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December 11, 2012
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Aspen Highlands to open Friday

ASPEN - Aspen Highlands will make its season debut Friday, while Buttermilk will open as scheduled on Saturday, Aspen Skiing Co. officials announced Monday.

Highlands missed its scheduled opening Saturday because of a lack of snow. The 15 inches that fell Saturday night into Sunday and additional flurries on Monday provided the coverage that was needed to open some terrain.

Portions of Highland Bowl and Temerity will "very likely" open Friday, wrote Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations, in an email.

"As with all gated terrain, it opens when it's ready and we'll know for sure Friday morning," Burkley wrote.

His email outlined the other terrain expected to open at Highlands on Friday.

"The Exhibition, Loge Peak, Cloud 9 and Deep Temerity Lifts will begin turning," Burkley wrote. "All of the blue terrain off the upper lifts will open: Broadway, Hayden, Meadows, Kandahar, Wine Ridge, Heatherbedlam, Floradora, Grand Prix, Pyramid and Upper Robinsons. All of the mid-mountain greens and blue terrain will open: Prospector, Riverside Dr., Exhibition (the run), Red Onion, Nugget, Golden Barrel, Park Avenue and Jerome Bowl."

The Merry-Go-Round and Cloud 9 restaurants also will open for the season. Details on Buttermilk's opening will be released later in the week.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Aspen Mountain and Snowmass maintained on Monday what opened over the weekend. Aspen Mountain now has 205 acres available, with top-to-bottom skiing. Snowmass has 375 acres available on 17 trails.

Skico is now charging $89 for a single-day lift ticket.

Sunlight Mountain Resort outside Glenwood Springs is scheduled to open Friday.

Colorado Ski Country USA, a state trade group for the ski industry, reported Monday that 13 member resorts are now open. In addition, the four Colorado ski areas of Vail Resorts are also open. Vail Resorts isn't a member of Colorado Ski Country USA.

Resorts were suffering from a slow snow year, but the latest storm dumped powder across the state. The Aspen resorts and Winter Park were the big winners with 15 inches.

The snowfall also brought dicey conditions to the backcountry. Brian McCall, of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, issued a report for the Aspen area for Monday that said avalanche conditions are "considerable" for all slopes northwest through east and on southeast aspects above tree line. The danger is "moderate" on all other aspects, he wrote.

The layers in the snowpack established prior to this latest storm are "very weak" because it hadn't snowed for so long, according to McCall. The new snow with wind loading resulted in numerous avalanches last weekend, both triggered and natural. Getting caught in an avalanche right now would be particularly nasty, he indicated.

"Despite the new snow, our snowpack remains shallow in all areas of the zone," McCall wrote in his forecast. "Triggering even a small avalanche today could result in a nasty ride through rocks, trees, or stumps that are buried just below the snow surface."

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center's website can be found at https://avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 11, 2012 07:27AM Published Dec 11, 2012 01:20AM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.