Aspen Highlands opening with 717 acres, G-zones in Highland Bowl

Buttermilk will open with almost 300 acres on Saturday

Highland Bowl as viewed from Aspen Mountain on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
David Krause/The Aspen Times

Aspen Highlands will open for the season Saturday with at least 717 acres of skiing, including parts of Highland Bowl, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Wednesday.

Buttermilk will also open for the season on Saturday with almost 300 acres. The debut will feature a ceremony at Bumps restaurant at 1 p.m. to honor Klaus Obermeyer, who turned 100 years young on Monday.

Skico senior vice president, mountain operations Katie Ertl said Wednesday that “significant amounts” of additional terrain will open at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass as well.

“It will shoot up this weekend for sure,” she said.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opened early for the season on Nov. 23. About 2,500 acres will be open across the four ski areas by Saturday morning — more if a forecasted snowstorm hits on Thursday.

At Highlands, all chairlifts will fire up on Saturday except Thunderbowl, which is slated to open Dec. 14. The terrain will include the North Woods, Child’s Play and G8 to G0 in Highland Bowl. The majority of the front side terrain will also open. Merry-Go-Round and Cloud 9 Bistro will be serving food and beverages.

Ertl said the north facing G-zones in Highland Bowl are ready to open thanks to six weeks of preparations by volunteer boot packers and the ski patrollers.

“The boot packers have really been putting some time in there,” she said.

While there are impressive amounts of powder remaining from Friday’s storm, Ertl said skiers and riders must remember it is still early-season conditions with obstacles lurking beneath the snow cover.

“If you’re hitting fresh powder and open pockets, take care,” she said.

Also, uphill traffic will not be allowed on Thursday or Friday at Highlands as crews ready the mountain.

At Buttermilk, the Summit Express chair will open as well as the West Buttermilk chair from mid-station to the top. There will be nine features available in the terrain park at the top of West Buttermilk.

Ertl said the upper portion of trails on the Tiehack side will open on Saturday even though the Tiehack lift won’t be operating. Skiers and riders will be forced to cut over to Main Buttermilk on Sterner Catwalk, about two-thirds of the way down the ski area, she said.

It will require natural snow, snowmaking or a combination of the two to open the lower slopes of Tiehack and West Buttermilk. Ertl expects that terrain to open soon. Snow is forecast on Thursday in Aspen and again on Sunday and Monday.

Uphilling is allowed this week at Tiehack and Buttermilk, but skiers need to keep their dogs close as there are a number of workers and snow machines working across the mountain, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday.

Dogs are prohibited between operational hours of 7:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. at Buttermilk. Before and after operational hours, dog are allowed on-mountain, but owners must pick up any pet waste and pack it out, according to the Skico uphill policy.

Bumps and the Cliffhouse Restaurant will open at Buttermilk. The celebration in honor of Klaus Obermeyer’s 100th birthday will be held at Bumps with complimentary apple strudel and a presentation by Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan. Participants are urged to wear retro Sport Obermeyer skiwear.

At Snowmass this week, part of the Alpine Springs section of the mountain will open as well as more trails on Elk Camp, Ertl said. The goal is to get the High Alpine chairlift open, but coverage is thin between Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant and the bottom terminal of the chairlift, she said.

At Aspen Mountain, the goal is to open the Ruthie’s and FIS chairlift this weekend, according to Ertl. More snow is needed to open Lift 1A, she said.

The single-day lift ticket price is $162 for adults and $109 for children, teens and seniors from Dec. 7 to Dec. 20.