GIRDWOOD - The Alyeska Ski Resort opened Saturday to a swarm of skiers and snowboarders that almost overwhelmed the state's largest ski area.
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A decision by resort management to keep the lower mountain closed on opening day and move skiers to the 8-foot-deep snow on the upper mountain via the 60-person Alyeska Tram led to long lines and long waits.
"I expected some (people), but not this much," said Bret Connor of Anchorage as he stood in a slow-moving, midmorning line to buy lift tickets.
Outside the ticket offices, the line to get the tram stretched down the road past the Hotel Alyeska.
The resort had employees out on the street joking with people and apologizing for the delays.
Skier Ted Rosenzweig, in line with his daughter, Sierra, drew encouragement from a couple of people who came down the mountain on the tram, including one snowboarder looking for a new board after reportedly breaking his on his second run of the day.
"How is it?" Rosezweig asked.
"Awesome," came one answer.
"Pretty good," came another.
Meanwhile, Chair 6 - the high-speed quad-chairlift which does the heavy hauling from mid-mountain to the top - was having its own early-season problems. There were several breakdowns over the course of the day.
To compensate skiers for the balky lifts and long waits, the new Alyeska owners sweetened the first day of skiing. Tram operators told skiers to hang onto their lift tickets because they would be good for an equal-value credit on another lift ticket through the end of the year.
Resort spokesman Jason Lott said all tickets would be good for a credit equal to their face value.
Skiing at Alyeska now will shut down until Thanksgiving, when the mountain reopens for four straight days of skiing.