Colorado ski season gets rolling at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area | SummitDaily.com

Colorado ski season gets rolling at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com

The alarm in Brian and Hilary's — let's call it Front Range — house went off some time around 4 on Friday morning.

Brian wanted to hit the snooze button but Hilary insisted that it was go time. They had a season to start.

"She's a little more dedicated," he later said.

By 5:15 the pair were first in line at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area — but without skis, snowboards or boots anywhere in sight.

The couple were reluctant to share their last name with the Daily. Not because they'd left their gear at home, but because they might or might not have called in sick to work in order to make the trip.

That their boots and gear were at home was fairly inconsequential. They were, after all, in line to join A-Basin's beer mug club and had no intention of getting their on-hill season started.

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Instead, with their car loaded up with bike gear, they were bound for Moab, Utah, for an end-of-season mountain biking excursion.

When the announcement came that A-Basin was opening, the two decided to kick off their road trip with a stop at the ski area to celebrate a slightly different season opening for their second year in a row as club members.

"We really didn't think we'd be the first people," Hilary said, surprised to find herself at the front of the line. By the time the 8 a.m. sign-up approached, the line of more than 100 stretched up the stairs and deep into the A Frame. By 10:30 only 178 of the club's 472 mugs were still available.

So why get in line so early to skip skiing and get a mug? It's simple. "You gotta get your mug and get ready," Hilary said, clarifying that if it were a powder day it might be a different story.

But more than the mug, it's the A-Basin community that they enjoy being a part of year after year.

"It's like coming back to summer camp," she said, describing the neighborhood feel of the bar. "We know more people up here than we do in our hometown."

While the couple sipped their season-opening beers in the comfort of the A Frame's bar, down on the snow the annual traditions continued.

To no local's surprise, the man known only as Nate Dogggg — together with his "4G" crew — was once again at the head of the lift line. For Nate, it was year number 19 on first chair. Once again, he earned it the hard way, getting to the mountain two days prior to opening and camping out near the chairlift with a couple of friends. This year he even beat A-Basin's official opening announcement by at least a few hours. It came Wednesday afternoon.

"Over 19 years we know what to look for," he said, asserting he had no insider knowledge.

Friend Jeff Meyer explained that Nate's annual ritual also includes "site visits" in the days leading up to an announcement to confirm his suspicions.

As 9 a.m. approached, an official from Loveland Ski Area congratulated A-Basin staff members on winning the annual opening day race, and with the traditional countdown the season got rolling.

The morning conditions, as expected, weren't optimal, but that's not what anyone was there for. By the time the sun had a chance to fully crest the Continental Divide the snow softened and those who braved the line were treated to spring-like corn.

Friday's opening was the Basin's third consecutive win in the race to be first to open in North America. Wolf Creek technically beat the Basin four years ago, but had to close before opening again for the full season.

Loveland officials said they still hope to be next in line to open, but warm weather the last few days has slowed their snowmaking efforts. Loveland's communications manager, Dustin Schaefer, said the ski area is hopeful it will be able to ring in the new ski season next week.

A-Basin officials reported that they currently have an 18-inch base — the required amount to open — and also plan to continue snowmaking efforts as conditions allow.

Currently only the High Noon run is open, and ski area officials remind their guests to expect early-season conditions and that no beginner ski terrain is accessible for now.