Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk ski areas will open their season with a bang Saturday.
More than 90 percent of the terrain at Highlands will be available for its opening day, including nearly all of the expert terrain of Highland Bowl and all of Steeplechase, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday. All of the upper- and mid-mountain trails will open. Golden Horn and Thunderbowl terrain will open, though the Thunderbowl chairlift will not.
The Cloud 9 Bistro and Merry-Go-Round restaurants will open for the season. The parking fee will be charged at the base. The shuttle from the Buttermilk parking lot to Aspen Highlands will start operating Saturday.
Buttermilk makes its debut with 454 of 470 acres of terrain open for skiers and snowboarders. The only trails that will be closed are those needed to build the superpipe and terrain park. There will be terrain park features available on the Red’s, Teaser and Uncle Chuck’s trails.
The Bumps and Cliffhouse restaurants will be open. Powder Pandas and the entire Ski and Snowboard School will be in full operation.
Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are opening as scheduled. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass were scheduled to open on Thanksgiving, but they opened early because of all the snow.
“In the 25 years I’ve been here, this is the best opening we’ve had,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle.
Skico said in a statement that the opening of Highlands and Buttermilk completes its Power of Four, building off of its marketing theme of offering four ski areas.
Freeskier magazine named Aspen/Snowmass the second-best resort in North America this fall, in part because of the diversity of the four ski areas. It trailed only Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia, in the rankings.
All told, Skico’s four ski areas will have 4,600 acres of terrain open, “giving Aspen/Snowmass the most terrain in the country,” a statement from the company said.
The walk-up lift-ticket price will reflect the opening of additional terrain. The price is rising to $119 Saturday from the current $99.
Skico Vice President of Mountain Operations Rich Burkley said in a statement that this season’s opening will be one to tell the grandkids about.
“An opening like this comes along once in a generation,” he said.
Aspen Mountain’s Shadow Mountain chairlift will open Saturday, allowing the opening of the Corkscrew, Super 8, Strawpile, 5th Avenue, Norway and Normandy trails. That will boost Aspen Mountain to 99 percent open.
The only trail that isn’t open at Aspen Mountain is Silver Rush, according to Hanle. Skico doesn’t include gated terrain, such as Trainor’s, in the ski area’s official count of 675 acres, according to Hanle.
At Snowmass, the Two Creeks chairlift will open for the season Saturday, allowing the opening of the Longshot trail and other Burnt Mountain terrain. That will increase the open acreage to 2,500, or 76 percent of the total. Terrain served by the Cirque and Campground chairlifts isn’t open yet. Campground will open Dec. 21.
Skico reported that more than 100 inches of snow has fallen on the slopes since Oct. 1. Despite the recent dry spell, the Roaring Fork Valley’s snowpack is still above average.
The snowpack for the Roaring Fork basin overall is 118 percent of average, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Thursday. That is based on automated SnoTel sites throughout the basin. Snowpack varies greatly in the vast area. It’s 102 percent of average at the Independence site east of Aspen and 140 percent of average at McClure Pass in the Crystal Valley. The snowpack is only 94 percent of average at the Ivanhoe site near the headwaters of the Fryingpan River.
“An opening like this comes along once in a generation.”
Rich Burkley, Aspen Skiing Co.