This photo, taken with a drone, shows the slopes below Apex (Lift 6) as they opened for the season Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Brett Schreckengost /Telluride Ski Resort)

What a difference a year makes: In a Dec. 17, 2017 article in the Daily Planet, Telluride Ski Resort officials were hoping they could open Lower Misty Maiden; they bemoaned the difficulty of pushing “a blade of snow half a mile” and expressed gratitude for high-tech artificial snow.

This year, 84 inches of natural snow have already blessed the upper mountain, and Telski officials are opening terrain left and right. Today (Wednesday), notable chairlifts 4, 5, 6 and 9 will all be open.

About Lift 9 (which also goes by the name “Plunge”): It’s opening for the first time today for what Telski is calling a “community preview” of “snowmaking and natural snow terrain,” but will then close again until Wednesday, Dec. 19, when the chairlift will open for the remainder of the season.

To serve Lift 9—which will be open for its regular, 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. hours — the resort will also ferry riders up Lift 8 from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. for the community preview.

According to Matt Windt, the resort’s vice president of sales and marketing, “We’ve done a community preview for the Plunge terrain pod the past couple seasons, though last year’s was only for a half day. We do it for a couple reasons. Everyone’s excited to get to that terrain, and it helps get the snow compacted. Then we can spend the next few days really assessing the coverage and snowpack, and marking obstacles” before opening for good.

Added Windt, “Everybody gets to have fun and help the slope conditions.”

Saturday is also shaping up as a red-letter day for the 2018-19 season: Prospect Bowl will open for the season, as will High Camp and Alpino Vino restaurants and major, high-elevation chairs Gold Hill Express (Lift 14) and Prospect Express (Lift 12). This means Telluride’s signature alpine terrain will open a full six weeks earlier than it did during last season’s depressing drought, when Prospect Bowl only opened on Jan. 26.

Along with the bowl, “Woozley’s Way is targeted to open,” Windt said.

Also Saturday, west side Telluriders and Carhenge customers will no longer need to trek to the middle of town to ski the resort: Lift 7 (Coonskin) will open, though for uphill access only; downloaders will continue to descend on the gondola.

Windt said the resort is skiing superbly so far. “We benefitted from nice snow in October and November,” he said, “and were helped a lot by the major storm the first weekend of December,” which dumped more than 20 inches on the mountain. “Plus, we’ve had ideal, cold temperatures for snowmaking, and the snowmakers have really been able to attack the mountain. That’s crucial for ensuring the traverses and connections between our various terrain pods are skiable and safe, and allows us to open terrain so much faster.”

Telluride Ski Resort is approaching the lucrative, busy holiday season in as fine a shape as it has since 2015, which was also characterized by an El Niño.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, not only will Lift 9 open for the entire season, but so will Giuseppe’s restaurant, Oak Street (Lift 8) and the Telluride Trail, allowing skiers and snowboarders to descend the front side for access to Oak Street Base and Coonskin Base.

In an earlier email, Windt said the resort is “targeting” a pre-Christmas opening for the Sunshine area, including lifts 10, 11 and 13. He emphasized that updates on lift and terrain openings will be shared in Telski’s daily snow report ( and on the new Telluride Ski Resort app.