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March 8, 2014
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Highlands won't be the last to close

For the first time in several seasons, Aspen Highlands won’t be the last ski resort standing among those in the Aspen area.

Highlands is scheduled to close April 13, while Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area will remain open through April 20. Buttermilk will close April 6.

Aspen Highlands has remained open the longest and hosted outrageous end-of-season parties in recent seasons.

Closing dates had to be rearranged this season by Aspen Skiing Co. because Easter falls so late in the spring, on April 20.

“With a late Easter, we still see an influx of destination guests,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “They want to walk out their door and ski the big signature hills.”

Typically at the end of the season, destination business falls off and it’s mostly Roaring Fork Valley residents or in-state skiers and snowboarders hitting the slopes. They don’t mind taking a bus to Aspen Highlands, Hanle said. But Easter draws out-of-state visitors and a fair number of travelers from Mexico, he said. Many of them stay in hotels and other tourist accommodations in Aspen and Snowmass Village, so those ski areas need to remain open.

Hanle said it’s a safe bet that Aspen Highlands will still host a great end-of-season celebration even if it isn’t open as late as its sister resorts.

There have been no discussions of keeping Highlands or any other ski area open longer than scheduled despite the above-average snowpack, according to Hanle.

“I don’t know if we’ll even have those talks this year,” he said, noting the season is already longer than average because of Easter falling so late.

The snowpack is currently in good shape for late-spring skiing, though high temperatures have eaten into it lately and could cause problems over the next six weeks. The snowpack in the upper Roaring Fork River Basin, east of Aspen, was 123 percent of average as of noon Friday. However, even if the snowpack holds up, nice spring weather always diverts some attention from skiing to cycling and golf courses.

Skico and Colorado Ski Country USA will release skier-visit performance for January and February as well as season-to-date totals next week.

“We’ve been up the whole year,” Hanle said.

Marketers and reservationists are still trying to fill in April.

“At this point, April is still booking rather slowly, although we have seen a slight uptick in April booking activity recently,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central bookings agency. “What I can say with absolute certainty is that this April we still have lots of rooms, lots of deals, and it sure looks like we’re going to have lots of snow.”

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The Aspen Times Updated Mar 7, 2014 08:07PM Published Mar 10, 2014 05:29PM Copyright 2014 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.