Aspen Mountain ski season will be extended one week through April 23 | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Mountain ski season will be extended one week through April 23

Scott Condon ❄ The Aspen Times

Aspen Mountain will be able to extend its ski season an extra week despite dry conditions during most of March that had people thinking more about golf and cycling than skiing, at least temporarily.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday that Aspen Mountain will now close April 23. It was scheduled to close on Easter Sunday, April 16.

Skico Vice President of Mountain Operations Rich Burkley has previously said the company aims to open early and stay open late whenever conditions allow.

He said Tuesday that the April 23 closure is "firm" for ski season. The Silver Queen Gondola starts operating for the summer on Memorial Day Weekend.

“If May is a huge snow month, we’d look at skiing as we start summer operations.”

— Rich Burkley, Skico

"If May is a huge snow month, we'd look at skiing as we start summer operations," Burkley said.

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The ski area was hit with more than 80 inches of snow in January, building an abundant base that held up despite warm temperatures and below-average snowfall in February and March.

The slopes went through a 15-day dry spell in mid-March that eroded some of the base and brought out brown spots. However, the weather changed lately and the ski areas have received as much as 17 inches of fresh snow in the past week.

"With good base depths from early-season snowfall and the addition of new snow, Aspen Mountain is looking in good shape for a bonus week," Aspen Mountain manager Peter King said in a prepared statement. "Spring on Ajax is always a great time to come out and enjoy some sunshine, apres, as well as prime slush bumps."

Skico anticipates top-to-bottom skiing with the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express, FIS and Ruthie's lifts open.

"Hours of operation will shift to the following, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., to take advantage of spring conditions, unless it is a powder day, and then the lifts will open at 9 a.m.," the company said in its statement.

The other ski-area closures will remain as scheduled. Aspen Highlands closes Sunday. Snowmass will close April 16. Buttermilk closed April 2, though it will partially open for a special uphilling event this weekend.

For people who don't leave the Roaring Fork Valley floor, the extended season may seem improbable. Aspen had its driest March in five years and second driest in 10 years, according to records kept at the water treatment plan. Only 16 inches fell at the plant last month, about 60 percent of the average of 26.78 inches.

The ski slopes didn't fare much better. Only 30 inches were recorded at Aspen Mountain during March, according to data tracked by Aspen Weather, a micro-forecaster for the upper and mid-Roaring Fork Valley.

The dry spell proved to be a blessing for Aspen's hosting of the World Cup Finals in alpine ski racing. While course crews battled high temperatures, they didn't have to scramble to clear fresh snow on the men's and women's courses.

Aspen received 17.3 inches of snow in February, well below its average of 25.46 inches.

Warm temperatures ate up the snowpack during March, which saw 16 days with a high temperature at or above 50 degrees to go with the drought.

The snowpack at the headwaters of the Roaring Fork River east of Aspen was 97 percent of median Tuesday, according to the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service.

January was a season saver. The Aspen Water Treatment Plant received 71.5 inches of snow that month. The average is 26.09.

For the extra week at Aspen Mountain, the Sundeck Restaurant will be open for food and beverages. The Aspen Mountain Ski and Snowboard School will offer 40 percent off private lessons for the extended week.

All season passes will be valid as they were during the regular season. Lift ticket prices are $69 for adults and $45 for children, teens and seniors.

Pass extension days for Flex, Adult Classic and Adult Mountain Collective passholders will be $32 and $23 for Child, Youth, College Classic passholders as well as Child, Teen, Senior Mountain Collective passholders.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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