Aspen: From Buttermilk to chocolate milk | VailDaily.com

Aspen: From Buttermilk to chocolate milk

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart/The Aspen TimesMonday's mudslide at Buttermilk tore a gash in the hillside above a base-area vehicle maintenance building. The Aspen Skiing Co. has yet to determine what will be necessary to stabilize the slope, or how the gouge will impact the ski area's terrain park features
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ASPEN, Colorado ” Calling Monday’s mudslide at Buttermilk, Colorado an act of nature, the Aspen Skiing Co. began cleaning up the mess and assessing the damage Tuesday.

The slide tore through the back of a vehicle maintenance facility at the base of the ski area, burying some of the building’s contents and oozing out the bay doors on the front side. The debris also knocked over an oil tank alongside the structure, causing a minor spill that was quickly contained on the driveway in front of the building on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, a Skico crew using a front-end loader began scooping up the coagulating goo inside the building and salvaging everything from old office chairs to expensive tools. A pickup truck remained up on jacks inside the building, surrounded by the ooze.

“First steps are cleaning up and mitigation ” making sure we take care of any oil that’s out there,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman.

The company’s environmental consultant was on hand Tuesday to help assess how much of the mud is contaminated with oil and must be disposed of accordingly.

It will probably be two weeks before the company decides whether the building can be salvaged and tallies up the cost of the damage, Hanle said.

The Skico’s long-range plan for the base of Buttermilk calls for relocation of the fleet maintenance facility to property the company owns at the nearby Aspen Business Center, across the highway, Hanle added.

Except for a couple of quick-moving slides Monday afternoon, including one that punched through the building, much of the debris crept down the hillside in slow motion, minimizing damage to equipment, according to Hanle.

“We’re finding a lot of stuff in there is remarkably good,” he said.

The first slide released at about 2:30 p.m. The last movement occurred at about 7 p.m., Hanle said. The company kept someone stationed at the site throughout the night to monitor the situation.

The slide cut a gouge of about 100 feet in length and 50 to 60 feet across in an aspen grove on the hillside above the damaged building. The depth of the gash varies.

The Skico will likely turn to experts to assess the stability of the hillside and figure out what to do about the unwelcome new terrain feature.

“We’ll probably have someone come in and tell us what we need to do ” how do we shore it up, what do we do above it, Hanle said.

Hanle said the company does not believe work it did last summer to enlarge the nearby superpipe at Buttermilk played any role in causing the mudslide. Rather, runoff from farther up the mountain broke out of a drainage ditch and flowed toward the slide site, running beneath a large, still-snow-covered jump above the slide zone. Crews shored up the ditch after the slide and directed the water down the superpipe, which has a rocky base, Hanle said.

The gouge is to skier’s left of the lowest jump and beyond the edge of the ski run.

The jump was part of the course for January’s Winter X Games skiercross and boardercross course.

Determining what alterations might need to be made to the famed Winter X Games features isn’t the Skico’s immediate priority, Hanle said.

“I think that’s probably the least of our concerns.”

janet@aspentimes.com