It’s all about the power of bragging rights |

It’s all about the power of bragging rights

At some point in life, everyone’s mother has told them, “It’s not a race, honey.” But certain ski areas have either forgotten or chosen to disregard that little nugget of wisdom.

It never fails. Every year, ski area operators are chomping at the bit to be the first to open for the season.

Meanwhile, it’s a mystery to some of us why it becomes such a contest to boast the season’s first public access to one, or in some cases, one-half, of a snow-covered run.

Last year, Copper Mountain beat everyone to the punch by opening Copperopolis Oct. 17. The intermediate run begins at the top of the mountain and ends halfway down and is accessible by the mid-mountain Excelerator lift. The lift and run were open to the public for two days and cost skiers and riders a minimum $10 donation, which went to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for Sept. 11 recovery efforts. Copper then closed to the public until the “official” opening day of Nov. 3, but indited itself with first-tracks-of-the-season status nonetheless for the two-day shebang.

This season, since Silverton Mountain already allowed a day of public access to its skiing last month after receiving more than 40 inches of snow, the race for first tracks among Summit County ski areas has lost some of its luster.

But the spirit of competition is tough to quell. Some ski area representatives have said the day of skiing at Silverton “doesn’t count” as first tracks because, for one thing, the mountain reclosed until its official opening, which will fall some time after Oct. 17, and for another, Silverton is different than other areas in that it only has one lift and operates exclusively as guided tours-only with limited numbers of guests allowed on any given day. Plus, the six-hour drive to reach Silverton doesn’t appeal to many Summit skiers and riders, even those itching to break in their boards.

Some ski areas have resigned themselves to set opening dates. Keystone’s opening is scheduled for Nov. 8, and Breck, which isn’t even pretending to be a front-runner, is scheduled to open Nov. 15.

Who knows if Copper, despite its proposed opening date of Nov. 2 , has another gimmick up its sleeve this year. Loveland’s proposed opening date is decidedly nebulous, while Arapahoe Basin is simply struggling to complete its snowmaking construction in order to blow any snow at all for the 2002-03 season.

Despite the undeclared opening date, representatives of Loveland said they hope to open their mountain Oct. 19 … but are keeping an eagle eye out for any spontaneous, preliminary moves by Copper.

There is visible evidence of the handful of winter nuts who have already hiked with their rock boards to Loveland Pass or to the summit of Breckenridge for true first tracks of the season. This may or may not be the populace that would fork out for a lift ticket to access a single trail on whatever mountain ends up opening first. Then again, one white ribbon of crowded, intermediate skiing might not appeal to that group.

The race for first tracks among ski areas might be “fun, good-natured competition to create a buzz,” but the matter of whether or not the race yields any spectators during a kick-ass indian summer is another question. Then again, the amount of skiers that actually turn up for ski area first tracks is irrelevant to first tracks bragging rights. And “the buzz” will certainly become louder once we see some more snow around here.

Also, with sympathy to the ski areas, we have to consider that once any mind is overtaken by that sense of competition, regardless of what the race is, there’s usually no turning back. And some people just love to brag.

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