Aspen Highlands will open for Bowling on Friday
Terrain in Highland Bowl and Temerity expected to open for season debut
The recent snowfall will allow Aspen Highlands to make an impressive season debut on Friday, potentially including terrain in Highland Bowl.
The ski area will open with five chairlifts, “much” of the front side terrain as well as trails in Temerity and the Olympic side and possibly in the Bowl, according to Aspen Skiing Co.
“We are optimistic that a few runs in Temerity, and some of our steeper runs on the Olympic side (Deception, Why, Why Not) will be available,” Skico announced on its website Thursday. “We hope to have some of the G Zone runs in the Highland Bowl, however, we will delay if this approaching storm dictates that need for safety.”
Skico delayed the opening of Highlands by almost a week for a lack of snow. Once that decision was made, it started dumping.
The delay gave the Highlands team plenty of time to prepare for a good opening, Katie Ertl, Skico’s senior vice president, mountain operations said Thursday. A lot of avalanche mitigation has been required.
“The storm dumped a lot of snow on dry terrain,” Ertl said.
Highlands ski patrollers will have the flexibility to open terrain around the mountain as they see fit to compact the snow in certain areas.
“We’re going to have flash openings where and when we can,” Ertl said.
She is expecting a big crowd at Highlands on Friday and Saturday as skiers and riders seek out new lines.
“It’s new terrain. It’s fresh,” she said. “Aspen and Snowmass have been open for three weeks now.”
The Cloud 9 and Merry-Go-Round restaurants will be open with limited indoor seating and extra outdoor seating available.
Buttermilk will make its season debut Friday with all four chairlifts and more than 90 percent of its 470 acres of terrain, according to Ertl.
“West Buttermilk to the bottom, Tiehack — a little spicy so take care — and most of Main Buttermilk will be ours to play on,” Skico’s website said.
Bumps and the Cliffhouse will open for dining.
The shuttle will run between Buttermilk and Highlands at 50 percent capacity per vehicle.
Aspen Mountain had 521 acres out of 675 open as of Thursday morning while Snowmass had 1,026 out of 3,342 acres. Combined, they have 38.5 percent of terrain and a combined 95 of 174 trails open so far.
Ertl said it’s been a successful opening to the season despite the challenges of the pandemic. She was asked to rate the opening on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.
“I would say we’re definitely right up there, an eight or nine,” she said.
Roaring Fork Valley residents and guests want the slopes to stay open for the season so they are adhering to social distancing requirements and wearing masks, for the most part, she said. Skico workers are on “mask patrol” throughout the day to remind a few folks they must keep their masks up when in line and around others.
A few tweaks have been made since Aspen and Snowmass opened, mostly with lift mazes to keep people separated. The lift lines appear long but they move quickly, Ertl and other observers have noted. She timed the wait at the Silver Queen Gondola at 11½ minutes one recent day.
Anticipating the holiday crowds is more difficult than usual this season because of the pandemic. Lodging occupancies aren’t as high as a normal year, but there could be a lot of second-home use and vacation rentals by owners that boost numbers on the slopes.
“I think we’re preparing for about 75 percent of last year or of a normal year,” Ertl said.
Aspen Skiing Co. will celebrate the replacement of Big Burn chairlift with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at 11 a.m. The lift has been operating this season, but it won’t be spinning Friday morning until the ceremony. The old four-passenger chair was replaced with a six-pack. The ribbon-cutting will be at the lower terminal of the lift.
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Colorado State Patrol will send extra troopers to Independence Pass but tools such as one-way, directional travel through the Narrows are not being considered.