Aspen in a deep freeze |

Aspen in a deep freeze

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – An arctic blast put Aspen in a deep freeze Wednesday, but the bitter cold didn’t keep skiers off the slopes or kids out of class.

The cold was a bone-chilling conversation starter, but of little consequence in most respects.

The National Weather Service in Grand Junction reported a low of minus 25 degrees in Aspen at about 6 a.m., but the agency has no historical data with which to make comparisons to previous low temperatures, said a spokesman there. The city water plant recorded an overnight low of 22 below zero.

It was minus 18 at the summit of Aspen Mountain by about 9:30 a.m., but a reading of minus 24 was recorded at Snowmass earlier in the morning, according to Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman.

“But it’s a dry cold,” he quipped in an e-mail.

Aspen resident Erik Wardell was on one of the first gondola buckets of the day at Aspen Mountain despite the frigid conditions. There was no line for the ride up.

“I’ve been here three winters and that’s the coldest it’s been,” he said. “I felt like I could have used about three more layers.”

Three top-to-bottom runs, with time on the unheated gondola to pull his feet out of his boots and warm them up in his hands, was enough for Wardell.

Skier Michael Flick of Germany was bundled up from head to toe, with goggles and a frosted fleece gaiter covering his face. He couldn’t recall skiing in colder temperatures, but gave Wednesday’s conditions high marks.

“Perfect snow, empty slopes,” he said.

Aspenite Pam Moore was wearing a knee-length down coat – a first for her in skiwear, she said.

“I’ve never worn this many clothes to ski, ever,” Moore said, confessing to two pairs of long johns over a pair of wool underwear, beneath her ski pants.

Elsewhere around the state, the weather service said a sensor at Cameron Pass in northern Colorado recorded a temperature of minus 46 Wednesday morning.

Denver missed setting a record low temperature by just one degree. Weather service meteorologist Kyle Fredin said the mercury at Denver International Airport dropped to minus 17 early Wednesday, not enough to beat the record low of negative 18 recorded in 2007.

But it was cold enough to freeze the gates on the HOV lanes on Interstate 25 in the Denver area during the morning commute.

Most school districts along the populated Front Range canceled classes, many for a second straight day, but Denver schools reopened because officials said road conditions had improved. The temperature was minus 10 as the school day began.

Aspen schools were in session as usual Tuesday and Wednesday, though the temperature was minus 22 at 8 a.m. yesterday at the airport. Outdoor recess at the elementary school did not take place.

Superintendent John Maloy said he consulted with the district’s director of transportation to confirm the buses would start up. The district was looking at a thermometer reading of 11 below and decided to hold school as usual.

Very few Aspen students walk to school, according to Maloy. About 70 percent take a bus, but routes are short and stops frequent, so no one waits outside for long, he said. In addition, some parents drive their children to school or to a bus stop so they can wait in a heated vehicle.

“Certainly, we say to parents, if you’re overly concerned, you can bring them to school yourself or keep them home for the day,” Maloy said. “Though it was cold, certainly, school is an important place and a warm place for kids to be.”

The superintendent said he received one e-mail questioning the decision.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority had only a couple of problems with buses as a result of the cold Wednesday morning, said a spokesperson there. Maintenance personnel start up the fleet in the middle of the night when temperatures drop well below freezing and let the buses idle for an hour or more so they will start and heat up quickly in the morning, he said.

An Aspen plumbing firm reported few calls for frozen pipes Wednesday morning, though an early January cold snap produced a slew of such problems.

The cold weather is expected to stick around at least through today before temperatures start to climb. Today’s forecast calls for mostly sunny skies with a high of 15, but with wind chills as low as minus 35, according to the weather service. Lows of about 3 degrees are forecast tonight.

Friday’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies with a high near 28, and a chance of snow returns to the forecast by Friday night.

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