Snow opens Aspen ski season
December 1, 2008
ASPEN ” A Thanksgiving weekend storm dumped more than a foot of snow on the ski slopes of Aspen and Snowmass before dwindling to a few light flakes on Monday morning.
And, unlike much of Colorado, travel in and out of Aspen was mostly unaffected by several days of snowfall and Sunday’s high winds.
No more than two or three flights per day on Friday through Sunday at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport were canceled because of the weather, according to Bill Tomcich, the resort’s liaison to the airline industry. There were 11 scheduled flights each day on Saturday and Sunday, he said.
In addition, some flights in and out saw delays of an hour or so, Tomcich said.
“The impact on commercial flights was quite minimal, given the weather conditions,” he said.
Holiday weekend travelers on Interstate 70 and other Colorado highways, on the other hand, encountered icy conditions, blowing snow, accidents and closures that stranded more than 100 motorists trying to travel east on I-70 on Sunday.
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Authorities were also forced to close eastbound Interstate 70 near Silt Sunday morning after four vehicles spun out on an icy bridge, including one that struck a Colorado State Patrol trooper’s squad car.
Locally, skiers and snowboarders enjoyed fresh powder for the first weekend of the ski season, though the snow and Sunday’s wind proved challenging for women’s World Cup racing on Aspen Mountain and high winds on Saturday night caused problems with the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain that kept it shut down Sunday and Monday.
Both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opened for the season on Thursday with limited terrain. The Aspen Skiing Co. had been preparing to open terrain on the Big Burn at Snowmass, possibly on Monday, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle, but Sunday’s winds forced ski patrollers to reassess conditions first.
“The wind wreaked havoc with a bunch of stuff and moved a lot of snow on the mountains,” Hanle said Monday morning. “We’ll see what runs now have two feet of snow on them.”
Hanle was unsure when crews would get the Big Burn open. Some of the area was likely scoured by the wind, while some runs may boast wind-loaded accumulations, he said.
On Monday morning, the Skico was reporting 16 inches of new snow on Aspen Mountain over the past week, but the total is really a reflection of snow that began falling last Thursday night. Snowmass picked up 13 inches during the same period. Aspen Highlands, which is not yet open, received 15 inches, and Buttermilk, also still yet to open, collected 10 inches, according to the Skico.
This week’s forecast calls for more snow starting Tuesday afternoon. The National Weather Service is calling for 1 to 3 inches of accumulation in Aspen on Tuesday night, and a chance for more snow on Wednesday.
While Aspen and Snowmass boasted some of the best snowfall totals around the state on Friday, early in the storm, other resorts were blasted Saturday and Sunday.
Aspen Mountain, for example, reported 6 inches of new snow over the past 48 hours on Monday morning, but Vail reported 13 inches over the same period. Loveland, perched on the Continental Divide, reported a whopping 35 inches over the past 48 hours. Beaver Creek was reporting 11 inches of new snow over the past 48 hours on Monday morning; Steamboat and Winter Park picked up 10 inches.
The blowing snow hiked avalanche danger around the state. On Monday, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center rated the danger in the mountains surrounding Aspen as considerable. Natural and human-triggered slides are probable where fresh wind drifts and slabs have formed, according to the center.
The CAIC rated the avalanche danger as high in the Vail area, Summit County and in the Front Range mountains. Slabs are forming rapidly in avalanche terrain in those areas, the center reported Monday.