The crowds may not have been as big as they were at neighboring Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Sunday, but the spirits were just as high as Loveland kicked off its 2013-14 ski season Thursday.
“This is probably the best opening day I’ve seen in 25 years,” longtime ski patroller Frank Peterson said, referring to conditions and snow coverage.
While Loveland wasn’t the first to open the season — that was A-Basin — those who showed up cheered loudly when Loveland staffers started loading lifts.
Ski area director of business operations Rob Goodell watched with a smile as the first skiers hopped aboard.
Nick Karaveris, of Boulder, couldn’t claim “first chair” in the state, but being first at Loveland was just fine by him.
“I left Boulder at 5 a.m.,” he said, standing in line shortly before the official 9 a.m. opening. He arrived at Loveland around 7:30 and didn’t get in line until closer to opening time. Shortly before opening, he was joined by a crowd that likely numbered less than 100.
Karaveris said he has had first or second chair many times over the last 35 years, often taking second to the man who refers to himself as Nate Dogggg, who claims to have had first chair in Colorado, regardless of ski area, for the last 18 years.
Nate claimed it again Sunday at A-Basin, after spending two nights sleeping close to the lift.
“I don’t want to sleep in the parking lot,” Karaveris said, acknowledging Nate’s accomplishment. “I’m not into that.”
Maybe it was because A-Basin was first, maybe it was that Loveland’s opening day came mid-week or maybe it was the Denver news station that warned skiers and riders to expect big crowds for opening day, but Loveland was not busy — and those who came down the hill and slid straight to the front of the line didn’t seem to mind at all.
The family atmosphere at Loveland was apparent as season pass holders and employees greeted one another throughout the day with a smile and traded news about their off-seasons.
“Everybody in this room I recognize,” Goodell said, standing in Loveland’s Rathskeller bar in the early afternoon. “It’s like all your friends coming to watch a Bronco game.”
A number of guests commented on how fond they were of their home ski area.
“It’s the best place in the universe. I love it here. Best people, best terrain,” Dagmar Teleky, of Aurora, said, later assuring a reporter that she didn’t work for the mountain.
While Goodell said opening first is good for publicity, in the long run it evens out.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls. I feel like it’s going to be a strong weekend,” he said.
A promising forecast and continued snowmaking have him hopeful the ski area will be able to open additional terrain in time for the weekend.
“I think we’ve got more than a foot in the last week, and there’s up to 6 inches in the forecast tonight,” marketing director John Sellars said. “We’re hopeful this is a sign of things to come.”
Officials at A-Basin also reported that they continue to make a lot of progress, thanks to both natural snow and favorable snowmaking conditions. They, too, hope to open more terrain in the coming week.