Slow first days at Snowmass |

Slow first days at Snowmass

Charles Agar
Special to the Daily/Jordan CuretA snowboarder heads down Ute Chute run Thursday on opening day at Snowmass. Skico opened 9 runs and roughly 117 acres on the mountain.

SNOWMASS – Warm weather and limited terrain brought lukewarm reviews for the Thursday opening of Snowmass. Aspen Skico opened two lifts at Snowmass, Village Express and Sam’s Knob, giving skiers and boarders access to 117 acres of the total 3,100 acres of terrain. But more than 2,500 enthusiasts still hit the crowded slopes.The Big Burn, Snowmass’ most expansive area, was closed because there was not enough snow in Max Park, the narrow valley that connects the Burn to other parts of the mountain.”Unfortunately we got the warm weather and it really messed with what we thought we could get open by Thursday,” said Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman. He hopes Skico will be able to open more terrain soon.”We’ll get people to the Burn as quickly as we can,” Hanle said. He expects colder temperatures, hopefully this weekend, which will allow Skico crews to make more snow. “But, it’s out of our hands,” he said.

Despite a bottleneck at the confluence of the two lifts and heavy snow in glade areas, many skiers and riders enjoyed the day.Biff Phillips, a Skico ambassador, handed out Larabars at the top of the hill. “People are excited to be here. I see a lot of youngsters with boards and two-tips, and even some telemarkers,” he said. “It’s been great so far.”Despite the limited terrain and crowds, Amy Gingrass, an eighth year patroller, said most folks had postive outlooks. People were skiing safely, respecting closures and most were grateful for what was open.”I haven’t heard a negative word all day,” she said.

“It was sunny and crowded,” said Margaret Debus. She, her husband and children commute from the Front Range during most holiday periods. They had no expectations for the weekend; they just wanted to get on the slopes.Tony Frank and his daughter Hannah traveled from Loveland to ski. Tony brings his family to Aspen every Thanksgiving, Christmas and spring break to stay with his wife’s family.The snow wasn’t the greatest – a typical first day, Tony said. But, he enjoyed getting back on the slopes.One Aspen couple, frustrated by the limited terrain and poor snow, returned to Aspen Mountain to make a few turns before calling it quits.Mike Kaplan, the new Skico CEO said, “It’s going fantastic. There are quite a few people out, and you can’t complain about the weather.”

He had hoped “The Burn” would be open, but the recent temperature inversion – where the temperature at the top is higher than the temperature at the bottom – prevented Skico crews from making snow.”We’re close, though,” he said. “If we can get a couple of cold nights we’ll open some more terrain.”Skico still plans to open the new Elk Camp gondola on Dec. 16, Kaplan said.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado CO

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