Ski season starts early on Aspen Mountain

Early season snowfall means Aspen Mountain will open ahead of schedule Saturday.
Mike Britt/Aspen Skiing Co. |

ASPEN — Aspen Mountain’s early opening on Saturday reflects how quickly conditions can change in the Colorado Rockies.

Just when most people were starting to sweat about the lack of snow, the facet turned on. It snowed enough that Aspen Mountain will open five days ahead of schedule. The storm lasting from Thursday through Saturday dumped 21 to 28 inches on the slopes, according to Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. As a result, Aspen Mountain will open early for the second straight season and third time in the last five years. (It opened a day early in 2010 after a huge snowstorm followed dry conditions.)

The snowpack at Independence Pass went from 42 percent of average on Nov. 13 to 84 percent of average yesterday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s weather station east of Aspen.

Hanle said Skico tries to open any time it can offer a quality experience. Skico officials also consider if there is snow in the forecast or whether skiers and riders will just scrape the existing snow off the slopes.

“I think we’re looking good. That’s why we pulled the trigger.”
Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co.

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“I think we’re looking good,” Hanle said. “That’s why we pulled the trigger.”

The blast of snow provides a big boost to preparations for women’s World Cup ski races, which are Nov. 29 and 30. Locals might be more inclined to check out the races now that they can start their season earlier than scheduled, Hanle said. In addition, the race course and adjacent slopes will look great when the race is broadcast to domestic and foreign viewers.

“It looks like mid-winter,” Hanle said.

Aspen Mountain will offer top-to-bottom terrain across 120 acres when it opens Saturday. The Silver Queen Gondola and Ajax Express will be open as will the Sundeck and Ajax Tavern for food and drink. Snowmass will open as scheduled on Nov. 27.

All season passes are valid as they would be in the scheduled season. Daily lift tickets Nov. 22-26 are $79 for adults, $73 for teens (13-17) and seniors (65-69), and $59 for children (7-12). Children six and under ski for free. A special rate will be extended to passholders from any other resort. Skiers and riders can simply present a valid pass from another resort and receive the discounted rates of $55 for adults, $51 for teens (13-17) and seniors (65-69), and $41 for children (7-12).

The Ski and Snowboard School on Aspen Mountain will be open for private lessons — intermediate and above levels, ski and snowboard, starting Nov. 22. Ski and Snowboard Children’s Group Lessons for ages 7 to 17 will be offered on Aspen Mountain Nov. 22 through Nov. 26. Children must be at an intermediate or above level. Call 970-923-1227 to arrange all lessons, as reservations are required. D&E and Four Mountain Sports in Aspen will also be open with ski and snowboard rentals and tuning available. Parking is free in Aspen until Nov. 25.

Locals are encouraged to pick up season passes early to avoid lines. The Aspen Mountain Ticket Office is open from 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. until Nov. 21 and from 8:15 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. beginning Nov. 22. The Two Creeks Ticket office is open 7 days a week from 8:15 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. If a season pass was renewed online or by phone, customers can proceed directly to the lift using their Aspen (RF) card from last season. All Chamber vouchers must be redeemed in person at the ticket office.

“We aim to open and bring skiing and riding to the community and our guests as soon as we can,” Skico Chief Operating Officer David Perry said in a statement. “We are a ski town, we have the snow and we are pleased to start spinning the lifts.”

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