Aspen locals talk tips for spring skiing
The Aspen Times
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❅ May might be starting Sunday, but Aspen’s skiers and snowboarders are getting one last weekend of lift-served skiing.
Aspen Highlands is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Sunday for a final bonus weekend of ski season that started early Friday.
While Aspen’s peaks have received almost a foot of new snow in the past week, it’s still spring skiing. Conditions recently have ranged from powder to a sheet of ice to clumpy, mashed potato slush (particularly at the base area), so we went to the experts to get their tips for staying upright out there this weekend.
Keep those tips up
“People always freak out about Little Nell when it’s all slushy,” said longtime Aspenite Greg Hanle. “You have to ski from your toes to the back of your skis … and get the tips to float more.”
Because slushy snow will slow you down anyway, you don’t have to worry about carving your turns as much, either, Hanle said.
Ski the right place at the right time
Spring conditions will change throughout the day depending on how high the temperatures get, what direction certain aspects are facing and whether they’re in direct sun, shadow or overcast weather, Hanle said. People who ski a lot know what runs are good at what time, but a true student of the mountain also knows which aspect of that run is going to be better, he said.
“People who really ski a lot, we like a sweet spring day better than a powder day,” particularly because it’s less crowded, Hanle said. “Untracked spring snow at the right time is really nice.”
Use the right ski
Rob Small, manager of The Ski Shop at Ajax, said he prefers a fatter ski for spring conditions — about 100 to 105 mm under foot — because it gives a skier a wider platform to turn over.
But, “the most important thing right now for this stuff is wax,” he said.
Most of the ski shops are closed, but Aspen Skiing Co.’s Four Mountain Sports will be renting skis and snowboards this weekend and offering tunings through tonight.
Be prepared for anything
With fresh snowfall this week, conditions on Highlands on Friday were “mid-winter powder,” said Aspen resident Matt Lanning. But the thing about spring skiing is that it can change in an instant: If the clouds part and the temperatures are high enough this weekend, that powder could quickly become mashed potatoes, he said.
And there can be some additional safety concerns this time of year.
“There’s a lot of new snow on a really hard layer, and timing is really important,” Lanning said. “You really have to pay attention to avoid the chunks of ice underneath.”
Donald Punongbayan has been uphilling every day since Aspen Mountain closed April 17. He said the most important thing in skiing at any time of the season is to have fun.
“If you’re having fun, then everything else will come easy to you,” Punongbayan said. “Have a glass of champagne. Ski at your own pace. Enjoy the view and smile.”
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