ASPEN — Ski season ended with a bit of irony and a lot of powder Sunday at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain.
The last day was one of the best days of the season with a foot of powder greeting skiers and snowboarders at Aspen Mountain and 10 inches gracing the slopes of Snowmass.
Aspen Highlands will remain open through Sunday. Buttermilk closed April 7.
A winter storm with strong westerly winds blew in overnight Saturday and into Sunday morning. East-facing slopes at Snowmass had drifts knee high to a 6-foot skier. Moguls were transformed into pillows because the ample bounty of fresh snow filled the troughs.
Skiers and snowboarders were letting out hoots and hollers while slicing through the powder on tree runs such as the Powerline Glades on Big Burn. The only disappointment at Snowmass came from the ongoing closure of the High Alpine chairlift. It was closed for the last week of the season because of a mechanical issue. That left morning skiers and snowboarders dreaming of what could have been in the steeps slopes of Hanging Valley. The Cirque Poma also provides access to the area, but as of 11:30 a.m. it wasn't running because of high winds.
The fresh snowfall wasn't exactly champagne powder, but temperatures dropped into the teens, so conditions were superb, many skiers and snowboarders overheard on the slopes agreed. The snowpack didn't start solidifying until late morning. By then, the early risers had cut up most of the powder.
The Rodeo Lot in Snowmass was filled well before noon, and free parking at Two Creeks also drew a crowd. Nevertheless, those who showed up early had minimal waits at the chairlifts.
Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said the season won't be extended at Aspen Mountain or Snowmass despite the great season-ending snow. Aspen Mountain ended the season with a 61-inch mid-mountain snow depth. Snowmass was at 60 inches.
Aspen Highlands had a mid-mountain depth of 52 inches Sunday, but that's likely to grow at the final week goes on. The National Weather Service has forecast a winter-storm watch for the Aspen area. Snow is expected through Wednesday night.
The Roaring Fork River basin's snowpack improved to 84 percent of average Sunday after lagging further behind throughout the season. The snowpack was deepest at the Ivanhoe Snotel site in the Fryingpan Valley, at 102 percent of average, and at North Lost Trail near Marble in the Crystal Valley, at 96 percent, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The snowpack at the Independence site east of Aspen was at 85 percent, according to the agency's website.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued a special advisory Sunday warning that avalanche danger soared with the potent storm.
“Don't let your guard down because it's mid-April and you expect spring conditions. The snowpack doesn't know what date it is,” the center's staff posted on its website.
Avalanche conditions in the Aspen area were listed as “considerable” Sunday. Up-to-date information is available at https://avalanche.state.co.us.