ASPEN - With record-breaking temperatures in Aspen early this week and the snow disappearing from the slopes as quickly as diehard skiers and riders, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass will all call it quits Sunday.
Highlands was originally scheduled to remain open until April 22, but lacks the snow to stick it out an extra week.
"We did everything we could to keep the mountain open," said Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman. "The rate of the melt-out is unprecedented. It's just been so warm for so long."
With the receding snow, runs are melting out and the links between chairlifts are disappearing despite efforts to move snow around at Highlands. That meant skiers would have to walk between lift rides to reach the summit in order to hike and ski Highland Bowl for another week, Hanle said. Top-to-bottom skiing at Highlands is also getting iffy.
Moving up Highlands' closing means the traditional party at the base moves up, too.
The closing bash is generally a boisterous, grass-roots affair hosted by the base-area watering holes and keyed by Highlands faithfuls who gather to toast the end of another season.
On Aspen Mountain, locals traditionally gather for a noon run down the Ridge of Bell on closing day.
At Snowmass, a Base Bash is scheduled Saturday from 2-8 p.m. with live music by local band Jes Grew and other festivities, plus the 5th annual Schneetag contest, which was originally planned Sunday on Aspen Mountain before the event was rescheduled and moved to the mid-slopes of Snowmass. Aspen Mountain no longer holds enough snow at the designated spot to fashion the requisite pond for the wet and wild event, Hanle said.
Schneetag (pronounced Sch-knee Tog) takes place from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the base of the superpipe at Snowmass. Teams of four create a craft that they must pilot down the slope near the Spider Sabich Race Arena and then attempt to float across a 40-by-100-foot pond. Every team has a theme and will perform a skit before they descend.
Teams are judged based on creativity, skit performance, craft construction and success in riding the course. Prizes include a trip to the ESPN Summer X Games in Los Angeles, tickets to Rock Jam in Grand Junction and tickets to a Colorado Rockies game in Denver.
At the Spider Sabich Cabin at Snowmass, the Spring Board's annual Spring Fling fundraiser is planned Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. A $15 donation is good for lunch - a burger, hot dog or veggie burger, plus chips and a beer. A cash bar will also support the cause.
There's also fun to be had at Buttermilk on Saturday, though the ski area closed for the season last weekend. The 17th annual K-9 Uphill gets under way at 10 a.m.
This benefit for area animal shelters, hosted by Sundog Athletics, features recreational and competitive divisions, challenging humans and their canine companions to climb on foot from the base to the summit. This year's course appears destined to be a combination of snow and exposed ground.
Preregistration is $30 at Ute Mountaineer in Aspen and RJ Paddywacks in El Jebel. Day-of-event registration is $35, from 8:30-9:30 a.m. at Bumps at the base.
A barbecue and raffle will follow the race. Don't have a dog? Demo pooches will be provided.