Nearly 4 feet of new snow has fallen atop Aspen Mountain since the slopes closed in mid-April, prompting Aspen Skiing Co. to reopen the summit for Memorial Day weekend turns.
While rain, sleet and hail pummel the valley floor, snow has been piling up at higher elevations, according to Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman. The base depth at the summit is 33 inches, he said.
In fact, it was snowing at the mountain’s summit Monday afternoon, even as Skico announced the extra weekend of skiing.
“If it won’t quit snowing, we shouldn’t quit skiing,” said Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations, in a prepared statement.
The mountain will open Saturday through Monday, with 16 runs and nearly 90 acres of mostly intermediate terrain, served by the Ajax Express chairlift, available for skiing and riding.
“It’ll definitely be novelty-type skiing,” Hanle said. “It’s not going to be the best skiing in the world, but the coverage is pretty good.”
It’s most certainly better than it was last spring, when a paucity of snow forced Aspen Highlands to close a week earlier than scheduled. Two years ago, Skico reopened the top of Aspen Mountain for late-season turns on Memorial Day and again the following weekend.
This time around, the coming weekend is the last hurrah.
“This is it. This is your last chance,” Hanle said.
The Silver Queen Gondola, scheduled to run for the holiday weekend for foot traffic anyway, will ferry skiers up and down the mountain.
The gondola will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last rides down at 4:30 p.m., but the skiing and riding is planned for just the midday hours — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“If it turns out to be mush before 2 and we need to shut it down, we’ll shut it down,” Hanle said of the skiing.
It will be a chance for locals to claim a trifecta — go skiing, golfing and kayaking, or skiing, biking and fishing, or whatever one’s combo of choice, all in one day — he noted.
The weather forecast suggests promising conditions, at least for the start of the weekend. According to AspenWeather.net, Aspenites will see more of the sun, along with higher temperatures, Wednesday through Saturday.
The weekend skiing will be free to those with Premier ski passes and those with a 6-and-younger pass. All other passholders will pay a discounted rate — $9 for children (ages 7 to 12) and $18 for youths, seniors and adults. A lift ticket will be $36 per day for those 13 and older and $18 for children ages 4 to 12.
The Gondola Plaza ticket kiosk will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Regular summer rates will be in effect for sightseers.
Four Mountain Sports at 520 E. Durant Ave. will be open to rent ski and snowboard equipment.