Snowmass Ski Area’s Thanksgiving opening stark contrast from 2017 start
The skies were clear, blue and bright, the snow was solid — sugary and soft at some parts — and the morale was high Thursday morning as Snowmass Ski Area opened for the season.
Snowmass started Thursday with 20 trails across 570 acres of terrain — a dramatic departure from last season, which began with only two runs, Elk Camp Meadows and Fanny Hill, totaling 19 acres.
“Twenty (trails) is way better than two. It’s a fact,” Aspen resident Jaila Jafarabadi said while heading up the hill on opening day.
Snowmass’ new mountain manager Susan Cross, who greeted early skiers in Base Village, quipped that she also was in charge of the weather.
While the day started warm and sunny as the first lifts spun, ominous-looking clouds built up as the morning progressed.
Forecasters are calling for as much as 20 inches or more in the Colorado mountains through Sunday. The National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon updated its advisory to a winter storm warning through the weekend.
“The weather’s great, the skiing’s great, people are happy,” Cross said. “People are happy after the last couple seasons. This is the fun stuff, this is what it’s all about.”
About 50 to 60 skiers and snowboarders waited in line at the Village Express for the first lifts to start running just before 8:30 a.m.
“The stoke is high here at Snowmass,” lift supervisor Dan Newman said. “It’s a hot piece of greatness. ‘Everyone’s happy’ is the overwhelming sentiment. It doesn’t even compare (with last year).”
Open terrain at Snowmass included the Big Burn, Max Park, Powerline Glades, Sneaky’s Glades, Lunch line, Upper Scooper and Lower Hals to the bottom of Village Express.
Snowmass’ outgoing mountain manager, Steve Sewell, called his last opening day on the job “bittersweet.” Sewell started working on the Snowmass ski patrol in 1977 and has been the mountain manager since 2006.
Sewell, who will leave his post Jan. 1, plans to spend his first day of retirement skiing without his radio.
Skico hopes that more snow in the forecast will continue to improve conditions and open more terrain, Senior Vice President of Mountain Operations Katie Ertl said.
Skiers offered a similar outlook and sense of optimism on the holiday centered on gratitude.
“We’re real thankful for this upcoming snow,” Carbondale resident Kaelin Bamford said.
Elk Camp chair provided access to Bull Run, Grey Wolf, Sandy Park, Bear Bottom, Gunner’s View and the Elk Camp Meadows Beginner area. Terrain is accessible off the chairlifts Village Express, Sam’s Knob, Big Burn, Elk Camp Gondola, Elk Camp Lift, Meadows Lift, Sky Cab, Meadows Carpet and Treehouse Carpet.
Elk Camp restaurant and Sam’s Smokehouse are open for the season; Up 4 Pizza will open its doors through this weekend, then daily operations begin Dec. 6. Lift tickets are $139 per day for adults and $92 for children, teens and seniors through Dec. 14. Partial-day tickets for adults are $93 and $61 for children, teens and seniors. Children 6 and younger ski for free.
A ticket to ski at Snowmass during the preseason last year was $45 for adults and $24 for kids, teenagers and seniors.
The Breathtaker alpine coaster, now in its second winter season, also is up and running for riders.
Skiers can pick up their passes at the Snowmass Pavilion, Snowmass Two Creeks and the Snowmass Treehouse ticket offices.
Snowmass operations will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to open Dec. 8.
Aspen Mountain opened Saturday with 180 acres and added more terrain through the week.
Paul Cuthbertson, a lifelong local of Eagle and Summit counties, died while skiing up to the Polar Star Inn to meet some friends for a celebration of his 21st birthday on Friday night.