Opening Day highlights, from Freeskier Magazine on Vimeo.
Two days ago, Arapahoe Basin announced to the world that they would officially open for business on Wednesday, October 17, 2012—today—kicking off the 2012/13 ski season in North America. The announcement put to rest the highly anticipated question, “Who will open first this year—Loveland Ski Area, or Arapahoe Basin?” and simultaneously put a light at the end of the tunnel that is a summer’s worth of misery for many diehard skiers in Colorado.
Last night, I placed my skis, poles and boots at the front door, and laid out my ski clothing on the floor of my bedroom. I thought to myself, “Is this really happening right now?” Just a few days prior, I’d been enjoying the 75 degree weather here in Boulder, CO, hiking, biking… still clinging to the long, wonderful days of summer.
When the alarm sounded at 5:45 a.m. this morning, it still hadn’t fully hit me—”We’re going skiing today?” Even as I hopped into my long underwear and tossed my goggles and gloves into my pack and loaded up the car, it all seemed a bit foreign. Coming off of a dismal 2011/12 winter season, perhaps I’d forgotten what lay in store an hour and 30 minutes up I-70.
En route to the highcountry.
It didn’t take the full hour and 30 before I remembered. Near Georgetown, the temperature dropped to a balmy 15 degrees Fahrenheit and we encountered ice on the road. Moments later, we passed a truck jackknifed across the eastbound lanes, forcing a full closure of the interstate, surely spoiling the morning for travelers headed toward Denver. Then, of course, a bit of precipitation froze on the blades of my windshield wipers. With each spray of the icy blue antifreeze, the blades whooshed past without effect, the antifreeze then ironically freezing to the window, making it a bitch to see the car that was now braking, just up ahead. And I don’t intend for you to take pity on me. That’s not the moral of this story. The point is: This is it, baby! That very moment, my mind filled with memories of winter’s great adventures. The “getting there” is always a pain—and I thought to myself, “And it’s always worth it.”
After a slow ascent and descent over Loveland Pass (man, I really need to get some snow tires), we pulled into the parking lot at A-Basin just after 8:00 a.m. Already, a line had formed by the Black Mountain Express—Summit County’s infamous “Nate Dogggg” at the front of the queue, ready to claim Colorado’s first chair for the 17th straight year.
Colorado is open!
The local news crews were out in full force, the silly outfits were aplenty, and the biting cold of the early morning didn’t manage to wipe any of the smiles away from the faces of those in the lift line. Before long, a voice shouted out via megaphone, “Are you ready, Colorado?!” Nate Dogggg (I’m told it’s four “g’s”) and his posse plopped down on chair #28—honorary first chair of the year, for no particular reason—and posed for the throng of photographers and videographers while holding a banner that read, “Colorado is open!” Dozens of camera flashes later, the bullwheel began to turn and the foursome of snowboarders broke through the banner, and it was game on.
Packed house at A-Bay.
Short-shorts, yetis and a Mickey Mouse.
The High Noon trail was the sole trail open. Skiers and boarders enjoyed a mix of manmade and natural snow, and midway down the trail was a rail park containing six features: A down box, a flat-down box, an A-frame rail, two down rails and a down-flat-down rail. It didn’t take long for the jibbers on hand to start spinning, disastering, pressing and switching up. There was a genuine joy emitted by all, and the frenzy didn’t stop ’til the lift stopped turnin’.
Once we’d had our fill on-hill, we made our way back down to our home base on The Beach (the front row of the main parking lot). And what better way to spend time on the beach than grilling hot dogs and indulging in a Tecate or two? Others migrated up to the base lodge, where A-Basin’s infamous bacon Bloody Mary—complete with a perfectly cooked strip of bacon, soaking in a bacon infused vodka—was calling. Quite frankly, a day at The Legend isn’t complete without one.
And to think that just hours earlier I was wishing summer might stick around a while longer? What an idiot. Bring on the two-foot dumps, the deep turns, the not-so-deep turns, the cold mornings, the shitty drives in blizzard conditions, the wet boots, the wet socks and the après hot tubs, hot dogs and Bloody Mary’s.
The “Cool Bus” on hand. “Honk for ski season 2012/13.”
Here’s hoping that each of you has a “first day” as great as ours, and here’s to a kick-ass 2012/13 season.
Heading to Arapahoe Basin? Be sure to check out the ski area’s page on the new Snow section of our site. There, you’ll find weather and snow reports. Plus, we’ve partnered with Liftopia to save you money on lift tickets. Drop in, right here.