Ajax reopens for Memorial Day weekend with winter-like conditions up top
There were turns to be had Saturday on Aspen Mountain, and that alone was enough for Denver’s Brian Dorfman to call the day “epic.”
Like most, Dorfman hasn’t spent a whole lot of time on skis or a snowboard the past month with the season having ended mid-April over the majority of Colorado. But with winter continuing into May at higher elevations and the snowpack holding strong, Aspen Skiing Co. was able to reopen part of Aspen Mountain for Memorial Day Weekend.
This is the sixth year since 2008 that Skico has offered Memorial Day skiing on Ajax.
“It’s a late start to summer, but that’s what we do. It’s fun. We are a ski company,” ski patroller Art Nerbonne said. “We have it available and if the bosses want to do it, we have a good time.”
The upper portion of Aspen Mountain reopened Saturday, and will continue to be available for riding today and Monday. The Ajax Express lift spins from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, with the Silver Queen Gondola running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for sightseeing.
The Sundeck restaurant is open for food and beverage options.
As for the skiing? Well, there was little to complain about, with roughly 130 acres open for play.
“The snow was a little sticky after they groomed it out last night and it really helped out,” Nerbonne said. “It’s going to be nicer (Sunday) so we’ll have a bigger crowd up here, I’m sure. But the skiing was pretty good. The sun stayed behind the clouds, which helped keep the snow from getting too sticky today.”
Nerbonne, who has been a ski patroller for 31 years, said the conditions were very good for this time of year on Aspen Mountain. He came up Friday with a small crew of ski patrollers to help set up, saying it didn’t take a huge amount of effort to get everything ready.
With rain in town, the top of Aspen Mountain had a mid-winter feeling at times Saturday, including an inkling of fresh powder between episodes of sleet. Spring is expected to return today and Monday, with highs in the low- to mid-60s and ample sunshine.
“We still have almost a 50-inch base up here on top. We know how our management is. If we got skiing, they want to do it,” Nerbonne said. “I don’t know if they are going to do another weekend, but it’ll work out for the next few days anyway. It’ll be good.”
Skico officials will decide May 31 if skiing will be extended for any more weekends, although the weather forecast doesn’t look promising for those wanting that to happen. Summer conditions usually begin in earnest after Memorial Day in the valley, and the snowpack can disappear in a hurry.
So, it’s ski while you can. Lift tickets are $42 per day, with sightseeing tickets costing $21. Premier passes and 6-and-younger passes will be valid for skiing and summer operations. Pass extension days for Flex, Double Flex, Classic, Club Escape, School, Aspen Valley Ski Club and Mountain Collective passholders will be sold for $21 for skiing and $12 for only sightseeing per day.
Aspen Mountain is one of only two Colorado resorts open this weekend, the other being Arapahoe Basin in Summit County.
Summer operations will continue on June 3 and 4, June 10 and 11, then go daily June 17 to Sept. 4. Summer schedule will operate for weekends through September.
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International visitors have traditionally accounted for 10 to 20 percent of Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits in recent past seasons. Travel fears and restrictions tied to the coronavirus are expected to wipe out most of that market for 2020-21.