The ‘Race to Open’ Is Exactly What Skiers Need Right Now


I’ve never been much of a sports guy, which is why in 2016 it was strange to find myself in ecstatic celebration on top of a roof in Wrigleyville, Chicago, sprinting outside the moment after the Cubs, for the first time in 108 years, won the World Series. Amid some terrible political vitriol, Chicago (well, the north side) came together. There are some moments that we just need. We don’t get a lot of unifying events like that these days.

Pent up demand for skiing is at an all-time high, especially in the west, where resorts closed before the winter’s biggest storms. Some of us got into the backcountry, a lucky few scored lottery tickets to Arapahoe Basin, Timberline, and Crystal, but others were relegated to their homes. And many of us focused, for better or for worse, on our phones and social media. This meant inundating ourselves in bickering, news, bad news, and more news. None of this is inherently bad, but it’s easy in all this to let our ideologies ferment to the point where we lose track of the plot.

So for skiers, let me posit that this year—and I cannot believe I’m saying this—skiers need the Race to Open.

We’ve lampooned the race for years, not only because the hype is so high while the stakes are so low, but because the inevitable prize is 300 people trying their best to push each other onto the scree and dirt that lines a 15-foot wide white ribbon of death. OK, I guess I’m still doing it. Old habits.

But this year, we have an aching paucity of things to look forward to. Our ski season is fraught with impending hazards and we all know it. Regardless of how well resorts prepare, state and local governments could end the party shortly after it begins due to spikes in COVID-19. And then our backcountry haunts could swell with use and cause increasing human-triggered slides. These things terrify us. And we, as a community, need a little boost. That boost will be the Race to Open.

The Race has all the hallmarks of a good sporting event: fanatic fans who live and die by their home hill; petty fights on social media between the franchises; The Underdog (independently owned) and the Favorite (backed with unknowable corporate largess); and, best of all, zero legitimate consequences. Last year, on October 11, Arapahoe Basin opened for two hours. Keystone’s lifts spun the morning of the 12th. And it looks like The Legend is already prepping their snowmaking equipment for the first hint of frost.

It’s important to note that I don’t suggest this as a distraction or an escape from the outside world with which we must all wrestle. It doesn’t stop that reality or that work. But what it gives us is some common ground, something less fraught, and something to look forward to. As heatwaves wrack the west, I know I’m looking at forecasts, countdown clocks, and pictures of snow guns, too.

This year, the glorious pissing contest is one we’re actually grateful for because it trickles down and improves the bases of our home hills, too. Let the cold war commence. This year, skiers are better for it.

This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.



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