Aspen Highlands’ opening Saturday to include 266 acres; terrain added at Snowmass, Aspen Mountain | AspenTimes.com

Aspen Highlands’ opening Saturday to include 266 acres; terrain added at Snowmass, Aspen Mountain

Aspen Highlands, seen here on Dec. 9, which was the scheduled opening day, will open Saturday with 266 skiable acres and running off Loge Peak lift.

After a slow start out of the gate, Aspen Skiing Co. is preparing to open significant amounts of new terrain at Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands on Saturday.

Highlands will make its season debut one week late Saturday, but it will start with a decent bang. About 266 acres of terrain is expected to open, said Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

"A portion of the G zones in the Highland Bowl, Golden Horn, and Thunderbowl will all be ready to rumble," Skico said on its "mountain announcements" web page.

Skico also has "hope" that several runs will open off the Loge chairlift.

The main option off the hill will be downloading the Exhibition chairlift. Skiers and riders can also traverse across T-Lazy catwalk to ski down Thunderbowl. Merry-Go-Round restaurant will be open for business.

Aspen Mountain will open Ruthie's Run on Saturday, adding to its 259 skiable acres already open. Bonnie's restaurant opens today.

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Hanle said Thursday the snowmaking crew, snowcat drivers and others in mountain operations at Aspen Mountain are "performing almost miracles getting it to where it is."

Mother Nature hasn't provided much natural snow to start the season and unseasonably warm temperatures into November hampered snowmaking. Crews have been blowing snow at every opportunity now that temperatures have dropped. Aspen Mountain is at about par with the amount of snow made compared to other seasons, according to Hanle. Snowmass and Aspen Highlands are a bit behind normal snowmaking amounts for this time while Buttermilk is much further behind because of its lower elevation and, thus, higher temperatures this fall.

Hanle said Skico's focus is on getting terrain open for the holidays. Getting superpipes and terrain parks open for the U.S. Grand Prix at Snowmass Jan. 10-14 and the Winter X Games at Buttermilk Jan. 25-28 has not been a priority yet, he said.

Snowmass and Buttermilk are facing a tougher time getting terrain open this season. The Funnel trail at Snowmass will open today, boosting the total skiable terrain to about 130 acres, according to Skico. That will allow skiers and riders to ski from the top of the Elk Camp Gondola down to the base.

Skico is expecting a large crowd for $6.50 lift tickets Friday to celebrate their 1967 prices. It was announced earlier this week that $6.50 ticket purchased previously online will be good for the final week of the season in April.

Buttermilk has been able to open only Panda Peak for skiing thus far. The Summit chairlift will open for sightseers between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily and will provide access to the Cliffhouse restaurant.

While Skico is steadily employing more workers, it is continuing to feed those who haven't got the call yet. It started providing dinners to unemployed workers after Thanksgiving with meals rotating between Bumps at Buttermilk and the Tree House at Snowmass on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.

"I think we've got them through next week, so far," Hanle said. That could be adjusted based on need.

Skico is working on alternative activities to offer tourists during the week between Christmas and New Year's, so that will put more people to work, Hanle said. The company isn't ready to share the list of activities yet.

scondon@aspentimes.com