On the Hill: The hors d’oeuvre
October 14, 2005
We’ve all heard them.Those survival stories in which starving victims of some incredible mishap scarf down something hideous in a desperate, last-ditch effort to stay alive. The first day of lift-served skiing is often kind of like that.Shackleton and his team had to choke down a few sled dogs in the Antarctic.Mauro Prosperi, an Italian marathoner lost in the Moroccan Sahara, was forced to drink blood from two bats.Members of the Donner party consumed each other.On Friday, nearly 1,000 snow-starved skiers and snowboarders devoured less-than-spectacular conditions at Loveland, which for the sixth straight year became the first ski area in the United States to crank up its lifts.There wasn’t exactly a full menu.Opening day consists of one fixed-grip triple chairlift, 1,000 vertical feet, one run (actually three spliced together), and one heck of a lot of people vying for a little icy slice of heaven. All for $38.Skiers – from Denver, Colorado Springs, Summit County, Vail, Aspen and beyond – jostled and joked in the overcrowded lift line. Park hounds queued up to test their mettle on the rails. Cameras from Front Range TV stations recorded it all for posterity and hilarity. Some broke in new skis. Some broke out the shorts and ’80s neon. Some of us took our first falls of the season. And if we did, it was probably a slick, hard landing. Let’s just say the closest thing to powder was found covering the free lift-line donuts.Still, few complained. And why would they? We’ve been waiting since spring for Colorado’s favorite winter pastime to begin, and it did 24 days into autumn on a bluebird day that felt almost like summer.Sure, opening day may have been barely enough to whet our starving appetites, but at least we didn’t have to drink any bat blood.