Amid drought, snow brings smiles aplenty |

Amid drought, snow brings smiles aplenty

Ah, snow.

In some towns a slightly snowy morning in September is seen as merely the end of summer. But not in Aspen, where a reported nine inches of powder on top of Snowmass’s Big Burn put a spring in everyone’s step, even though the first day of fall is still four days away.

“I almost called in for a powder day, I was so excited,” said Aidan Wynn, who was bartending at Bentley’s on Wednesday afternoon. “This is more snow than we got all last year.”

Not really, but locals seemed hard pressed to be pessimistic about the snow and cold temperatures, no matter how little fell Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, and how quickly it may melt. According to Jeff Hanle at the Aspen Skiing Co., Aspen Mountain received five inches Tuesday night, and six and a half inches were measured atop Sam’s Knob on Snowmass Mountain.

It wasn’t too early in the season for a snow day: Hanle said several trail and lift maintenance workers got to stay home since the snow made their jobs obsolete. Around Skico offices he said the mood was upbeat.

“It gets everyone excited about a good weather pattern,” Hanle said. “Maybe it won’t stay through the ski season, and maybe the snow will be gone tomorrow. That’s OK. I understand we had very heavy phone volume yesterday on lift ticket sales. Word of mouth was that the phones were really ringing.”

Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen/Snowmass, said he’s seen a dramatic increase in phone calls after the recent snows. After Monday night’s flurry that left the peaks white, call volume went up 40 percent, the busiest day the reservationists have seen this season, and over $40,000 in reservations were placed.

“The colder weather and early snow is definitely stirring up business in booking skiing for this season,” he said.

In front of the Hotel Jerome, Chris Cunningham, a recent transplant from St. Louis, shivered slightly in short sleeves during his job as a doorman.

“I thought all the Rocky Mountains had snow on top of them all year long,” he said, adding that he’ll trade water skis for snow skis this year.

Aspen Sports put out its display of “rock” skis and also got out the brand-new stock for 2003 on Wednesday. Store manager Ron Morehead said in his 25 years in Aspen he’s seen a few drought patterns and thinks the early precipitation is a good sign.

“We need to keep getting it, but it definitely perks attitudes up,” he said. “People who are here for fall vacation are coming in and buying warmer clothes right now.”

Hanle sent out press releases to newspapers and television stations, and fielded requests from Denver television stations asking for video footage of the snow flying, something he doesn’t have quite yet. He did, however, get a photo credit from The Associated Press for some pictures he took of the snow.

“This is a great momentum builder ? it’s like a chain reaction,” he said of the early snow. “People talk to each other about it and it creates excitement. It also gives us something to jump up and down about at work.”

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is]

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