On the Hill: Opening day
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will get the best gift it could ask for to celebrate the start of its 60th season this morning – the coveted title of being the first ski area in North America to open.A-Basin fires up the lifts today at 9 a.m., beating its earliest ever opening by nine days, and winning the friendly rivalry with Loveland Ski Area to be the first mountain in the U.S. and Canada to kick off the season.Loveland has triumphed for the past six seasons, but this year A-Basin put on the push and it paid off.”I think it’s the challenge of being the first ski area open in the nation, the publicity, being the ones that can kick off the ski season for Colorado and the nation and all the excitement attributed to that,” said A-Basin spokesperson Leigh Hierholzer. Loveland marketing director John Sellers said Loveland is aiming to open on Saturday, so long as its experienced team of snowmakers are comfortable with the snow coverage on the hill. The fact that A-Basin will take the title this year “is what it is,” Sellers said.”It’s always kind of been hyped up as a race,” he said. “We always try to open as quickly as we can, but it’s always been independent of what other ski areas are doing.”A-Basin will start the season with an 18-inch base and 1,200 vertical feet of skiing on the intermediate-level High Noon trail, accessed by the Exhibition Lift, Hierholzer said.The High Divide Terrain Park will be set up with three features and can be accessed from High Noon, she said.Breckenridge residents Jeff Meyer and “Trailer Tom” Miller plan to be the first two nonemployees up the mountain, as Miller has done for the past eight years.On Thursday afternoon they said they planned to spend the night in the Last Chance parking lot, and were prepared for a long night with tents and propane heaters. “We know for sure we’re going to battle other people starting at midnight, 2 [a.m.]. By 3:00 there’ll be like 15 cars in the parking lot,” Meyer said.But Meyer, Miller and the rest of the crowd will have to be patient. This morning, the first chair will be dedicated by ski patrollers to Summit Daily News photographer Brad Odekirk, who died in August. Odekirk was a longtime local and one of A-Basin’s favorite photographers. The empty chair in memory of Odekirk will be adorned with a ribbon.The mountain will stay open until 4 p.m. today. Weekend hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ticket prices on opening day are $43 for adults, $38 for teenagers and $19 for kids age six to 14.
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Friends of Colorado Avalanche Information Center has contributed to the state’s avalanche center for several years to help with forecasting for backcountry visitors. It cannot hold in-person fundraisers this year so its asking supporters to sign up for an annual membership.