BEAVER CREEK, Colorado - The Beav', as it's affectionately referred to by locals, is officially open for the 2012-13 season.
The four first-chair riders spent more than 12 hours exposed to the elements in anticipation for their home mountain to open Wednesday. A father-son duo, Pat and Trexler Hirn, arrived Tuesday evening and met two guys they'd get to know over the course of a cold night, Louis Damato and Evan Jones.
"These are good hombres - they're some good guys," Pat Trexler said shortly before the four boarded the first chairlift ride at Beaver Creek for the 2012-13 season.
The guys were set up right in front of the Centennial Express lift until Beaver Creek security told them they had to move around midnight. They went over to the outdoor couches, but unfortunately the fire pit wasn't burning.
Why go through such extremes just to say you rode the first chair of the season? Well, for one, the first people to ride the chairlift at Beaver Creek Wednesday got a free Go Pro kit, which includes a Go Pro camera and other accessories, to share. The guys originally heard each rider would get a free Go Pro camera, which is what motivated all of them to brave the cold. That's why Trexler Hirn, 16, wanted to camp out - that and because now he can cross it off his bucket list.
"It'll be great to be the first ones on the Beav'," he said.
Damato, 26, said the camp-out experience is all about having fun and embracing ski culture.
"Come out, support the ski community and just have fun with your buddies and keep it local, you know," Damato said.
Beaver Creek is most certainly local. Many Eagle County residents call it their home mountain, and it's often referred to as the locals' mountain.
"It's a great mountain. You get a lot of vertical, there's a lot of different terrain and, you know, it's not exactly roughing it," Damato said.
Free parking is something that keeps locals coming back. That, and the free hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies, said skier Stephen Gill, of Avon.
Those who made it onto second chair showed dedication, too. Cesar Hermosillo and some buddies arrived at 4:30 a.m. to wait for Beaver Creek to open for the season. You may recognize his name - he camped out in Vail last week and made it onto first chair, and has been on the second chair at ever other Colorado mountain on the Epic Pass this season. He tries to get first chair most days of the season, not just on opening day.
"(I do it) for the camaraderie," Hermosillo said. "The friends I've made at Vail - there's a crew of us that will show up for first chair every day and ride until the end of the day. It just makes it worth it. ... Now it's like we have our own little ski crew."
Beaver Creek opened with a reported 18-inch base depth and 29 recorded inches for the season, which the resort began counting in October. And with an earlier than usual Thanksgiving this year, mountain operations crews had their hands full leading up to opening day.
"This is really early for us," said Greg Johnson, director of mountain operations. "It's gone really well. It's been a little mild, but we have great snow, 101 acres and three trails - we're really happy about that."
Johnson said Beaver Creek has one of the largest snowmaking systems in the United States. He can think of maybe six resorts - all in the eastern United States - that have larger systems.
"That's a big asset for Beaver Creek and the conditions we can offer," Johnson said. "When it gets cold, we can make obviously a lot more snow in the same time period, but we've still done very well with what Mother Nature has given us and we're very happy about that."
Johnson said the resort will open new terrain as conditions permit. He's especially excited for the new women's downhill course to open near the men's Birds of Prey course. The men's Audi Birds of Prey World Cup is on schedule for Nov. 30-Dec. 2, and the women's course should open as soon as there's enough natural snow coverage. The new run, built for the 2015 World Alpine Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, is named Kestrel.
"It's going to be a great trail," Johnson said. "It's a double black diamond, it's in and out of upper Peregrine and then below the Golden Eagle pumphouse is where the new stretch is. It's going to be a great ladies' race trail and it's going to be an awesome ski trail, too."
Assistant Managing Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.