Adding to the list of ski areas open in Colorado, Copper Mountain and Keystone Ski Resort opened with variations in crowd sizes Friday.
While Keystone Resort experienced a strong turnout from locals and Front Range commuters, Copper Mountain saw more modest crowd sizes with several national and international ski teams and pros coming out for opening day.
"I think we saw a pent up demand today with a lot of enthusiasm from the beginning of the day until last chair," said Laura Parquette, spokeswoman for Keystone. "Our staff delivered great top-to-bottom skiing and it made for a great day."
As part of the opening day festivities, Keystone ski officials gave raffle tickets to the first 100 skiers and riders in line. The grand prize was a $750 GoPro prize pack including a Hero Cam and wi-fi backpack awarded to Highlands Ranch resident Steven Persichitte.
Persichitte staked his place in line, some 25 or so people behind first chair, at 7:10 a.m. Friday, according to Parquette.
Others too, gathered at the ski area early in the morning for a good place in line and to increase their odds in the opening raffle - giving away hoodies, goggles, beanies and numerous gift cards.
"I left from Denver at 4 a.m. this morning to try to make first chair," said Lisa Kellers, a Denver resident. "I got here a little after 5:30 and I wasn't the first one here - I was shocked."
Beginning her shift at 6:30 a.m. Friday, Parquette said there were numerous cars in the parking lot and lots of people scouting out places in line.
"Even before the sun was up there were people in the parking lot and making their way to the gondola, which was exciting to see," Parquette said. "It was just a great way to start the season, with lots of smiling faces and of course, the chance to honor one of our founders. We're looking forward to the entire weekend, with great events and of course, continued great skiing and riding on the mountain."
The resort opened four slopes and five lifts, including intermediate trails Spring Dipper and River Run and beginner trails Endeavor and Scout. Keystone's A51 Terrain Park, rated the second best terrain park nationwide by Transworld Snowboarding, was in high gear Friday with lines exceeding 15 minutes.
To accommodate high skier traffic on the hill, Keystone grooming crews widened worrisome "bottleneck terrain," according to T.J O'Shea, ski school supervisor for the resort.
"I am really impressed with the snow," O'Shea said. "We've made a lot of improvements to the opening terrain, making bottlenecks wider and limiting the risk to skiers and riders on opening day. We're seeing a lot of people out here."
Though Copper Mountain saw a more modest crowd size of locals and Front Range residents, the U.S. Ski Team and international pro athletes were well represented at the ski area's opening day Friday.
"We're having the best-of-the-best winter athletes training here," said Austyn Williams, spokeswoman for the resort. "Copper Mountain's staff has a huge dedication to making this the place to be for pro training."
Japan's club ski team's 15 professional skiers and riders were among the international groups in attendance for opening day.
"Dozens of ski clubs and teams from around the world will use this training area during the early season," said Katherine Bush, spokeswoman of the resort. "The U.S. Ski Team Speed Center adds to the existing commitment from Copper, and our parent company, Powdr Corp., to build innovative training and competition venues for winter athletes."
Copper is set to host the Sprint U.S. Grand Prix, which was elevated to World Cup status this season.
The Grand Prix enters its 17th season for halfpipe snowboarding and Olympic sports of slopestyle skiing and snowboarding and halfpipe skiing.
Throughout opening weekend, the American Eagle Chairlift and the Easy Rider surface lift will service three trails totaling 42 acres of skiing and riding, plus Woodward at Copper's Eagle Jib Park.
Copper celebrated its 40th season kickoff with music presented by RedBull and limited edition koozie giveaways for the first 500 guests. Koozie giveaways will be offered again this morning.
The ski area opened with an 18-inch base with a wide variety of slope-style skiing and terrain park features.
"I think it's perfect up here today. It would be awesome if there was real snow, but the runs are really wide and it's not very crowded at all," said Josh Burford, a Littleton resident. "I was surprised by the quality of snow, too. For early season, this is great stuff."
Colorado Springs residents Simon Shock and Alex Stowers drove over two hours for Copper's opening day, waking up at 4:45 a.m.
"I really missed being out on the mountain," Shock said. "I only have a pass to Copper this season and I've been dying for them to open - of course I'm going to be out here ready to go opening day."