"We don't like to talk about specific numbers, but we sold over 1000 tickets," said marketing director Kevin Wright. The previous record opening was about 800 tickets.
It was Loveland's fifth consecutive year as the first American resort to open its lifts for the full season. Silverton operated over Labor Day weekend, following an unusual late-August snowfall, then closed.
That early snow is the key to Loveland's successful opening. "We had a wet summer and good fall snow," Wright said. "Last year the first natural snow fell on Nov. 1; this year we've already had 48 inches. We have a manmade product, but the natural snow really helps."
About 300 skiers and riders stood patiently in line for the rope-drop on Lift 1 at 9:00 am, eating the free donuts distributed by resort hosts, and Power Bar Bites handed out with each $34 ticket purchase. Another hundred or so jostling around the ticket windows. All the local TV stations had trucks in the parking lot, and reporters from both Denver newspapers interviewed guests moving through the lift corral. Camera crews and still photographers crouched next to snowmaking hydrants on Mambo and Home Run.
A dozen hardgoods companies sent vans and set canopies set up near the lift. The weather was cool and breezy, with broken low clouds and good visibility.
As usual for opening day, Loveland advertised skiing on three runs -- Catwalk, Mambo and Home Run -- but these form a continuous mile-long strip, so it's really just one run, descending 1000 feet. The snow was fast, with a soft natural surface over about 20 inches of durable manmade base.
First day guests were mostly advanced to expert in ability, which meant that traffic moved briskly past the only bottleneck -- the switchback on Catwalk. There were plenty of near-misses but no bloody entanglements. Mountain Dew sponsored a Rail Jam competition on the right side of Mambo trail, and most of the riders traversed out of Catwalk to watch. This opened up the left and center of Mambo for brisk skiing.
We made six quick runs in an hour, and as the corral filled up -- meaning a ten-minute lift line -- quit at around 10:15, long before the Tommyknocker Brewery apres-ski party.
Parking lot personnel had their hands full through late morning, balancing incoming cars against departing traffic.
Wright noted that the snowmaking crew will shift the guns tonight to the terrain under Lift 2, with plans to open more terrain within two weeks. By then neighboring Arapahoe Basin should be operating: They've announced a target date of Oct. 22, one week from today. Copper plans to open Nov. 5, and Keystone on Nov. 10. \