Vail Opening Day: Terrain openings, highway closures |

Vail Opening Day: Terrain openings, highway closures

Ben Walter throws a corked three off of a rock on North Rim during Vail Mountain's opening day Friday.
Townsend Bessent | |

VAIL — The season started Friday like any good November powder day, with terrain openings to start the day and highway closures to end it.

Local residents rejoiced in the immense powder and acreage available for skiing and snowboarding.

Max Rowe grew up skiing Vail and called it one of the best opening days he’s ever seen. When the lifts stopped loading passengers for the day, he headed down but not home. He lives on the Front Range and didn’t want to brave the traffic.

“There’s no way I’m headed back now,” he said, with a glance toward a closed I-70 eastbound. “I’ll wait till the morning.”

Conor Grundtisch, 21, has lived in Vail his whole life and also said it was one of the best opening days he’s ever seen.

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“We went from Game Creek to Northwoods and back, found lots of powder and no liftlines,” he said. “I knew it was off to a great start when it was puking snow in East Vail this morning.”

Headed to Colorado Springs from California, Rod and Georgia Germain and their dog Snicker were stranded in Vail during the highway closure.

“We’ll probably go get a room at the Holiday Inn and stay the night,” Rod Germain said. “We live in Big Bear, so we know how these mountain roads can get.”

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Braving snow and poor visibility, local residents Rebecca Schroeppel, Andrew Worth, Thomas D’Errico, Myreh Luallen and Andy Kuyoth skinned up the mountain in order to claim the first ride up the new and improved Chair 2. That lift, the Avanti Express, was upgraded this summer to accommodate six passengers, rather than four.

When Vail Mountain Chief Operating Officer Chris Jarnot got to Chair 2 and saw there was already people waiting there, he was shocked.

“I just assumed the first people up would have come over from Chair 8,” he said. “We’re really lucky to have such a passionate community of skiers and snowboarders here.”

Schroeppel said she wasn’t trying to one-up her friends who had been waiting all night at the base of Chair 8, she just wanted to start the day with a workout and ensure she would be one of the first to reach the untouched powder in the Chair 2 area.

“We started about 6 a.m.,” she said. “It’s really cool that Vail is still allowing uphill access while they get their early season terrain ready.”

D’Errico said he just wanted to get the best snow.

“The early pig gets the pow,” he said.


Local residents Cesar Hermosillo, Jen Natbony, Tyler Moore and Dwight Winkelman were the first up Chair 8 after camping out Thursday night. Kameron Weakley and Andrew Wight, Joe Henderson, Ace Accetturo, Michelle Irene and Austin Hughes were on the first Eagle Bahn gondola of the season.

Accetturo, a Frisco resident, will be mostly a Copper Mountain rider this season but said he couldn’t miss Opening Day at Vail. He got in at 6 p.m. Thursday night and camped out in order to be on the first gondola.

“It was so worth it,” he said. “No lift lines, deep snow, great coverage, and we were riding logs and trees on day one. It’s not very often you can say you were riding the trees on the first day of the season.”

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