1983: Aspen ranked top ski area in survey
In celebrating the 125th anniversary of The Aspen Times, we are printing a story or two from each year the newspaper has existed – 125 historical selections in 125 days. This series is in conjunction with the Aspen Historical Society. Aspen ranked top ski area in surveyDespite some negative publicity last winter, Aspen was still rated as the number one ski resort in North America by a recent national survey sponsored by Economic Research Associates of San Francisco. The survey was conducted Survey Research Associates, an affiliate of ERA, for the ski resort industry among a random sample of 2,000 skiers in 22 states and three Canadian provinces. Skiers were asked a wide range of questions about 70 major resorts in the US and Canada, and in response to which ski area in North America was their favorite, most named Aspen. Behind Aspen with second place in the ratings was Vail, while a third Colorado ski resort, Steamboat Springs, tied for sixth place with Park City, Utah.Tops in California was the Lake Tahoe area with third place, while Sun Valley, the only Idaho resort in the top 15, was ranked fourth in the survey, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s only resort in the top 15, was ranked fifth.Highest Canadian resort in the survey was Banff/Lake Louise, which tied for eighth with Mammoth Mountain, also from California. (June 16)
This last week’s storms wasn’t the usual big spring storm that dumps and quickly melts away.It was a storm that lasted for days and days and days.It came with record breaking amounts of snow that didn’t quickly melt away.It was so bad they closed the schools.It buried the tulips and daffodils and plunged Aspenites into despair. Old-timers said it was the worst spring they remember.A few made the most of it, as ski tracks down the mountain attest. (We say a few because it means walking up).A Record Snow Year As if anyone needs to be told, this winter in Aspen is one of the biggest snowfall years ever (we say is because even though it’s mid-May we are still all in our parkas and mittens). With a total snow count of 215.5 inches as of today, May 19, this year fast approaches the biggest snow year on record of 219 inches the winter of 1964-1965 (the year that the roof of Tomkins Hardware fell in). There is a good chance that this wither will break the record because it isn’t over. The weather forecast for tonight is for six to eight inches more snow.Snowfall counts are from September through May of each year and are kept at the Aspen Water Plant. Records have been kept since the winter of 1934-1935. Jim Markalunas, head of the water department, uses the criteria that any winter with a snowfall over 200 inches is a record year. There have only been five record snow years in the 49-year period (that’s one big snow year out of every 10). During the wither of 1935-1936 there was a count of 207 inches of snow, the winter of 1961-62 had 201 inches, the winter of 1964-65 had the record of 219 inches, last winter 1981-1982 had 206 inches, and this winter is 215.5 inches so far. So far, that is.On June 9, 1979 there was a snowfall of nine inches, a big heavy wet snow that broke a lot of the trees. However, most of the snow had melted away by nightfall. It didn’t stick like this last snow has.Snowiest MayMarkalunas says that this winter December and January were record dry months.”So we’re getting it all in the spring,” he says.He points out that this May is actually the snowiest in history. A total of 40.5 inches of snow have already fallen and the record snowfall for the month of May before was 21 inches in 1938. (May 19)
As might be expected from the heavy snows of November and December, calendar 1983 turned out to have the most snowfall ever recorded in the Aspen area.According to the annual report compiled by Water Department Director Jim Markalunas, 295 inches of snow fell during the year, more than during any other year since the inception of the record keeping by his department.Previous record for snowfall in this area was 1975, when 216.8 inches was recorded and the 187.5 inches reported in 1974 was the high mark before that. However, despite the record snowfall during 1983, actual precipitation for the year was 31.77 inches, almost an inch less than the 32.57 inches recorded for 1967.One reason a precipitation record was not set in 1983 is that the snowfall was accompanied by only 7.77 inches of rain, while in 1967 there was only 133.01 inches of snow, but 20.6 inches of rain. Next highest amount of total precipitation recorded after 1967 and 1983 was 1969 with 30.26, followed by 1975 with 25.83 inches.Other RecordsAnother weather record was almost established last year, Markalunas noted. The 1982-83 winter was the second snowiest ever, with 216 inches of snow reported.The winter record was established during the 1964-65 season when there was 219 inches, while 207.3 inches reported in 1935-36 was the third heaviest snow season.However, since December, 1983, was the snowiest month on record, with 72 inches, and November was the snowiest November, there is a good chance that this winter may well become the snowiest ever. Weather records are taken at the Castle Creek water plant, at an elevation of 8,148 feet, where the average temperature last year was 41 degrees (Fahrenheit).High temperature for 1983 was 86 degrees reported on Aug. 29, while the low was minus 8 degrees on Dec. 29. (January 1984)
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For the first time ever last season, skier visits generated by ski passes exceeded skier visits from single- and multi-day lift ticket sales at U.S. resorts, according to a study for National Ski Areas Association.