1st day a powder day at Loveland | AspenTimes.com

1st day a powder day at Loveland

Two boarders carve fresh tracks during opening day at Loveland. AP photo.

Loveland Ski Area won the race again Friday, becoming the first resort in the country to open for the 2004-05 season.In addition to bragging rights – local rival Arapahoe Basin is also involved in the race – Loveland drew a record crowd for opening day.The previous record for skier visits on the first day, set 12 years ago, was more than doubled.”It was outstanding, we had a great day,” said Loveland marketing director Kevin Wright. He said the resort does not give out specific skier visit numbers.Wright did say a warm end to last season coupled with a cold and wet fall may have been responsible for the record day.

“There may be a pent-up demand in the marketplace,” he said. “Overall for us [last winter] it was warm and not very snowy. A wet summer followed by a fairly snowy fall has really created a buzz of optimism.”Wright said this fall has been one of the snowiest on record for the high-altitude resort tucked against the Continental Divide. More than 4 feet have fallen since late August, and Tuesday night, Wright said another 18 inches blanketed the area.By early in the week, the assorted collection of diehards had already arrived to stake out first chair, spending several nights camped out in tents and vans in the resort’s parking lot, which sits at 10,600 feet.”From the reports I got, it sounded like [Thursday night] was kind of a wild night,” Wright said.The snow has allowed three runs, Catwalk, Mambo and Homerun, to link together to form one top-to-bottom mile-long run that drops about 1,000 vertical feet. The current base is 24 inches.

While Loveland has been blessed with early season natural snow this year, the mountain would not be open this early without snowmaking, Wright said.”We have a crew with 30-plus years of experience,” he said. “And the last five years we’ve been utilizing contract labor.”See: Aussies and Kiwis.A crew of a half dozen professional snowmakers from Down Under have been an integral part of the early season snowmaking crew at Loveland for the past several years.”They do it year-round [around the world],” Wright said. “They’re pro snowmakers and that’s all they do. These guys are great, they’re super-efficient.”

For 16 of the past 22 years, Loveland has been the nation’s first ski area to open for the season. The area’s earliest opening was Sept. 30, in 1951, due to natural snow – the resort didn’t start making snow until 1967. Loveland opened last year on Oct. 28.Early season day passes are $34 for adults and $16 for kids. Steve Benson’s e-mail is sbenson@aspentimes.com

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