By Ethan Weinstein
KILLINGTON—The line for the first chair of the season snaked well beyond the rope maze, stretching up the stairs and onto the grass at K-1 on Friday, Nov. 5. The mass of chilly smiles — braving the cold, bluebird November morning — waited impatiently, more than eager to load the gondola then walk to North Ridge for the first turns of the year.
Killington regulars and first-timers alike turned out for opening day. A 20-something ski instructor from New York told the Mountain Times he woke up early, skipped breakfast, and made the drive east. “It is my life,” he said of skiing. “I’m planning on moving to New Zealand in the summer so I can continue instructing.”
Alan Willard of Woodstock and Joel Kobert of Bridgewater have been skiing for 45 years. Last year, they skied 101 and 100 days respectively. “I had to do one more than him,” Willard joked.
They wouldn’t dare miss opening day, but the raucous atmosphere was a bit much.
“It’s a little bit crazy,” Kobert said of the line. “You got a hundred goldfish in one bowl.”
A part-time resident said she has been spending her winters in Killington for the last 10 years. The night before opening day, she nervously made sure all her gear was in order. “I was just praying my ski pants still fit. I was really living on the edge this morning,” she joked.
In line with her stood Killington resident Tucker Adirondack, who has himself gotten first chair in several seasons-past. “I want to give someone else a chance; I’m paying it forward,” he said.
“Killington opening day is really what kicks off the season. I’ve never seen it this exciting anywhere else. It’s something we look forward to all summer,” said Tracie Tuttle of Merrimack, New Hampshire, who made the trip Friday morning with Nic Boucher of Nottingham, New Hampshire.
“It’s not just the skiing; it’s the people and the people that make the day happen, the snow makers and everybody that comes together to make this possible is amazing,” Boucher said. “Yesterday afternoon, I was laying my ski equipment out, tuning my skis, making sure I got everything. And then it’s going to bed, not sleeping much, getting up really excited and just driving here with a big smile on my face.”
For some, making the first day meant abandoning some less important obligations. Jeff Martin and son Alex made the trip northwest from Windham, New Hampshire. “This is our first first day,” Jeff said. “[Alex] kept his grades up, so I said ‘all right, we can do that, we can skip a day from school.’”
At the front of the line waited Rob Kovalesky, who’s been skiing Killington since the 1960s. He’s almost never misses opening day and is a spokesperson for the 100 Day Club.
With him were many friends, one of whom had been waiting in line since 5 a.m. “It’s about the seven P’s the night before,” Kovalesky said. “Proper pre-planning prevents poor performance.” (We’re not sure what happened to the seventh P, but we’ll forgive him. It was opening day after all!)