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A legendary opening to ski season

SUMMIT COUNTY – It seems as though winter can’t even wait until the last few aspen leaves are gone this year. After a few late summer and early season snowstorms that sent skiers and boarders flocking to the backcountry, lift-served skiing is now available at A-Basin, which opened Friday, and at Loveland, which opens today.Friday’s opening marked the earliest-ever start for A-Basin, and comes on the heels of a winter with banner snow that set a record for skier visits at The Legend. The ski area looks to carry that momentum into the upcoming season, said spokesperson Leigh Hierholzer, estimating that about 300 to 400 people were on hand to carve up the blanket of man-made snow.”It was short notice but a lot of people rallied,” Hierholzer said. A-Basin will start making snow on Ramrod next, and hopes to get a second run open sometime next week, weather permitting, she added. Three terrain park features are also open in the High Divide terrain park.This year’s first chair went up the mountain empty, save for a fluttering white ribbon in honor of Summit Daily News photographer Brad Odekirk, who died in an accident at his home this summer. As the Exhibition lift murmured to life just before 9 a.m., Hierholzer asked the line of skiers in the maze for a moment of silence to honor Ode’s memory. The long-time Summit County resident was an avid telemarker who could often be found up to his waist in powder, camera at his eye, on A-Basin’s slopes. As white as the snow on the surrounding peaks, the ribbon fluttered on the back of the chair quietly for a few minutes, until a resounding cheer rose from the crowd as lift operators opened the maze. Within a few minutes, the still, autumn morning was marked by the rasp of metal edges on frozen crystals, and the the traditional hoots and hollers of the lucky skiers and riders who bagged first tracks.That group includes Geoff Strebel, who drove up from Boulder Thursday night and camped in the parking lot to get one of the prime spots.”It’s like the winter’s the best part of my year, so today’s the day that that whole trend starts again,” Strebel said. “We’re up here, I’m seeing a lot of people that I skied with or had beers with at the bar, it’s nice to see them again.”Summit County resident Scotty Bondo, a familiar morning voice on CMVC radio, also busted out a pair of fat tele boards for the big day. “It’s good fun. It’s skiing. It’s a bluebird day,” Bondo said. Nicole Schlagel, of Silverthorne, also trekked up to the Basin for the morning. As she sat by her car with her dog Bonsai nearby, she explained that she didn’t have her pass yet, so she was planning on hiking up the grassy slopes adjacent to the trail, just to scratch that early season itch.Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA), the state’s ski industry trade association, touts the annual race for opening-day honors as a way of building a buzz for the season.”This has been a race up until the very last hour,” said CSCUSA president and CEO Rob Perlman. “The fact that Arapahoe Basin is the first resort in North America to open is a true testament to how far a little competitive spirit and a whole lot of determination will get you.”Early season conditions prevail with surfaces of machine-groomed, natural and machine-made snow and a base depth of up to 18 inches. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and daily tickets cost $43 (adults) $38 (teens) and $19 for kids ages six to 14.For complete opening Day information on the rest of Colorado’s resorts, go to http://www.coloradoski.com or call Colorado’s snow phone at (303) 825-SNOW.


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