With the unseasonably warm summer we had here in the high country, the thought of ski season seemed so far away. Every year that passes, the seasons consume me and it becomes hard to imagine the mountains filled with snow and vice versa. This year, our last day snowboarding for the 2018-2019 season was June 20th. It was Summer Solstice and as we rode down the mountain in our jackets enjoying our last day of the season, it started snowing. Like real, sticky, big snowflakes and we welcomed the small snow storm knowing that our favorite season was officially coming to an end.
On June 20th of this year, as I sadly put my snowboard away, I never dreamed that I would be celebrating Opening Day on the second week of October. Yes, you read that right! Ski and riding season has officially begun in Colorado… in October!
On the morning of October 11th, I was in the middle of planning my son’s 9th birthday. Typically, his birthday is in the midst of shoulder season when the weather is warm and there isn’t much to do in a mountain town. As I sat on my computer going back and forth between a staycation here in Vail or a mini-roadtrip to Aspen, an email from Vail Resorts popped into my inbox. I stared at the screen of my phone where the headline read, “Keystone Opening Saturday October 12.”
“Wait, WHAT?!” I yelled at my phone in disbelief. My sudden outburst made my husband, my son and even my dog look at me with concern. I turned to my son and said, “Dude, do you want to go snowboarding on your birthday?” Riley looked at me like I had just asked the dumbest question. “Yeah, but how?” So I shared the news and we all gathered around the computer to check the announcement and read up on everything Keystone was planning. It was official, Opening Day was here.
That evening I was like a kid on Christmas eve. I was so excited as I started pulling all of our snow gear out of bins while simultaneously panicking over the essentials I couldn’t find. I couldn’t find my pants, I couldn’t find my gloves, and my snowboard desperately needed a wax. I definitely wasn’t ready for any of this, but it didn’t matter because I was so excited.
The next morning we woke up early, did a little yoga to stretch our legs and left Vail around 7 am. I imagined chaos upon arriving to Keystone. Traffic on the roads and a crazy full parking lot, but to my surprise it was a smooth ride in. My goal was to be one of the first 100 people in line specifically for the free pancake breakfast, but by the time we arrived at 7:45, it was clear that we were not the first people to get there.
When we walked into River Run Village, the atmosphere was perfect. The line for the gondola had formed, there were free donuts, coffee and hot chocolate. A DJ was spinning music, the photo booth had a photographer ready with props, and Keystone staff were giving out patches and ski masks with the Keystone logo. Everyone was all smiles and it was obvious that it was going to be an amazing day.
The line moved quickly and after a nice gondola ride, we found ourselves at the top of the mountain. It was a bit crowded at the top, but this was expected with only one open run. While we strapped our feet into our boards, I felt a twinge of anxiety in my chest. I joked to my husband, “hopefully I still know how to do this!” And I laughed at the thought of being nervous. First day jitters… the same feeling I used to get at school or at a new job, I know what I’m doing but the nerves are hard to ignore.
I stand up, jump up and down to get into position and I slowly make my way down the mountain. As I pick up speed, the nerves fade and I’m taken back to that familiar feeling I love. The smoothness of my board, the small pockets of soft snow that give me a quick sensation of floating, and the fresh air that hits my face… I can feel myself grinning ear to ear. This is my happy place, one of the only places where my stress and nonstop thoughts fade way, THIS is why I love being out here.
We take a couple laps and the reality of Opening Day is hitting my body. My feet and calves are burning, and even though I had breakfast, my stomach feels like it hasn’t seen food in days. Despite staying active all summer, no amount of hiking or squats at the gym can get me ready for snowboarding season. We head back to Summit House at the top of Dercum Mountain where they are serving a stack of pancakes for only $5. When we pay for our pancakes (which by the way were REALLY good!), the cashier gives us tickets for $3 beers or a free soda at River Run. When we decided to call it a day, we took our tickets to a restaurant where we got to pick any beer, even the craft ones, for $3. Seriously, the perfect ending to the perfect Opening Day!!
If you think you’ll be planning a visit, here is my advice:
- Check out Keystone’s website to see all of the fun things they are planning for the start of the season. For example, pancakes are $5 before 10:30 am until November 24th and slices of pizza plus a drink are only $7. They also have live bands lined up, a costume contest, and a cornhole contest. Happy hour at 9280 is also from 2-6. Crazy deals, you guys!
- Get an Epic Pass!! I don’t understand why people purchase single day tickets when a pass is your best deal. You can purchase your pass on any Vail Resort website. Click here!
- If you’re a beginner, wait until more terrain opens up especially the beginner hills. The terrain is very limited so everyone is congregated on one run and many people are not empathetic to new skiers/riders. With people flying down the mountain, it can be very scary for newbies or people with very small children. Start planning your trip now, buy your pass and keep a lookout for updates on when more terrain will be open.
Questions? Let me know in the comments!
This is the second year I am sponsored by Epic Pass, but my fourth year as an Epic Pass holder. So obviously, all opinions are my own!