While the 2013-14 Colorado ski season officially kicked off at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, for the man who refers to himself only as Nate Dogggg (that’s right, four G’s), it started much earlier than that.
“Probably a half hour after I heard the announcement, I started driving here,” he said.
That announcement came Friday morning, and by early Friday afternoon he was in the parking lot looking up at the snowcats grooming the mountain. Later in the evening he was joined by two friends. The trio spent Friday night in close proximity to Black Mountain Express chair staking their claim. Saturday night they were joined by a fourth to complete their quad.
For 18 consecutive years now, Nate said he’s been laying claim to Colorado’s first chair, whether at A-Basin, Loveland or Wolf Creek ski areas.
He said that a confrontation a few years ago led to him and his group actually sleeping on or near the chair, rather than simply in the parking lot.
This year that even meant getting snowed on, or rather snow-machined on, in the early hours of Sunday morning.
“I woke up and my shoes were just covered in snow,” Nate’s friend Bobry said. A snow machine had blown in their direction while they slept.
The quartet was not alone Saturday night, as about 15 other skiers and snowboarders in line raised their hands when asked, “Who slept here last night?”
At 5 a.m. Sunday around 20 cars had already made their way to A-Basin’s parking lot, some with engines and heaters running, others slightly frosted over. Other traffic slowly began to trickle in.
Under a sky full of stars a handful of eager skiers and snowboarders started milling around the base area, just as ski area employees were arriving for the day.
As the sky above the Continental Divide started to lighten, 15 or so made their way to the lift line, still more than two hours before the official opening.
“Never underestimate how much people want to go skiing,” A-Basin COO Alan Henceroth said later in the day.
Just as many gathered outside the A-Frame eager to lay claim to a mug club mug.
Maybe it should also not be underestimated how much skiers like beer.
With sunrise came the crowds. Easily over a hundred were already in line as 8:30 drew near.
Marketing and communications manager Adrienne Saia Isaac said later that more than 3,000 showed up for opening day.
Henceworth called it “the best opening we’ve ever had.”
Isaac credited the Sunday opening to great weather, snow conditions and their early season snow making.
“Early season last year wasn’t nearly as good as this year,” she said. “This is my dream opening.”
With a cheer from the crowd lifts started loading promptly at 8:30. And while Nate and his snowboard posse claimed first chair, five skiers were able to claim first run as they were the first to charge to the bottom.
A number of skiers said how impressed they were by the condition of A-Basin’s one open run. It was described as in mid-season form.
“It was the best conditions I’ve seen in years,” Nate reported after his run. “Definitely one of the best opening days.”
With a favorable forecast Henceroth said they hope to make a lot of progress this week with additional snow making. They plan to open additional runs on the lower mountain and then shift focus to the upper mountain.
“I think we’re going to move things along very quickly,” he said. “We’ve made more snow than most openings.”