The Best First Day of the Season

Last weekend, ski resorts across the country started spinning their chairs. Winter is officially here.

The first first chair at Mammoth Mountain. PHOTO: Courtesy of Mammoth Mountain

The first first chair at Mammoth Mountain. PHOTO: Courtesy of Mammoth Mountain

I've been skiing since I could walk. And yet, every year on the first day of the season, I have this irrational fear that I've lost all ability to ski. It's weird, I know. And it doesn't last for long. As soon as I stuff my feet into a stiff pair of ski boots, click in to my bindings, skate into the lift line, my muscle memory comes back and once again, all is right in the world. Winter is here.

Skiing, unlike other sports such as climbing or surfing, has a more defined start and end. And for a lot of us, those bookmarks are the opening and closing days of the ski resorts. Last weekend, the chapter opened for the 2014-15 season for ski resorts across the country. A blast of arctic snow granted the earliest opening in 20 years for Michigan resorts. A stampede of hungry skiers and snowboarders ate up the fresh snow at Breckenridge in two minutes. Lake Louise opened north of the border. And here in California, Mammoth Mountain loaded its first chair of the season at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, November 13.

Of course, the conditions on the first day of the ski season are usually far from good. But nobody cares about that yet. Hundreds of people showed up to Mammoth over the weekend. They sat in a 20-minute lift line to ski a strip of man-made snow with everyone else. The air was cool, the snow guns were blasting to cover more terrain, and meanwhile, the Minarets—the jagged band of Sierra granite that you can see from the chair—was as dry and brown as ever. But no one was complaining about the conditions, or the cold, or the crowds. The lifties gave out high fives, strangers chatted with ease on the chairlift, the turns were firm and fast, and after the first lap, my friends popped open a couple cans of beer they stashed in their pockets. Skiing is fun. Don’t you remember? And that’s what the first day of the season is all about. Just getting back into it. There are plenty of great days ahead.

And with that, I'd like to pronounce the 2014-15 ski season officially open. Now dance to the snow gods. Say a prayer. Take a shot of Jaeger. Tip your snow removal guy. And let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Winter is here. We'll cheers to that. PHOTO: Mammoth Mountain

Winter is here. We’ll cheers to that. PHOTO: Mammoth Mountain