Snow snarls mountain traffic; skiers camp out for Loveland’s opening Thursday

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CLEAR CREEK COUNTY, Colo. -- A wintry blast in the mountains made roads a mess for drivers but got skiers excited Tuesday.

In a matter of a few miles, road conditions on Interstate 70 went from perfect to wet to dangerous. The closer drivers got to the Eisenhower Tunnel, the more trouble they faced.

Between Idaho Springs and the tunnel, there were two rollovers and at least half a dozen semitrucks spun out, unable to get up the hill.

“Just coming up from Georgetown to here, I slid sideways a couple of times,” truck driver Henry Serna said as he put chains on his wheels.

While some drivers were not ready for winter, Loveland Ski Area has been patiently waiting for it to arrive.

“Today we picked up about 4 inches so far,” Loveland Ski Area’s John Sellers said about 5 p.m. “It’s still coming down pretty hard and there’s more in the forecast so bring it on. We’re ready.”

Loveland will get to claim the coveted title of first mountain to open for the season when it plans to open its first lift at 9 a.m. Thursday.

“It’s huge for us. It’s been about five years since we were able to turn lifts for the first time in Colorado,” Sellers said.

Loveland won the snow war in 2015, but there is another battle at stake in Colorado’s mountains -- who will sit in the first chair up the mountain?

“This is a big year. This is my 20th consecutive year for having first chair in North America,” said “Nate Dogggg," a snowboarder from Breckenridge.

Nate and his friend Chad Otterstrom have been camping out in Loveland’s parking lot since Monday night to win the bragging rights once again.

“It feels like it’s about 25 degrees and it’s snowing sideways,” Otterstrom said. “It’s my favorite kind of weather.”

They will stay put until ski season opens Thursday morning.

“There’s nothing crazy about it. Everybody’s got their own life choices they’re crazy about,” Nate said. “We wake up every day and smile at the snow and that’s just us.”

Loveland suggests hitting the road early on opening day. It is expecting a large crowd Thursday. No other ski areas have announced an October opening date.​