Hundreds of people lined up at the bottom of Big White's Ridge Rocket chair Thursday morning, waiting for their first run of the new ski and board season. But Donovan Cantu claimed the front of the line for the fourth year in a row.
After a healthy dump of snow earlier this month, Big White was able to push its opening day up a week, for the earliest open at the resort since 2015. The Ridge chair began loading at 8:45 a.m., to the cheers of those in line.
“It's just so exciting ... the stoke factor is really high,” said Big White's senior vice president Michael J. Ballingall.
“There's a lot of people missing work today, there's a lot of kids missing school, and this is a memory of a lifetime. Opening day is always a favourite day when you slide on snow.”
Opening day is particularly special for Cantu, who's made sure he's at the front of the line for the past four seasons. This year, he showed up at 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, almost 19 hours before he was able to load.
“It got pretty chilly,” Cantu said from the front of the lineup Thursday morning. “I just laid a tarp on the ground, threw a sleeping bag over top, threw about ten hand warmers in there and called it a night.”
Two others showed up around 9 p.m. with a propane fire pit, which was well received by Cantu.
After 116 cm of snow fell earlier this month, it's been sunny and dry at the resort for the past eight days. The resort currently has a 77 cm alpine base. Ballingall is urging those skiing and riding to stay on groomed runs, as the snow is not deep enough to cover all the rocks and trees off the open groomed runs.
"Maybe at 100,120-cm base, then you can start exploring around the mountain, and of course a lot more lifts will be open by then," he said.
Just the Ridge and Plaza chairs, along with the gondola, are running at this time.
“We're going to get more snow Sunday, Monday, there's some storms lining up, so it's really good to have Big White opened,” Ballingall said. “We're back baby.”
After pandemic restrictions over the past two years, a number of events and other services will be returning to Big White this year, including night skiing.
SilverStar Mountain Resort is opening their alpine on Friday, while Sun Peaks will be following suit Saturday.