Opening day at Winter Park full of firsts |

Opening day at Winter Park full of firsts

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

It was a sunny, blue-bird day in Winter Park, as a small crowd of skiers, snowboarders and disabled skiers gathered at the bottom of the Arrow Chairlift, waiting for the first run of the season.

One inch of snow fell overnight, and snow guns were blasting away on nearby Hughes and Turnpike.

Travis Wright, of Denver, stood patiently at the front of the line reading a magazine as the line grew behind him.

“I was first chair last year,” Wright said, who owns an apartment at Snowblaze. “So, I figured I’d do it again.”

Also vying for first chair were Josh Mountbatten, 18, and Jared Mountbatten, 16, of Old Town, who had been standing in line since 6:30 a.m. Asked why the two brothers wanted first chair so badly, Jared shrugged.

“It’s the thing to do,” he said.

“Because they have nothing better to do!” shouted a friend behind them. The two brothers barely blinked. They know all-too-well that jealousy is a small price to pay when you’re vying to be No. 1.

The mood in line was calm, cool, and a bit anxious. While most locals joked about the snow conditions, or lack thereof, some riders came a long way to ski the one open run ” Parkway ” over-and-over again.

But skiing on opening day isn’t about the conditions.

Rachael Stoetzel, a 23-year-old from Denver, braved Berthoud Pass that morning on icy roads to ride Winter Park on opening day. Stoetzel skied for the resort’s competition team as a child, so it’s “home base” for her, she said.

“I like opening day because there’s not as many people compared to (the rest of the) season,” Stoetzel said, and laughed. “And I like being first for things.”

Standing behind Stoetzel was Peter Pauwels, who also drove up from Denver to ski a couple runs. Since he made it to opening day at Copper Mountain on Tuesday, he figured he’d come to Winter Park, too, he said. It was Pauwels’ first day ever at Winter Park Resort. Pauwels was assured that the skiing gets better later in the season, but he wasn’t too concerned.

“I just enjoy being out here,” he said.

Probably the most seasoned veteran in line was Danny Pufpaff of Fraser, who said it was his 50th year of skiing, competing and coaching. Pufpaff, a mono-skier, said he hasn’t missed a season of skiing since he was 5-years-old ” “except during Vietnam,” he added thoughtfully. His goals this season include competing hard in the Disabled Masters Program for the U.S. Nationals, and getting another 120 days of skiing.

It never seems to get old for Pufpaff, a self proclaimed “ski-bum.” He’s made it out for first days all his life, he said.

“It just feels good,” Pufpaff said as he steadied his outriggers, and grinned. “A tradition dies hard.”

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