Loveland opening: "Leave your rock skis at home"

See photos of the opening at westword.com/slideshow.

Loveland Ski Area wins this year's race to become the first to open in Colorado. But given how early the starting bell rang -- Loveland hasn't gotten started so soon in forty years -- should zealots leave their top-shelf equipment at home and bring their beater gear? Loveland marketing director John Sellers is positively appalled at the suggestion. "We've got an eighteen-inch base and full side-to-side coverage," he says. "There are no rocks poking through, top to bottom. Leave your rock skis at home."

At this point, only one run is open, Sellers notes, and most of the snow is of the man-made variety, with natural snow sprinkled in here and there as a supplement to the eighteen-inch base. Nevertheless, he says people began lining up at the lift at three o'clock yesterday afternoon and the slope is filling up at this writing. That likely has a lot to do with what he calls a "party-like atmosphere" hyped by a countdown to October's inaugural run by a local radio station, refreshments offered by vendors like Tommyknocker Brewery, and a Twitter scavenger hunt conducted under the auspices of the Orage clothing line. First clue: "To get the chair running, lifities are early to rise. At the top of chair one, you'll find the first prize."

The grim state of the economy can't be considered good news for recreation areas in general, but Sellers believes his slice of the Continental Divide is well positioned to do as well this year as last, when Loveland registered more skier visits than ever before. "We are not a destination resort," he points out, with no discernible sense of insecurity. "We cater to the Front Range, and because of our proximity to Denver, it costs people less money to get here and to ski here. In some cases, our lift tickets are less than half those at some of the Summit County resorts, and we have a seven-month season. We won't close until May, and we average 400 inches of snow -- more than any Front Range or Summit County resort. So we're optimistic."

Especially today, when Loveland is the only ski game in town.

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