Summit County, CO, Dec. 14--With the opening of the Outback, Keystone now boasts of some 330 acres of terrain, spread out over 17 trails and served by 12 lifts. The third in the resort's trio of peaks opened for skiers last Thursday afternoon. Despite Mother Nature's early-season stinginess, surface conditions on Elk Run included a dollop of fluffy powder--at least in the early going.
"It's the best of the season so far," said Troy Jackson, a Wisconsin snowboarder who was one of the first down the newly-opened terrain. "It was real soft along the edge, but I did hit a rock," Jackson said.
While powder seekers risked a few dings by cruising the edges, Keystone's snowmaking crews provided a thick cushion of insurance down the center of the trail, and snowguns roared all day to add terrain during the coming weeks.
Keystone has by far the most extensive snowmaking system in Colorado, with the ability to cover more than 800 acres. By comparison, Beaver Creek has the second largest snowmaking system, with some 550 acres. So even if natural snow remains sparse, Keystone should be able to offer a good variety of terrain spread across three mountains for holiday skiers.
Elk Run, a lift-line cruiser, is the only run open in the Outback so far, but some of the gladed terrain on the north side of the peak looks like it's just one or two storms away from opening--keep your fingers crossed.
North Peak's open terrain includes Star Fire, a rollicking nose dive of a trail with breathtaking views out across Dillon Reservoir and the jagged Gore Range. Most of Keystone's available terrain is on the front side, with some of the best skiing on the south-facing Mozart and along Frenchman, which is one of the best cruisers in Summit County. Hit it early after it's been groomed though--late in the day, the surface gets scraped down to the nitty-gritty.
There are also a few loose rocks rolling around the trail, so keep your eyes open. Reports of packed powder notwithstanding, surface conditions in general range from slick, machine-groomed hardpack to chalky man-made, dotted with the occasional pile of granular sugar snow.
Night skiing is also underway at Keystone, with skiing and riding on a handful of trails, including Frenchman, Schoolmarm and Silver Spoon. Once the season gets going, Keystone typically offers 235 acres of night skiing terrain, with 2,340 feet of vertical and runs as long as three miles. For now though, skiers will have to wait a little longer to test out all of the night runs.