‘Phenomenal’ ski season in Aspen comes to an end
May 7, 2014
Aspen's 2013-14 ski season — considered to be the best of the past six in terms of snowfall — is now a wrap.
Amid sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, skiers and snowboarders hit Aspen Mountain one last time Sunday. Though much of the snow on the lower end of Ajax already had melted, Aspen Skiing Co. reported that 510 of the mountain's 675 ski-boundary acres were open for business. The mountain had been scheduled to close on April 20, but Skico provided four bonus days over the past two weekends.
Erik Wardell, of Aspen, skied top to bottom and was happy with the conditions, despite the slushy and sticky spots.
"The snow was a little grabby in places, there was a little bit of that 'velcro,' but other than that it was just beautiful up there," he said.
Wardell said he mainly skied on the weekends. He estimated that he got in about 60 days of skiing during the current season, which kicked off for daily operations at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area on Nov. 23, five days ahead of schedule.
Wardell said the scene atop the mountain at the Sundeck restaurant was festive Sunday, with many people wearing costumes. The trails weren't crowded and they were dominated by locals, he added.
Carl Johnson, also of Aspen, said he was a little bummed that the season is over.
"It's bittersweet for sure," he said. "It's one of those transition times, but there are great things to look forward to. It's time to put the skis away for the season and break out the bike."
Johnson described the season as "phenomenal," adding that he had more powder days than ever before. He moved to Aspen about five years ago.
Cory Gates, a forecaster with AspenWeather.net, reported on his website that Aspen Mountain received 342 inches of snowfall from October through April. Aspen Highlands got 358 inches and Snowmass had 351 inches.
Those totals were close to Gates' pre-season predictions of 340, 361 and 374 inches, respectively, for the three areas. Buttermilk Mountain, also a Skico operation, was not mentioned in his report.
Ryan Boudreau, who founded AspenWeather.net with Gates, pointed out that the season was mostly consistent, marked by high-quality snow and cold temperatures without extreme ranges.
However, there was a drought of sorts from Jan. 15 to Jan. 27 — it didn't snow for 12 days. A storm that brought nearly 40 inches to local ski areas over three days in late January and early February made up for it.
"That's the storm that saved the winter," Boudreau said. Throughout the season, "We got the snowstorms when we needed them."
Of Skico's four mountains, Aspen Highlands had the best year, often receiving a few more inches of snow during a single weather event than its counterparts, Boudreau said.
"Highlands was the place to go," he said.
Both forecasters say that local snowfall next winter could be adversely impacted by an El Nino pattern, although it's too early to make an accurate prediction.
Bill Tomcich, president of reservations agency Stay Aspen Snowmass, said it's highly possible that local hotels and lodges had their best occupancy since the 2007-08 season, which ended just before the Great Recession began to affect the Aspen economy. Final statistics on the season's occupancy rates won't be available until later this month.
"It's too soon to say exactly how great the season was until we get the final numbers," Tomcich said. "The season started strong and finished even stronger. March was remarkable in both Aspen and Snowmass. April was big improvement over last year's April because of the extended weekends and Easter Sunday falling so late."
Good snowfall during the autumn months set the tone for the rest of the season, he added. That, combined with new early season promotions marketed by Skico and others, helped to lure more visitors to the slopes, Tomcich said.