County’s most traveled thoroughfares.

“We’re loving it,” said Andy Turner, a sales associate with five years of experience at Christy Sports. “It’s an amazing store to work in, and we have a ton of space to work with; that’s what I like the most.”

The additional space wasn’t lost on a man and woman who live Keystone and were leaving the store Tuesday after securing some demo gear for late-season skiing. Having known the old store, its wonky layout and limited space, they both appreciated the new building.

“I think it’s beautiful and the service is really friendly,” the woman said. “We’ve been going to Christy’s for many years and it’s good. My only complaint is (the new building) blocks the view when you come down the hill.”

The friendly, helpful customer experience is exactly what Christy Sports in Dillon hopes to reproduce again and again, both with its new building and its staff, explained Brian Sullivan, Christy Sports’ director of operations in Summit County and Winter Park.

With the new building, Christy Sports is also planning a grand-opening celebration sometime next fall, just ahead of the 2019-20 ski season. However, right now the workers are just happy to be settling into the new space, as they reopened the business inside the new building on Saturday.

Construction is all but done, yet some landscaping work remains. Still, anyone who’s driven through Dillon this winter has likely noticed the massive building that’s punctuated by large windows.

“This is the newest signature store for Christy Sports,” said general manager Adam Gillespie, as he led the newspaper on a tour of the new building and its three floors on Tuesday.

A wide-open sales floor with vaulted ceilings welcomes customers inside. With racks of socks, helmets and everything in between, Christy Sports has all of the necessary winter gear, from warm base layers to protective ski shells and pants, that someone might need for a day on the slopes.

Up a flight of stairs underneath large white letters that read “We Love Snow,” customers will find Christy Sports’ new skis, ski boots and its rental equipment, including packages for skiers and snowboarders with different styles and experience.

With 100-plus models on the ski wall, Gillespie said, Christy Sports carries all of the biggest brands. However, the highlight of the second floor is probably the building’s floor-to-ceiling windows, which take up the northwest corner of the floor to reveal spectacular views of Buffalo Mountain and Silverthorne below.

“It really brings the outside in,” Gillespie said. “Honestly, I think it’s one of the coolest buildings in the county.”

Employees boast the new store will also have the “biggest rental fleet” in Summit County, and downstairs from the main floor resides the ski shop and some office space on the garden level. Altogether, it’s a building that’s been custom-made to Christy Sports’ liking.

This comes after Christy Sports’ old store was carved out of a building that once housed multiple businesses. Eventually, Christy Sports took over the whole building and — with a few remodeling projects — made it work for as long as the business could.

“But it just wasn’t enough for the community and for what we were trying to do,” Gillespie said, adding that they had simply outgrown the old building.

And so the decision was made to knock it down and rebuild on the site. Gillespie said the entire project was more than five years in the making, and during the year that Christy Sports was locked in construction work, the business was grateful to find a temporary home inside the Outlets at Silverthorne.

During the demolition, he added, many of the materials were recycled, as Gillespie said that Christy Sports did its best to prevent them from going into the landfill.

“To pull this size of a project off … we just feel really, really excited and happy how well we all came together as a team,” he said.

In mid-May, the Dillon store will retool its inventory and bring in a wide variety of outdoor patio furniture. Gillespie said he doesn’t think anyone will beat their selection, while Sullivan added that it all means people won’t have to drive down to Denver to get what they want.

Christy Sports was founded in 1958. The company’s headquarters are in Lakewood and now has over 55 locations in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Washington.

Additionally, the Christy Sports in Dillon will again offer its Powder Daze Sale for Labor Day weekend, which has become a hugely popular event, especially among locals looking for bargains.

 

VRBO ranks Breckenridge top destination among US ski resorts

by Eli Pace Summit Daily

This photo shows a Breckenridge home that rents for $5,000 a night on average. The popular website accommodations company has tagged Breckenridge as the most popular ski destination for the 2019-20 ski season based on the company’s data.
Courtesy of VRBO.com

 

Surprise, surprise, it’s Breckenridge — again.

The Summit County resort town consistently ranked among the top destinations in Colorado and the U.S. has just been pinpointed by VRBO.com as “the most popular ski season destination among travelers for the 2018-19 ski season.”

A VRBO spokeswoman said the travel accommodations website won’t reveal how many guest arrivals or booked nights there were for Breckenridge properties, but she confirmed that the town is in higher demand than any other comparable destination for VRBO.com.

Behind Breckenridge was Park City, Utah, followed by Mammoth Lakes, California, in third, according to VRBO’s rankings.

While VRBO won’t release figures on bookings, some of the statistics that it did publicize regarding the short-term rentals in Breckenridge were jaw dropping.

Based on the properties listed with its website, VRBO says vacation-rental homeowners in the Breckenridge area can charge over $3,325 a week renting out their homes at peak times during the ski season.

The spokeswoman said that figure — derived from a $475 nightly rate — was taken on average and does not simply reflect VRBO’s most expensive rentals, which can run up to $5,000 a night in Breckenridge.

The numbers don’t include any of VRBO’s fees, either, the spokeswoman said, adding that the data points should be taken as “ballpark figures” for what homeowners in Breckenridge might charge listing their homes with VRBO.

“What you would actually net is specific to (the situation),” she explained, adding that the company has different working models for homeowners that can affect the owners’ incomes.

But over half of all VRBO owners use that income to cover at least 75 percent of their mortgage payments, said Bill Furlong, vice president of VRBO’s North American business, in a prepared statement.

And statistics like these are the primary reason Breckenridge’s elected leaders have asked town staff to start segregating short-term rentals from the town’s overall lodging category in the monthly sales tax reports.

That request followed Airbnb.com tagging Summit County as the top mountain destination in Colorado last year with 275,300 guest arrivals and $57 million in host income, second in the state to only Denver.

In 2017, Airbnb ranked Breckenridge second in both guest visits and rental income statewide by itself with two other Summit County locales — Keystone and Silverthorne — making the top 10 before Airbnb began lumping all of Summit County together.

Unlike Airbnb, VRBO also released a list of the top origin cities showing where these guests are coming from.

In contrast with Vail, which largely relies on major metropolitan areas across the U.S., like New York or Atlanta, for many of its travelers — a host of Colorado cities are responsible for a lot of Breckenridge’s guests, according to VRBO.

Ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, Denver and Colorado Springs accounted for the highest number of travelers booking Breckenridge through VRBO. The town also saw a strong turnout from Texans with Austin, Houston and Dallas filling out the bottom three slots of Breckenridge’s top five origin cities.

At No. 7, Chicago managed to crack Breckenridge’s top 10 origin cities, but Colorado reigned king locally with Littleton, Aurora, Fort Collins and Highlands Ranch filling out the remainder of Breckenridge’s top 10 list.

“The traveler origins tell you a lot about the appeal of specific destinations,” the VRBO spokeswoman said.

Additionally, it might influence rental rates. That’s because Park City homeowners could charge $690 a night, according to VRBO, while Vail’s homeowners could get top-dollar at $730 a night.

As for the homes being rented out by VRBO, the company’s “Premier Partner Properties” in Breckenridge are certainly nice ones, but they’re not necessarily the multimillion-dollar, mountain-modern mansions with ski-in, ski-out access.

One of the featured homes is a three-bedroom, three-bathroom condo with 1,550 square feet in the heart of downtown. It advertises comfortable accommodations for up to eight to nine people and rents for around the VRBO average.

Conversely, the one that charges $5,000 a night has eight bedrooms and five-and-a-half bathrooms with 4,600 square feet and advertises sleeping accommodations for up to 17 people.

Top U.S. ski destinations for 2018-19 ski season

According to data compiled by the accomodations website VRBO.com, these are the most popular ski destinations in the U.S. for the 2018-19 ski season.

1. Breckenridge

2. Park City, Utah

3. Mammoth Lakes, California

4. Grand County

5. Squaw Valley, California

6. South Lake Tahoe, California

7. Vail and Beaver Creek

8. Poconos Mountains, Pennsylvania

9. Bend, Oregon

10. Steamboat Springs

Source: VRBO.com

This winter is the wettest on record for the contiguous United States

by Deepan Dutta Summit Daily

This winter is the wettest on record for the contiguous United States


Andy Richmond clears snow off his driveway along Pitkin Street Thursday, March 7, in Frisco. Record or near record rain and snow across the country led to the wettest winter on record in the Lower 48 states.
Hugh Carey / [email protected]

The past two winters have certainly been a tale of two seasons. Despite the dry season last year, the 2018-19 winter is officially the record-holder for most precipitation in the history of the contiguous United States.

The National Centers for Environmental Information, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, released a report this week revealing that strong precipitation from coast to coast resulted in the wettest December to February span — which is what the NOAA designates as “winter” — since record-keeping began.

The Lower 48’s winter precipitation total was 9.01 inches, which is 2.22 inches above average and the most precipitation dropped in a single winter, beating the 1997-98 winter by two-hundredths of an inch. February 2019 was narrowly beaten out by February 1998 for wettest February ever recorded by only a tenth of an inch.

The strong precipitation was notably felt with record or near-record rainfall or snow in the Tennessee and Ohio valleys in the mid-south, the Great Lakes region, northern plains and the Northwest, but Colorado’s mountains have also had above-average precipitation going into March.

Somewhat ironically, temperatures in the Lower 48 have actually been a bit above average across the country, at 33.4 degrees Fahrenheit. That is 1.2 degrees above average and ranks in the warmest third of the past 125 years. That is somewhat offset by the fact that February was colder than average at 32 degrees, 1.8 degrees below average and in the coldest third of recorded history.

In Colorado, the winter’s wet bounty has been pretty apparent. Even though there’s a long way to go to make up for previous deficits, drought has lessened in severity across the state.

Summit County is now experiencing a “moderate drought” and 58 percent of the state is still experiencing some form of drought. That is a far cry better than last summer, when over 80 percent of the state was experiencing drought. Record water deficits, especially in southwestern Colorado, led to one of the worst wildfire seasons in memory.

As far as the stuff that Summiters care about the most, snowpack totals are very healthy in the county and across the state. The Upper Colorado River Basin is seeing snowpack at 132 percent of the median, while statewide snowpack is 129 percent of median.

The ski resorts are certainly happy with the snowbound late winter and early spring. Breckenridge Ski Resort has been the king of the pow in the county, reporting 81 inches of snow over the past seven days. Keystone and Copper are reporting getting 65 and 63 inches over the past seven days.

Despite the great news about snow, avalanches remain a serious concern in the High Country. Historic avalanche conditions set off hundreds of small and large avalanches across the state in the first week of March, with several fatalities recorded in the backcountry.

At the moment, Vail and Summit County are still under an avalanche warning, with “high” avalanche danger above, at and below tree line. The combination of heavy snow and warming temperatures is leaving a very fragile snowpack on the mountains on the verge of crumbling.

As has been the case for the past week, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center strongly recommends against any travel on or near avalanche terrain. “Exceptional” avalanches in the area have exceeded historic runouts, spreading across valley floors farther than ever before and making the snow slides even more dangerous.

“Do not try and second-guess these conditions,” the CAIC stated in their Saturday morning update for the Vail and Summit region. “Any human-triggered avalanche will be massive and hard to survive.”

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Allison Simson, Owner/Broker, is a licensed Colorado Real Estate Broker