Bob Seto tops Epic Mix leaderboard with 8 opening day trips
December 11, 2015
It's 30 minutes before first chair of the season at Beaver Creek and Bob Seto is in line with a whopping three people.
"Centennial (lift) might have 500 people at this point. That's the one everyone goes to," Seto told me from Strawberry Park lift, easily the best choice on opening day — if it's open. "My general strategy is stick to the Strawberry side before heading to the aspens at Bachelor Gulch."
Seto, a 60-year-old retired aerospace professional, has a strategy for most days on his skis. It's how he managed to top the Epic Mix leaderboard last season with more than 6.5 million vertical feet in 151 days. When he counts Arapahoe Basin, he notched about 220 total days of skiing at all nine of the stateside Vail Resorts properties.
Park City didn't join the brood until this season, but you'd better believe Seto was there for opening day on Nov. 21. That's been the theme of his season so far — ski on opening day at every mountain on the Epic Pass. It helps that he's a licensed pilot with a Piper Saratoga, a powerful single-prop craft that fits up to seven. He keeps it hangered on the Front Range and shares it with a few friends to make frequent short trips: Tahoe for opening day, San Clemente for summer surfing, maybe even his wife's home state of Michigan for opening at Afton Alps, VR's Midwest mountain.
"Very few people make it to all of the openings, and I'm still considering heading to Oregon and Minnesota," Seto said, referring to Mt. Bachelor and Afton, respectively. "I can't think of anyone in the top-20 for vertical who has done all of the openings. And I check things like that."
It's been something of a self-guided tour through opening insanity for Seto, and he's loving every minute. The scene at BC was much different than at Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 29, when he stood in line with 2,000-plus skiers for a single top-to-bottom run, or at Keystone on Nov. 6, when the gondola line stretched into the village. In comparison, Beaver Creek and all of the pure, untouched powder at Bachelor Gulch were his for the taking.
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"This is an exceptional opening day," he said. "I just heard on the radio that they'll have the most terrain since 2002 — Rose (Bowl), Strawberry, Bachelor. It was either 2002 or 2001, I can't remember, but it's been a long time since they've done that."
(For the record it was 2002, according to the resort.)
BC also opened with more terrain than any other Colorado hill at 723 acres. But it still might not be the best opening of Seto's season. That title probably belongs to the Tahoe resorts, he says, which finally saw epic snowfall (had to say it) after several years of devastating drought.
"Kirkwood, for example, had about 30 inches of fresh snow when they opened," Seto said. "I skied with my rock skis still because there is plenty of stuff under the surface, but that was really just an incredible trip for opening weekend. There were lots of happy people, short lines — just a good choice."
Will he make it to any of the international openings? Maybe Perisher in Australia? Possibly, he says, but his wife might not appreciate that. The two spent last summer traveling to 18 national parks in the West, and next summer they plan to do the same out East between a slate of weddings, family visits and other stops. There's a strategy to it, and Perisher might not fit the game plan yet.
But the rest…
"If it's snowed heavily and Vail Pass is open I'll head to Vail for the bowls," Seto said, delving deeper into ski season strategy. "I love the trees and the aspens at Beaver Creek and Bachelor. At Kirkwood you find extreme, steep terrain. Even Northstar is pretty incredible for their bowls. Every one of these mountains has something cool going on."
I heard rustling in the background and Seto's voice disappeared for a second.
"And we're starting to move here," he said when he came back. "Anything else?"
Best of luck, Bob.
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