And bragging rights go to … Loveland
LOVELAND – Rock boards will not be necessary, representatives of Loveland Ski Area insist.
The ski area opens at 9 a.m. today, earning bragging rights as the first area in the nation to open for the 2002-03 season.
“The last hitch of being able to open was a full survey (Wednesday) of the snow from top to bottom,” said Kevin Wright, marketing director at Loveland. “Loveland is different than most ski areas because we’re so high. You’ve got to have a better base here. At lower ski areas, you have these nice, grassy runs. With our elevation, it’s rockier, so we have to get a lot of snow down. That’s the only reason we’re in this game – our location.”
Loveland’s base elevation of 10,600 feet, the 12 inches of natural snow the area has retained since September and vigorous snowmaking efforts made winning the first-to-open game possible. The one run to open will begin at the top of Chair One, located at roughly 11,800 feet, and will take skiers and snowboarders down Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run to the base of the lift.
Wright said ski area operators have been blowing snow virtually around the clock over the last couple days and turning snowmaking machines off only during the heat of the day.
“They shut down from about noon until 5 (p.m.),” Wright said. “It’s not so much the temperature that’s allowing us to do it – it’s the ambient temperature, which includes wind chill and humidity. Humidity affects it a lot. The lower the humidity, the warmer the temperatures can be to blow snow.”
Inheriting a first-chair legacy, Breckenridge residents Tom Miller and Nate Nadler set up camp in Loveland’s parking lot earlier this week in anticipation of nabbing first chair this morning. Elmer Mulkin started the tradition. He claimed first chair at Loveland for at least 10 years before his death in 1999 at age 77. During his final season, Miller and Nadler beat him to first chair, even though he had taken to pitching a tent at the bottom of the lift to compete with the younger crowd.
“He passed the torch to us,” Miller said of Mulkin. “We want to keep the legacy alive. We never really know when (Loveland) is going to open. We knew it was getting close, so we like to camp out ahead of time.”
When asked when he was last on snow, Miller, an avid snowboarder, simply said he is “one of those.”
“Yeah, I’m a year-rounder,” he said. “The last time I was on my snowboard was three or four weeks ago. I snowboard all summer at Mount Hood, (Ore.) We always did first chair when Elmer was here. I never lose the stoke to ride. We usually party all night, then wake up around 5 or 6, and head out to the front of the line.”
The top-to-bottom run is more than a mile long and about 1,000 vertical feet. Snow depth on the run measures between 10 and 20 inches.
“My friends ask me, “Should I bring my rock skis?’ But I tell them there’s not really any chance they’ll hit rocks,” Wright said. “I tell them to save their rock skis for when the tree runs open with marginal snow. (Today), it should be really nice. We’re psyched.”
Lift tickets for the day are $29, or $13 for children age 6-14. Early season pass deals are available through Nov. 4. For more information, call (800) 736-3SKI, or visit http://www.skiloveland.com.
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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