One Vail trail? That’s enough, skiers say
VAIL, Colorado ” 6:56 a.m.: Vail’s opening day dawns cold and snowy.
For skiers, it is a welcome sight. In the last couple of weeks, the Vail Mountain has struggled to make snow in warm and dry weather, pushing back its opening by five days.
A blanket of about 3 inches of snow covers the town, the first significant snowfall in the valley in the last couple of weeks.
The natural snow adds a veneer to the manmade snow Vail had worked for weeks to make. It would open one trail ” about 1 percent of its terrain ” for opening day.
7 a.m.: It is not skiers who stream toward Chair 8. It is construction workers. Dozens and dozens of hard-hatted workers walk toward the Arrabelle at Vail Square, the giant building that’s under construction in the middle of Lionshead.
Not all of them are oblivious to opening day.
“There’s no way I would strap those things on my feet and slide down a hill,” one of them says, walking down the steps of the Lionshead parking structure.
7:03 a.m.: A bleeping snowcat is putting the finishing touches on the ski yard, going back and forth in front of the lift. A couple of Vail Resorts workers are chipping away at the ice on the sidewalk.
There is no one waiting in line. In past years, excited skiers have camped out to get first chair. But that was when powder snow and dozens of trails awaited.
7:21 a.m.: A skier appears high on Born Free, making beautiful arcs down the trail with a dog running in tow. It’s Ellen Miller, Vail’s resident skier-climber-runner-adventurer extraordinaire. She has summited Mount Everest, but she seems ecstatic to have just skied Born Free.
“I’m just all jacked up because I just got to ski!” she says.
She had skinned up and skied down, seemingly effortlessly, on the metal-edge-less cross-country skis.
“It’s like my Thanksgiving,” she says.
7:32 a.m.: Andrew and Christian Pellerito, brothers from Avon, show up at the lift carrying their skis. Andrew, 13, and Christian, 11, have slept on the floor of their dad’s ski shop, Performance Sports in Lionshead, to get first chair.
So have they been waiting all summer to go skiing?
“Yes,” they say in unison.
Even with one trail, it’s going to be worth it, they say.
“If it’s skiing, it’s going to be fun,” Christian says.
8 a.m.: Nine people are waiting in line. Chuck Hewitt is one of them.
“Just part of the season, I guess,” he says. “Make the obligatory first laps, regardless of conditions.”
Henry Ward is right behind him. The Eagle resident had shown up at 6:30 a.m., just to get first chair.
“This is what I do,” he says, referring to snowboarding. “I’ve been dying all summer.
He is planning to ride all day on Born Free.
8:30 a.m.: Still waiting. About half the maze is full. Kris Serbousek is going to try to get a few runs in on his tele skis before he has to go to work.
“As many as I can till about 9:45,” he says.
The five-day delay in Vail’s opening was a bit disappointing, he says.
“I was kind of antsy to get up there, but the snow wasn’t there,” he says.
8:44 a.m.: People are renting skis in Double Diamond Ski Shop, near Chair 8.
“Opening day is always exciting, even if you’ve been here for a long time,” says Jim Cooper, a manager. “We kind of come out of a summer hibernation.”
8:53 a.m.: The maze is just about full.
8:54 a.m.: The lifties let down the ropes. A cheer erupts from the crowd. The Pellerito brothers, Ward and Hewitt have the honors of first chair. The crowd inches forward.
9:05 a.m.: The first skier down, Pat Brown, crosses the bridge back to the lift.
“It was great,” he says. “Not bad for the first day.”
9:13 a.m.: Bill Jensen, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, heads up the lift for a run or two.
“I’m happy,” he says. “We’re open.”
9:30 a.m.: Matt Toth is done. His skis are on his shoulder, and he’s walking away from the lift. He got two runs in.
“Just a couple runs, get out there, be happy that Vail is open again,” he says.
9:35 a.m.: It starts snowing, and it feels like winter.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.
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