Students were truant, jibbers were jibbing and the Bavarian cream-stuffed éclairs were flying Friday, Nov. 8, as throngs of snow riders flocked to Breckenridge Ski Resort for opening day.
The annual event does more than just kick-start the season. It’s a celebration, a right of passage that has the supernatural ability to coax ear-to-ear grins among friends, family, strangers and even some of Breck’s longest-tenured residents ... and by all accounts Friday’s opener was nothing short of epic.
Professional snowboarder Chad Otterstrom celebrated his 18th opening day Friday. Although there has been ample opportunity to log his first turns of the season, with the recent openings of Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Keystone Resort, Otterstrom said he annually saves himself for Breckenridge’s opening day.
“As a Summit County local, I don’t ride until Breck opens,” he said. “I’m sure it’s different for other people, but I live in town and there’s just something special about Breck. It’s not winter until I load my first chair on Peak 8.”
Thousands of locals and Denver commuters joined Otterstrom to carve up three runs spread over 82 acres on Peak 8, but for the local pro and many other freestylers, it was the upper portion of Park Lane terrain park that kept the lift lines busy until late in the afternoon.
“There was nothing but smiles over there,” Otterstrom said. “Turns are fun, but you can only do that for so long before you get bored. The park keeps you there all day and I swear Breck keeps stepping it up each year. This was honestly the best first day ever.”
Although Otterstrom’s winter clock begins with the opener at Breckenridge, Front Range skiers David, Carrie and John made the drive to participate in their third opening day celebration of the season. The three friends weathered lift lines at A-Basin and Keystone before carrying on the tradition Friday at Breckenridge.
Like many youngsters on the slopes, David, Carrie and John played hooky to enjoy the sunshine and a fresh set of turns. For John, it was his first time exploring the early spoils of Peak 8.
“When you live in Denver and Boulder and you wake up in the morning knowing you have an hour and a half drive to get to the slopes, it’s easy to feel like you should be responsible and go to work,” John said. “Then you get here on a day like today and it’s all worth it.”
Friday marked the beginning of Breckenridge’s 52nd season. In honor of Veterans Day weekend, Master Sgt. Richard Gibbons of the Colorado Air National Guard — a recipient of the Bronze Star and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom — joined local scavenger hunt winners for the first chair of the season.
“This morning’s festivities were a fantastic culmination of all the events that took place during Breck Opening Week,” said Kieran Cain, Breckenridge Ski Resort’s marketing director, in a news release. “The ability for us to share the excitement and pageantry of the opening of the season at Breck with our guests and make them part of the celebration is always rewarding, and becomes even more special at the start of such an historic year as this one.”