A last look back on Aspen’s ski season
Hard-core skiers and riders are getting four more chances this season at lift-served skiing with the extended season at Aspen Highlands.
That’s kind of the cherry on top of a season that brought some epic powder days early and late, and bluebird, spring-like conditions in the middle of winter.
Now that the season is almost in the books, the staff of The Aspen Times decided to take a look back at our personal highs and lows.
The healing power of powder stood out for my ski season.
An epic powder day came as welcome relief after I suffered through nearly three weeks of the crud that was going around. I was out of commission for the last half of January, but couldn’t take it anymore when we had a multi-day storm in late January-early February. I went out with a friend and had amazing runs down Hanging Valley.
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
On a second epic powder day in March, I went skiing with a long-lost friend. She told me the prior evening to get to Lift 1A as quickly as possible the next morning. We were first in line but I soon learned that a regular posse gathers at good old 1A on a powder morning rather than face the hordes at the gondola.
The FIS might not like it, but Lift 1A has its fans, for good reason.
— Scott Condon
I remember my best day, or best moment to be exact: It was the morning right after a big storm, and patrol had just dropped the rope on Walsh’s. I was listening to a super mellow reggae song, with no one else in sight, just floating through the new snow. I stopped before the descent to the catwalk and the sun was peaking through the clouds just right, illuminating the valley in the craziest way I’d ever seen. That was a good run.
— Jeremy Wallace
February started out with a welcome surprise for my kids (and me!) in back-to-back snow days — a rarity in our mountain town. No school and feet of the white stuff meant big ski days for everyone.
The only downside (if you can call it that) — all those little shredders eating up our powder stashes. Thankfully, Mother Nature delivered many more epic days. And the snow keeps on falling.
— Jeanne McGovern
•The fact that it started earlier than planned and ended later than planned
•Skico serving Coloradough donuts at base of Ajax on opening day (this didn’t necessarily excite me personally, but I know several ski bums who would argue otherwise).
•Hiking the bowl with champagne.
•Highlands closing day was pretty great, as I think many (thousands) of people would admit the Sky après scene never disappointed.
•Sundeck party a few weekends ago and when they kept the lifts open till 5 or 6 p.m.! The party was so fun, DJ was great, lots of people there, getting to ski that long was awesome.
•All the weather predictions/El Niño hype going into and throughout the winter season — it’s just dumb and annoying in my opinion and also sets everyone up for disappointment when we don’t have a totally epic season, man
— Erica Robbie
Tiehack: The Sunday of the Winter X Games, after the Saturday night snowboard superpipe event was halted early because of heavy snowfall. With premium (albeit wet and heavy) powder after a long stretch of no snow, Tiehack drew its customarily modest crowd early Sunday morning. Then, as competitors were eliminated from the Winter X snowboard snowcross competition on the front side of Buttermilk, they went directly to Tiehack and powder paradise.
The Winter X snowboarders ripped down Racer’s Edge and Javelin with enthusiasm off the charts. Hooting and hollering, outside the realm of their competitive events, they looked like a gang of ski town pals on a good powder day.
Timber Doodle Glade will never be the same.
— Dale Strode
I just started skiing this year and I’ve only been 7 times — did all 4 mountains, though, and have had some epic falls and some amazingly fun runs. Can’t remember half the names but have to say I’m officially addicted!
— Louise Walker
Since moving to Aspen two years ago, my favorite part of “working” here remains the number of times in a week that business partners insist that we meet at the gondola for a 15-minute power meeting on the ride up. My favorite memory of the season was a packed day in the gondola line when I was meeting with a job candidate and we asked the gondola operator if we
could have our own car for a “meeting.” The man in the lane next to me said, “I guess you know you live here when there’s 10,000 people waiting to board and you get your own car so you can meet before you ski.”
— Samantha Johnston
The line for the Silver Queen Gondola moves pretty fast at 9 a.m. on a powder day, even if you’re standing near Gorsuch Ltd. with a soggy doughnut and a cup of half coffee, half whiskey.
The X Games just ended, and for three whiteout days we gave thanks to Ullr for his bountiful harvest. Finally at the top of the mountain, I strapped in and hit the cat track to Face of Bell, riding the distance until below me was a completely untouched waist-deep field of powder that was a mogul minefield the day before.
As I made a blind charge to the bottom, I couldn’t help but to let out a ceremonious “woo-hoo!” and was rewarded with a mouthful of powder. It tasted pretty good, though.
— Benjamin Welch
It’s not a single day on the hill that stands out, but looking through photos of so many friends that discovered a new version of Aspen/Snowmass through my eyes. Whether it was bouncing with long-time locals from one random, hidden line to another on Ajax, bringing a Spanish winemaker for a skin up Highlands followed by a bowl lap on a perfect powder day, or a nighttime hike up Buttermilk with a bartender friend from Boston, this season was special. Every year it snows. Every year there are dry spells. As the French say, “tout niege, tout terrain” – any snow, any terrain! Get out every day, bring old friends, meet new ones, and become a better skier by enjoying the conditions, however they may be.
As the lift-served season winds down, the human-powered season ramps up! This is my favorite part of MY ski season … April, May, and June! Yet this year we have been blessed with unusually stable snow in the backcountry, making for a phenomenal mid-winter touring season. And even on a day when the conditions are less than ideal, like that late-March day on the northwest face of Ski Hayden, where no two turns could be linked due to the dangerously punchy snow, making hop turns for 4,000 feet, it’s always a pleasure to share these experiences with good friends. And to return home tired but safe. Wind-burned but uninjured. That’s what winter continues to be for me.
— Matt Lanning, honorary staffer
Nothing delighted me more than watching my 7-year-old daughter Eleanor hooting and hollering when she was sticking jumps on Buttermilk’s Red Rover run, not exactly extreme terrain but when you’re a little kid, it rocks. Her little sister, Vivian, just a 4-year-old, mastered the straight-line — bombing down Adam’s Avenue at Snowmass and scaring the crap out of me in the process. Today, however, I look back fondly on her hot-dog antics, and am eager for another year on the slopes with my blonde bombers.
— Rick Carroll
I really don¹t ski that much, but when I do it is a family affair. I
like to get out there on bluebird days with my kids. My son is faster than me, in fact he sends me down the straight way while he goes down the terrain park on Buttermilk.
— Ashton Hewitt
It has been a really good year with a great end of the season. The best part is that it isn’t over and with the recent new snow and stability in the spring snowpack, we will be skiing for months to come.
— Max Vadnais
I’m an avid snowboarder and have been for two decades.
However, I lived in New York City during the winters of 2014 and 2015, so I didn’t set foot on my board at all the past two seasons. Then I moved to Aspen in July, threw down for a ski pass and anxiously awaited my return to the slopes.
But a strange thing happened once the flakes started to fly. I just couldn’t muster much enthusiasm for snowboarding. It wasn’t providing the thrill I remembered. And, for the first time in recent memory, fear crept into my head as I slid down the slopes, making the situation worse.
I was worried. I didn’t know what was happening with me.
Then came the three-foot dump at the end of January. That was more snow than I’ve seen in years. By the time it stopped falling, it was a Tuesday or a Wednesday and, of course, I had to work that day. I debated whether to go and decided it was just plain stupid to ignore three feet of powder in my own backyard, even if I still wasn’t able to muster much enthusiasm for it.
I spent about two hours on Aspen Mountain that day, and it was all going along much like the rest of my season when I decided to do one more run before heading to the office. So I boarded Lift 6, found the top of one of the runs collectively known as The Dumps (I can’t remember which one) and took the plunge.
And it all came rushing back. It was blissful. It was deep. It was heavenly. It was perfect fun. Since then, I’ve had no problem mustering any enthusiasm for strapping on the board, and my fear has disappeared into the ether.
And that’s how I got my snowboard mojo back.
— Jason Auslander
I tend to be out of town when the big storms hit. It happens just about every season. This season, I had jetted off to a Pilates and surfing retreat down in Nicaragua, hosted by one of my best friends from college. I logged onto my Facebook account to post a picture of the beautifully pristine beach I’d be enjoying for the next week when I saw them — the countless photos from friends back in Aspen of the monster storm that dumped snow onto Aspen measured in feet, not inches. ‘No!’ I thought. It was hard to let the massive powder storm ruin my mood as I prepared for a sun-kissed week of wellness, but damn — why did it have to happen that particular week?
— Lauren Glendenning
I think my most memorable day of the season was actually in Snowmass,which is odd because I’m one of those Ajax/Highlands people who doesn’t ski Snowmass. I tend to hit Ajax on weekdays, when I can get in a few quick laps close to the newsroom, and Highlands on the weekends. I rode at Buttermilk during X Games and made it to Snowmass exactly once: Natalie and I headed out there in March on the day Nahko and Medicine for the People were playing the Hi-Fi show at the base.
It was a pretty perfect spring day — sunny, slushy. Not knowing the mountain very well, I felt like Magellan. We started by Campground in the morning and made our way across the whole ski area, hitting the Cirque and Hanging Valley, stopping at Elk Camp for lunch on the patio and ending the day by bombing down Longshot trying to get to the lift by 3:30 and barely making it. And the Hi-Fi show ended up being pretty great — they put on a fun show and brought out a relatively massive, spirited, hardcore crowd that filled Base Village in a way I haven’t seen other acts there turn out.
It was a blast. But then, of course, we had the long, standing-room-only bus ride back to town and we remembered why we don’t ski Snowmass.
— Andrew Travers
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The Aspen Filmfest program, which opens Tuesday night with the Jessica Chastain-led drama “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” is a tribute to the founder, Ellen Kohner Hunt. The festival will also recognize the memory of Hunt with “Ellenfest” on Thursday.