Opening Day Frenzies

Opening day. First chair. If those words don’t get your blood running, you’re not a skier. Whether it’s an early November day at Killington with glitter flying and free lunches to the early birds, or a surprise December dump at Pico (see the cover of our current issue ) or Mad River Glen,  or a post Thanksgiving opening with free skiing, lessons, movies and more  at Jay Peak (for the 1,000 who signed up for the Day of the Devoted) or that first day of ski season is a party that shouldn’t be missed— no matter how long the line is.

And there’s some serious status to getting first chair of the season.

Opening day, Killington, Nov. 5, 2021

Pro skiing legend Shane McConkey immortalized the status behind “first chair.”  In his Game of G.N.A.R., (developed with his buddy Rob Gaffney), you could earn 3,000 points for getting first chair on  KT22 at Squaw Valley (recently named Palisades), according to Gaffney’s Numerical Assessment of Radness. McConkey was so known for his first chair frenzy that an ad for Volante’s Machete ski showed him using the ski as a weapon to massacre a crowd lined up ahead of him. 

Liftline antics like McConkey’s don’t (usually) happen in Vermont. But there’s still a competition to get the first run of the season. Just ask Mount Snow legend Brian Smuda. Smuda has been making the day trek to Mount Snow from his home in Enfield, Ct. for most of his 35 years. Seven years ago, he came up the night before.

“It all started the year I quit drinking,” he says. “I was out in Dover with friends at OMT towards the bar’s close and knew my sobriety would work to my advantage to try for first chair.” He did and got it. In subsequent years, he became so determined to keep the streak going he camped out overnight. “I got my sleeping bag and lawn chair and set up right next to the lift,”  he says. 

“Mount Snow has been my family and opening day is like a reunion,” Smuda says. Skiing has also helped him conquer some of the symptoms of tardive dyskinesia, a condition which causes involuntary movements. “It helps me focus and keeps me in control of my body,” he says. In 2018 he underwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. “Eighty-six days later, I was back for first chair,” he says.

You can’t miss Smuda. “I usually wear my mullet wig with a purple-and-teal women’s one-piece fart bag I got at thrift shop,” he says. His fanny pack carries Bluetooth speakers and blares ‘80s pop.  “I figure, hey why not have fun,”  he explains. “At times people will  ask me if I’m on drugs but I simply smile, and say: ‘Nope, I’m 100% sober.’” 

For that, we give him 10,000 G.N.A.R. points. 

Now, here’s what is on tap for opening days, as of press time.

11- 5 2021- Killington
TBD-  – Mount Snow, Stowe, Okemo
 11-20, 2021 – Sugarbush
11- 24, 2021 – Stratton
11- 26, 2021 – Bromley (potentially 11/20 if cold enough leading up); Jay Peak, Bolton Valley, Smugglers’ Notch
12-4, 2021 – Burke Mountain
12- 11, 2021 Mad River Glen, Suicide Six, Pico
12- 22, 2021 Quechee Club

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.