Familiar faces await first chair of season at Arapahoe Basin | VailDaily.com

Familiar faces await first chair of season at Arapahoe Basin

Trailer Tom, 37, in orange and Nate Dogggg, 36, in red at 8:45 a.m. Friday. Tom started first chair hunting at age 16, Nate at age 17.
John LaConte | jlaconte@vaildaily.com |

ARAPAHOE BASIN — It’s 3 a.m., and a dozen people are gathered in the parking lot and beneath the chairlift in anticipation of the 2014-15 ski season.

Legendary snowboarder Nate Dogggg has been camped out here since Wednesday. He predicted, correctly, that Arapahoe Basin would be the first ski area in North American to open this season, and that it would open on Friday, Oct. 17. This will be his 19th consecutive year making first chair.

“It’s all about having fun,” Nate Dogggg told me an hour ago from the comfort of his sleeping bag. “I love the sport, and I got great family to come do it with.”

That family was been stationed alongside Nate Dogggg all day Thursday. His close companion, Trailer Tom, had bright orange Nate Dogggg shirts printed for the occasion, as per tradition.

Trailer Tom’s been doing it 21 years, but hasn’t made first chair consecutively like Nate Dogggg.

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“When we first started out, it would be maybe 30, 40 cars in the parking lot, and we’d light a bonfire or cookout,” he said. “It’s really kind of died off. Now a lot of people get here around 5 or 6.”

Nate Dogggg said on Wednesday night, he only slept five hours, and catnapped for an hour or so during the day Thursday.

Indeed, it’s not an easy environment for sleeping. Snow making machines light up the run above. Every 20 minutes or so, the large diesel engine of a grooming machine roars up to the porch area beneath the lifts where everyone’s sleeping. The lights shine into the campers’ sleeping bags for a few seconds before the machine sounds the loud and annoying beep of reverse and backs out. The base area leading up to the lift needs to be in tip top shape, for it’s going to host a jam packed maze from about 7 a.m. on, and so that’s where the groomers are focusing their attention during the three o’clock hour.

The hardcores sleep beneath the chair. Other congregate in the parking lot. There’s eight cars here now.

I came here with a skier and a snowboarder from Vail. As we were pulling in, the Summit County Sheriff’s Department was leaving. They asked us if we were “fixing to get some turns,” and told us we were smart for skating our claim in the first group.

“It’s gonna get crowded fast,” the officer said.

The three or four people congregated in the parking lot said all the cops told them was to keep the music down and enjoy their turns out there.

“Definitely good community policing,” said Summit Country snowboarder Ace Accetturo, who got there about 9 p.m. Thursday and claimed second chair.

It’s now 3:30 a.m., and the lights are starting to turn on at the base lodge near by.

The groomer seems to have fixed his attention elsewhere, for now. It’s about 25 degrees out here — not too bad all things considered.

It’s not like we’re expecting a great run down the hill tomorrow, but the thought of the snow under my feet is as comforting as this cozy sleeping bag surrounding me.

I don’t think that cop is right. We’re probably not smart for being here, sleeping all night in the cold for one lousy run. But as I lay here, near the sleeping legend on the eve of his 19th yeah in a row making America’s first chair of the season, I’m glad I can say I shared a little part of such an impressive reign, at least for one year.

Long live the Dogggg.

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