Mahala Gaylord
Arapahoe Basin opens for first day of the season

Music is pumping, beers are in hand and everyone is shouting happily — but I’m not at a house party. I’m in line for the chairlift at Arapahoe Basin on the first day of the ski season in Colorado.

A-Basin was the first to open on Wednesday, and so here we all are, ready to ride in mid-October. It’s about a 15-minute wait at the bottom for one intermediate run, the High Noon trail, but no one is complaining. In fact, ask anyone how they’re doing and you’re likely to hear, “I’m back on the mountain, so I can’t complain.”

There’s not much to gripe about anyway, short of a few sneaky patches of ice and that unpleasantly cold dew one gets on the face when snow is being made.

It’s sunny, relatively warm and the mountain is spared the strong winds that were whipping along I-70 all morning. The snow is artificial, but more than good enough for the first day.

Inevitably, the first stint back on my board is full of other firsts for the season. It starts with the first ride up the lift, which always has me feeling simultaneously Zen and excited beyond reason. Then there are the first satisfying clicks as I strap into my board, the first few hops, the first cut toe-side and the first cut heel-side.

I’ll catch some air for the first time since April. I’ll curse those dudes sitting in the middle of the trail for the first — and sadly not the last — time. Then it’s the first surge of cockiness and, a second later, the first wipe out.

At the bottom of the run, the first satisfied grin. Also the first moment of realization that there’s snow in my pants.

Firsts turn into seconds, thirds and eventually 15ths, but I’m not tired or bored, and neither is anyone else.

Even the guys working the lift seem stoked to be there.

Opening day just feels like being a kid on Christmas — or so said my boyfriend when he couldn’t sleep past 6 a.m. A-Basin is especially conducive to that holiday spirit. The mountain that draws girls in bikinis for the 4th of July has the same atmosphere on opening day. It’s a celebration.

But the snowboarder and skier version of a well-dressed family that gathers around the dining room table with turkey and wine is a group of friends (and often strangers) in brightly colored gear circled around a grill and a case of beer in the parking lot.

So perhaps a toast is in order. Raise your beer and drink to the Colorado snowboarding and skiing season ahead. Here’s to the first chair and the last call, and everything that happens in between. Here’s to fresh powder, big air, perfect jibs and maybe a McTwist.

May your butts stay dry and bones go unbroken.

And if we could get a hell of a lot more snow than last year, that’d be swell, too.

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