ASPEN - The opening of Aspen Highlands on Saturday will be delayed until there is more snow, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday.
About 8 inches of snow are needed to get the upper slopes open, said Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations. Snow is possible for Aspen starting Wednesday night over the next several days, according to the National Weather Service. Burkley said crews will be ready to scramble to get the ski area open if the snow falls.
"We need 8 inches and 24 hours, and we can get that mountain open," Burkley said.
His philosophy is Mother Nature will alter your plans, no matter what you do - so Skico might as well not plan to open. That way, the snow will materialize.
"I'm daring the storm to come," he quipped.
Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opened Thanksgiving Day as scheduled, though terrain is limited. Highlands was supposed to open Dec. 8, while Buttermilk is scheduled to make its season debut Dec. 15.
Aspen Mountain needs 8 inches of snow to offer top-to-bottom skiing, according to Burkley. Parts of the Big Burn at Snowmass also could open with 8 inches of snow, he said.
Even without it, some terrain additions will take place. Copper Gulch on Aspen Mountain will open Thursday with the connection from the top of the Bell Mountain chairlift via Copper and Lazy Boy. The lower west side of Aspen Mountain also will open after hosting the World Cup women's ski races, NorAms, the Canadian men's national team and Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club racers. The Shadow Mountain chairlift will provide service to Spring Pitch, Strawpile and 5th Avenue daily.
A shuttle will run from the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza to the base of the Shadow Mountain lift until connections between the east and west sides can be made via Tower 7 and Tower 10 roads.
Lift tickets remain at $72.
Burkley said the Summit for Life Uphill on Saturday will be held with "minor course adjustments." Racers will be routed all the way up Little Nell and around Kleenex Corner rather than up Bingo Slot, Burkley said.
The opening of Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs also has been delayed. It was scheduled to make its season debut Friday.
"We need more snow," said Jennie Spillane, marketing manager. Between 8 and 12 inches are needed to get the mountain open.
"We're going to open as soon as we possibly can," she said.
Snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin was 36 percent of average as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which has eight automated snow-measuring sites in the basin, including the Crystal and Fryingpan valleys.