VAIL, Colorado - Skiers and snowboarders lined up in Lionshead Friday morning for an opening day that not only rang in a milestone anniversary for Vail Mountain, but also a feeling of optimism and joy over the upcoming season.
Cesar Hermosillo, of Minturn, looks at every season with optimism. Hermosillo camped out at the Born Free Express Thursday night to ensure he got a spot on the first chair of Vail's 50th anniversary season. More than 10 people showed up to brave the overnight cold just for a chance to say they were one of the first people down the mountain for the 2012-13 season. As of Friday afternoon, Hermosillo was already sixth on the Epic Mix leaderboard with 10 days logged for the season.
With a bad snow year behind them, skiers and snowboarders were positive Friday as they cruised down Born Free, the only run open Friday for Vail's opening. The run was a nice, fast groomer that felt pretty soft under the sunny sky.
"For mostly manmade snow, it's not bad," said Devin Simondes, 30. "I mean, a bad day on the mountain is still a good day in my book."
Simondes wasn't having a bad day at all, though. He joined some friends and coworkers from the Game Creek Club for some opening day runs and thought about the season ahead.
"I'm just looking forward to some good snow and hoping for the best. Coming off last season, I don't think it could - snow-wise - get any worse, so it's all optimism for what's ahead," Simondes said.
Other skiers and riders echoed those thoughts. Down at the base of the mountain in Lionshead, more than 10 snowboarders set up lawn chairs and brought music, food, a grill and games. They decided to turn opening day into slope-side party because, well, why not?
"We're just celebrating the start of the season," said Shannon Kennedy, who wore gold sequin snowboarding pants for the occasion. "We're taking a lot of runs and then just kicking it."
Sam Emmes, 24, said part of the reason for the party was to give moral support to a buddy who hurt his leg and can't snowboard right now. They played Frisbee together and drank beers as the line for the Born Free Express snaked around toward their party site.
Like Simondes, Emmes said he's looking forward to the season and knows it "can't be worse than last season."
With a brand new gondola heading out of Vail Village, and a packed calendar of 50th anniversary events and celebrations, there's a lot to look forward to in Vail this season. For snowboarders like Emmes and Kennedy, the Burton U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships coming to Vail in February is something to get excited about. It's the 30th anniversary of that event, but the first time it will be held in Vail.
"We hope that brings a lot of new people to experience what Vail is all about," Emmes said.
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.