The wait is over: The 2003-2004 ski season has begun. |

The wait is over: The 2003-2004 ski season has begun.

Richard Chittick Special to the Daily
Loveland Ski Area employees, Jared Grant (left), and Sean Gaubatz (right) help skiiers and snowboarders get on the ski lift Tuesday afternoon, the first day Loveland Ski Area opened. Loveland was the first in Summit county to open, despite above average temperatures.

The tow truck was less important than what it dropped off – a 1983 Ford Club Wagon, complete with a custom paint job and gold hubcaps. As a vehicle, it stunk.

As “affordable housing” to wait out the start of the 2003-2004 ski season, however, it was sweet. The van’s faulty engine didn’t stop the two – known locally as “Nate Dogggg” and “Trailor Tom” – from making it home until Loveland opened Tuesday. It also didn’t stop Vail’s Reed Silberman from joining them on Oct. 22.

Finally, after a week spent waiting with a portable DVD player, make-shift bunk beds, layers of foam padding, “Shagon Wagon” written on the windshield and a Brittney Spears window screen, the trio wandered out of the van Tuesday morning at 8:45, strapped on their snowboards and stood in line ahead of every other powder enthusiast in the country.

At 9 a.m. sharp, Loveland ticket takers scanned the trio’s tickets and, for the sixth consecutive year, Nadler and Miller were the first to board the season’s first chair. Behind them, roughly 100 people from all parts of Colorado followed.

The run was available to the riders at Loveland, which tries hard every season to be the first mountain to open. The run combined three trails, which started on Catwalk, dumped out briefly on Mambo and ran back down to the base area on Home Run.

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In all, about, 1,000 vertical feet of terrain was available, including a small terrain park consisting of two jibb-able boxes that ski patrol frantically finished installing only moments before the first riders came through.

Many of the riders who showed up for the first day were from the Front Range.

“I was excited to see the e-mail,” said Sara Symons of Denver, referring to the mailing list the resort uses to advertise opening day.

Despite the small delay caused by warm October temperatures, everyone seemed ready to go Tuesday.

“It’s a little bit later than I expected,” Brian Kalet of Boulder said. “But I’ll take it.”

Brian Nokes of Breckenridge added: “I’ve been ready for a month, but whatever comes at this point is good by me.”

Moderate cloud cover and temperatures in the 30s allowed the man-made snow conditions to hold.

“The top was all powdery,” Nadler said. “That was cool. The bottom was a little choppy.”

The clouds even let loose a minor dusting of snow, which dusted nearby thirteeners, such as Golden Bear Peak, Hagar Mountain and Mount Sniktau.

“It makes it a little nicer that it’s snowing on the first day,” Silberman said.

By 10:30 a.m., the first wave of skiers was retreating to the cafeteria. Some were even calling it a day.

“Two hours for 10 runs – it’s worth coming over,” Joe Smith of Vail said. “There was a hardly a person out there. If you timed it right, you had a wide open run.”

Rebecca McFarland, who lives just south of Denver, is a Loveland regular.

“Loveland is my favorite,” she said. “I’ve been waiting all summer long.”

Loveland opened 12 days later this year than in 2002.

“But they came through,” McFarland added before her third run of the season.

Throughout the morning, Pete Gallup and Johnny Brokaw of KSMT radio blared music across the base area, appropriately playing Jane’s Addiction’s “Mountain Song” only a few minutes after first chair.

Meanwhile, Nadler was figuring out what to do with his van. It will, he said, be on sale today on e-Bay.

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