Opening Day Is Awesome...But Also Terrifying

Everyone out there who experienced the opening of the 2013/2014 ski season Veteran’s Day weekend, or if your mountain just opened this past weekend, let’s raise a glass: opening weekend is over and it is time for ski season to begin.

I will toast to that.

Don’t get me wrong, I was out there on opening day really excited, cruising around on my equipment still wrecked from last spring, enjoying the free beer, making some nice arcs across a couple of cat tracks, and hanging out with all my friends who were doing exactly the same thing.

And that is why opening weekend is also one of the most dangerous weekends.

Firstly, excitement is running high.  People are amped.  The first lift ride up the mountain is like waking up on Christmas morning and you just want to tear through every single present.  Everyone wants to get to the top, and then be the first one to the bottom.  It is guaranteed that on every opening day there is that one guy who gets off the chair and skates super hard past everybody else and immediately drops into a tuck and bombs straight down to claim first run of the season.

Cool, bro.  However, had you eaten shit anywhere along the way, I would be the first to tell you that you are a fucking idiot, and you would be permanently on my dating blacklist.

I didn’t load the lift until about 9:30, well after most of the knuckleheads had done enough straight-lining to get bored, and some of the go-getters that were out there for first chair needed to take of their boots and grab a drink.  I had stored my skis in the Thule box on my car all summer.  The last time I opened it was when I put my skis in it at the end of the season in May.  I pulled out a pair that I thought would be acceptable for opening day conditions.  I didn’t really note the condition they were in until I was actually on the snow, pulling them apart.  Then I remembered, I left town in such a hurry last season I didn’t even put a coat of wax on them for storage and definitely didn’t touch the edges.  They were kind of a train wreck, but I just shrugged my shoulders and though, “well, good enough.”

By my third turn on the very variable, man-made, and surprisingly hard surface, I realized that maybe it was a poor decision to not take my skis out at any point over the summer and do some work on them.  The combination of death cookies, bulletproof ice, hidden rocks, and a dusty skier does not work in conjunction with railed skis and super dry bases.  It is just scary and unsafe.

You know what else is scary and unsafe?  2,000 people skiing on one trail with less width than a two-lane highway.  Usually on opening day the whole mountain is not open, and we are really lucky to have more than two trails.  Everyone gets funneled to the same runs, and with all other opening day factors to consider, it is hazardous.

I did about an hour and a half before I had to take my boots off.  Then I headed to where most everybody else was making frequent stops: the bar.  Let’s just recap why opening day is dangerous; most of us haven’t skied in about 6 months, we are super excited, the conditions are not good, there is not a lot of snow, and our equipment is still destroyed from spring skiing.  Now, add alcohol.

Booze makes every day activities like using the phone or driving, into almost certain disasters.  Skiing is no exception.  Mammoth always has a toast to kick off the season with free champagne for everyone on opening day.  This year was a little different; Mammoth Brewing Co. brewed a special 60th anniversary beer for the mountain in honor of the 60th year of operation.  Everyone got their beer, and Rusty made his annual speech, and with glasses held in the air we all wished for a season full of deep pow.  And then people kept on drinking, and kept on skiing.  No thanks.  I took my boots off and watched from the Sun Deck.  I do not want to get ruined on my first day out, because really there is nothing sexy about your first day of the season also being your last.

Really the biggest thing that makes opening day the most perilous is that it’s everybody else’s first day of the season.  You can control yourself, but you don’t know when the last time the other guy tuned his skis, or how many celebratory drinks those girls had, or if that dude is going to be able to stop after bombing down a run. 

I’m glad the first couple weekends are over.  I’ve tuned my skis, they’re making more snow, more trails are slowly opening up, and there is white stuff in the forecast.  Now we are playing the waiting game.  When will we get our first big dump?  When will they open the gondi to the top?  When can I take out my good equipment?  One thing is for sure though, the best is yet to come.

-km