As the season turns |

As the season turns

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

We’ve reached a turning point in the season.

All four mountains in Aspen/Snowmass are now open, including the magnificent “new” terrain in the G Zones in the Highland Bowl, which opened to solid reviews on Saturday.

We’ve now got 3,055 acres open between Walsh’s and Campground and a bunch of bumps, groomers and steeps awaiting your attention.

But adding to the feeling of turning a corner is that the 24 Hours of Aspen race is in the record books. And in the story books.

There will be lots of talk this week about how the race went, about how solid Casey Puckett’s winning effort was, and how a certain veteran volunteer course worker broke his collarbone early yesterday morning after falling while spreading pine boughs along the course.

Classic stuff. And all against the backdrop of a well-prepared race course.

So here we are, staring down the barrel of two of the most critical weeks of the ski season, at least from a business standpoint.

And anybody who has worked through a Christmas in Aspen knows everybody is a lot less tense when the slopes are soft.

To that end, the weather forecast was calling for 1 to 3 inches Monday night and another 3 to 6 inches today. So it could already be a powder day. And I swear I saw some snow falling around 8 o’clock last night in Snowmass.

Yes, that’s right, 3 to 6 inches. Of snow. Right here in River City. Today should be a blustery day, as well, with west winds 20 to 30 mph.

For Tuesday night, the word “brisk” is used to describe the anticipated conditions, and another 2 to 4 inches, of snow, is in the forecast with the chance of precipitation at 60 percent.

There’s another chance of snow on Wednesday.

So that’s good news, as the hard slopes could use a little softening up.

If the Aspen area does get 10 inches of snow this week (that’s based on a very optimistic read of the forecast), look for local powder hounds to rush out into the backcountry only to be confronted by a fairly weak snowpack.

I took an avalanche awareness and beginner backcountry skiing class over the weekend with Aspen Expeditions, so now I’m slightly more aware of what’s up with the snowpack.

“Sugar” is not a technical term, but it seems fair to me to use when describing the 2 feet of snow out there getting ready to be our new base for the winter.

So I’m inclined to urge caution if it does snow a bunch this week, but I understand that is like telling a man dying of thirst to go easy on that first cold six-pack he comes across.

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