A-Basin open, launches the 2012-13 ski season

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A-Basin kicked off the 2012-13 ski season at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Photo by Jack Dempsey.

Ski season is on.

Arapahoe Basin opened its slopes at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning — the first of the Colorado Ski Country USA member resorts and first in the U.S.  — to an energetic crowd of about 2,000 whooping and hollering and ready to shred.

Low temperatures and cool nights allowed snow makers in the area to make snow – assisted by Mother Nature’s occasional dustings – throughout the previous weeks. The cold temperatures and the traditionally competitive opening day race fueled enthusiasm among skiers and riders, and once again propelled Colorado to the forefront of skiing and snowboarding, Colorado Ski Country USA officials said.

“There has been an infectious optimism about the ski season ahead,” said Melanie Mills, Colorado Ski Country USA president and CEO. “Strong pass sales over Labor Day weekend were a precursor to the recent chatter we’ve seen on social media, and the buzz has gathered momentum with snowfall in the mountains.”

The combination of cooperative weather, work from Arapahoe Basin’s snow makers and pent up excitement from loyal skiers and riders culminated in today’s spectacle: hundreds queuing up to ski their first runs of the season, Mills said.

“It’s official, Colorado is open for ski business,” she said.

During the last 10 years, the traditional race to open has been a friendly, yet competitive, affair. Last year’s surprise candidate, Wolf Creek, opened Oct. 8 after an early season storm piled up 44 inches. The excess snow almost precipitated Wolf Creek beating out Loveland’s record 2009 opening of Oct. 7 for the earliest this century. Loveland still holds the earliest opening — Oct. 7, 2009 — most victories with five and one tie; and deepest opening day base depth of 24 inches in 2004, in the past decade.

Wednesday, Arapahoe Basin opened Black Mountain Express lift servicing the intermediate High Noon trail, which is 1,000 feet long, with an 18-inch base that was complete after 12 days of snowmaking.

It is anticipated that Loveland Ski Area will be close on the heels of Arapahoe Basin in its opening day quest. With other Colorado resorts also making snow, Colorado Ski Country USA projects that more resorts will open in the next several weeks.