Die-hard skiers and riders turn out for opening day at Kirkwood Mountain (videos) | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Die-hard skiers and riders turn out for opening day at Kirkwood Mountain (videos)

KIRKWOOD — Aaron Forrest likes to be first in line at Kirkwood Mountain Resort on opening day.

He woke up in his Bay Area home at 2 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22, dragged his kids Caylee, 15, and Adam, 8, out of bed after making breakfast and lunch. They were joined by Caylee's friend, Carson Cavalli, 15, and headed for the mountains around 3 a.m.

It was dark when they arrived at 6 a.m. but he achieved his goal. And they were well ahead of the crowd.

"It's our tradition," Forrest said, adding that each of his kids started skiing at 3-years old. "We think it's our seventh straight year of getting the first chair."

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When South Lake Tahoe resident David Netzley got to Kirkwood around 6:45 a.m. he was mildly bummed, but settled in behind the foursome.

"I was a little disappointed I wasn't first but these guys earned it," said Netzley who lived in Kirkwood for two seasons before moving to South Lake in 2011.

Kirkwood is Netzley's favorite mountain despite suffering a season-ending injury here in February.

"I love this mountain and I love coming here," said Netzley, a snowboarder who plans to hit the slopes about 80 times this season. "I broke my femur here last winter and it's my first time coming back. I rode Heavenly already, and that was good, but I just wanted to come back to my roots and do it again — not break my femur, but get out here."

His proof of loving Kirkwood is a tattoo that covers most of his calf.

Michael Krebs drove from Monterey to South Lake Tahoe around noon Tuesday, Nov. 21, and hit the Heavenly slopes for a few hours. After his laps, he saw on Facebook that Kirkwood was opening the next day.

That night he drove to Kirkwood with plans to sleep in his car in the parking lot.

At 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, Krebs was awoken by security telling him he had to leave.

"I found a little spot out on the side of the road, just right out in some pullout on Highway 88," Krebs said. "I slept there until 6 before coming back in here. I didn't want to come too early and get kicked out again. I just bundled up in a sleeping bag and tried to stay warm."

He was planning on being first in line but got sidetracked getting food and chatting. By the time he arrived at 7:30 a.m. he was in the top 10.

"I'm like eighth in line. I'm pretty happy with that," Krebs said.

With about 30 minutes until the lifts started carrying passengers, Kirkwood and Heavenly mountain resorts senior communications manager Kevin "Coop" Cooper shook hands with Forrest and remembered him being first in line last year. Then he gave a rundown to the people standing in line of what to expect once up the lift.

"It's real sharky up there. If you see something you think is a rock or twig or limb, it probably is so be careful. If you have a helmet, I would suggest wearing it," Cooper said.

The snowpack at the summit of Chair 6 has around 4 feet of packed snow and about halfway down there's a natural 2-foot base, Cooper said.

The cold temperatures from the night before had the mountain frozen and hard to start, but the sun and warm 50-degree temperature quickly changed it into a nice soft corn. In the shade it was icy, for awhile, but in the sun glorious snow was sprayed with every turn.

For those who got on the chair lifts early, they got in several laps before the resort reached its peak population around 11:30 a.m. And the lines were still short. Four lifts easily serviced the skiers and riders and there was plenty of terrain for all levels.

One rider going up the ski lift let out a loud yell, "yeahhhhhhh." His yell lasted for several seconds and perfectly summed up attitudes on the mountain for opening day.