LOVELAND, Colo. -- It had been 136 days since skiers and boarders took their last runs down Colorado’s slopes in June.
But on Thursday, outdoor enthusiasts rejoiced once again.
Two ski resorts, Loveland Ski Area and Arapahoe Basin, shared the honor of kicking off the 2015-16 ski season at 9 a.m. Thursday.
Dozens waited in anticipation to resume their relationship with the mountain. But none waited longer than Nate Dogg, who slept in his car three days to be first on the lift.
“Number 1 on the chair is a statement: We’re the first ones starting off the Colorado ski season and in this case North America’s ski season,” said the snowboarder who was the first person on the slopes for the 20th time.
It’s a season that started nearly two weeks later than last season thanks to unseasonably warm weather.
“Couple weeks ago we were a little bit nervous. But things turned around really quickly. Mother Nature finally came through. We got 21 inches of snow in the last week,” Loveland spokesman John Sellers said.
The conditions are part of what Loveland and the state’s 20 other resorts hope will drive up visitor numbers to better than the 7.1 million last year. New attractions and improvements might also help.
When Copper Mountain opens Nov. 6, visitors can summon their inner Warren Miller. Copper along with Winter Park will deploy drones to film guests' epic runs.
“I think it’ll be a hit, as long as you don’t get hit,” said snowboarder Nick Reynolds of Dillon.
But he says he’ll probably pass because of the $100 to $200 cost.
And at Winter Park, guests will get on the mountain quicker with radio frequency identification that’s incorporated into lift tickets and passes, and is automatically read at the lift line.
It’s a day that couldn’t have come any quicker. A milelong decent on 18 inches of packed powder that rates a mile high with at least six more months of playing to go.
“Like a 10,” 11-year-old Oliver Search said about how he’d rank the day.
“It’s like Christmas in October. Been waiting all summer for this,” Sellers said.
Some other capital improvements this season include new high-speed lifts at Aspen Snowmass, Purgatory and Powderhorn.
You also see new restaurants and renovations at Copper, Ski Cooper and Steamboat and a new stage and a music venue at A-Basin.