A-Basin, Loveland kick off ski season | AspenTimes.com
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A-Basin, Loveland kick off ski season

Julie Poppen
Rocky Mountain News
Aspen, CO Colorado
Mark Fox/Summit Daily NewsPete Drummond of Breckenridge (right, in blue) jumped out to an early lead when the rope dropped and made first chair on the first day of the ski season at Arapahoe Basin on Wednesday.
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SUMMIT COUNTY ” It doesn’t get much better than this for Arapahoe Basin COO Alan Henceroth.

All those people in line?

Money in the bank.

Ski boots on his feet?

Happiness.

He’s not thinking too much about long term weather forecasts. He knows the economy could pose issues for some skiers and boarders this year, but Wednesday’s turnout is a good omen for the ski industry in Colorado, he says.

“Today we’ve already exceeded expectations by a lot,” Henceroth said. “I’m very optimistic.”

“Hopefully the quality and what we have and what our neighbors have will keep people coming.”

Jennifer Rudolph, spokeswoman for Colorado Ski Country USA, said many Colorado resorts are trying new gimmicks to attract hesitant travelers. Some resorts, such as Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte, have teamed with airlines to come up with attractive deals for out-of-state destination travelers.

Ryan Burke, of Denver, said the sour economy could result in more people itching to hit the slopes.

“When you’re having a bad time with the economy, why not come up here and ski?” Burke said, as he sipped a beer in a special ceramic mug available first-come, first-serve basis.

10:12 a.m. A-Basin:

The main parking lot is already overflowing at A-Basin on Wednesday morning, for the ski area’s first day open.

It’s much more crowded here than at Loveland, which is just 7 miles down the road. A party atmosphere is taking hold.

By 9:20 a.m. John Pohlmann, 26, who works in property management in Keystone, was having a beer break with his friends after taking three runs. Yes, he was drinking Keystone Light. “They say it’s bread in liquid form. We’re eating our bread,” said Pohlmann, who called in sick, wink wink, to come up and ski.

The group of four skiers and snowboarders were first in line, after arriving at 6:45 a.m., behind the very first chair, which was designated a memorial for ski area founder Edna Dercum, who recently died. The chair featured a big poster of her in her prime, on her long wooden skis, and flowers. There was a moment of silence. That’s when some other guys cut in line.

“It’s not about that anyway,” Pohlmann said. “It’s about getting out there. I thought we’d be 60th.”

Pohlmann said the first run was perfect corduroy, but it was quickly turning into mashed potatoes.

“It’s getting choppy,” he said, taking a sip of his brew in the parking lot. Meanwhile, the line continued to grow. But the sun is shining, the music’s cranking and no one’s complaining about the wait.

One lift is open and one run, High Noon, an intermediate run about a mile long. Some of the terrain park is also open. Ski area workers are busy aiming the snow guns at another intermediate run called Ram Rod. Then, they’ll push to open the area to the top. The final effort will be getting some beginner runs open, said ski area spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer.

She said last year 1,400 people showed up on the first day.

“The more the merrier,” she said. “People come and go.”

Hierholzer said Colorado is expecting a good winter for snow – if the economy doesn’t doom the industry. She said A-Basin usually hikes pass prices during the ski expo in November. This year, if things aren’t looking good, price hikes could be minimal or nonexistent.

“We’re very cautious,” she said. “We want to make sure skiing is affordable. Maybe skiing won’t be the first thing they take out of their budgets.”

This year, Loveland and A-Basin shared the honor of opening first in Colorado. A-Basin has been first the last couple years. Actually, Loveland’s lift opened at 8:30 a.m., while A-Basin opened to the public at 9 a.m. We’ll let the historians fight about that.

“Congratulations to us both,” said A-Basin lift operator Tony Orr.


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