Vail skiers hit the slopes |

Vail skiers hit the slopes

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyA group of penguins, from left, Paul Rogers, Jeannie Garcia and Jody Petit, head up Chair 8 to get to the snow Friday for opening day on Vail Mountain.

VAIL, Colorado –There are those who never miss an opening day on Vail Mountain, and then there are those who take opening day to new, and borderline insane, levels.

Four Vail men did just that by starting their Vail Mountain opening day festivities Thursday night by camping in front of the chair lift to guarantee their spots on the first chair ride of the 2009-10 season.

Matthew Pauls, 27, E.C. Hoffman, 28, Spencer Nelson, 24, and Chris Johnson, 24, brought sleeping bags and lawn chairs and arrived at the Born Free Express chair lift at 11 p.m. Thursday. They had pizza delivered from Local Joe’s Pizza around midnight.

“We said we were going to get first chair at Vail this year and we weren’t going to leave it to chance,” Pauls said.

The guys knew the snow was man-made and only one run, Born Free, would be open, but they figured the first chair ride of the season would bring them good karma for the rest of the ski season, Hoffman said.

Chris Jarnot, chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, said he’s seen a lot of quests for first chair over the years, but this was a first.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had 11 o’clock the night before – that’s quite the effort,” Jarnot said.

Jarnot greeted skiers and snowboarders as the countdown to the mountain’s official opening at 9 a.m. was underway. He passed out gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses to those who made it onto the first three chair rides of the day.

It was at least a consultation to Rob Prechtl and Townsend Bessent – the men arrived at 4:45 a.m., figuring there was no question they’d get first chair.

“We thought we were going to be first, but much to our chagrin, there were campers,” Prechtl said. “We raced someone here for second (chair) around 6 a.m. because we had gone off-site.”

Conditions at Vail Friday were pretty typical for opening day – man-made, groomed snow that allowed for hard, fast rides downhill. Most people who showed up opening day seemed to know what to expect, but they still wanted to be there for the action and for the festivities.

Early season skiing, while not always the softest or the deepest, is a way for some to kick off the season and get into shape before the heavy snow begins to fall.

Jaime Sirchio, 24, already has 12 days logged this season. He lives in Minturn and has been “hustling over to Summit County” the past few weeks. He’s happy he has a local mountain to ride now, he said.

Cullen Tennant, 16, and Keaton Franklin, 15, wanted to come to opening day so badly that they took a day off from 10th grade at Eagle Valley High School. They said their mothers were nice enough to call them in sick.

The guys have been skiing since they were two years old, they said. They were sick of missing opening day because of school, so they’re happy their mothers were nice enough to help out this season, Cullen said.

Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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