Aspen Mountain and Snowmass to open Saturday, five days ahead of schedule |

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass to open Saturday, five days ahead of schedule

Two resorts will have combined 135 acres available this weekend

Aspen local Doran Laybourn does a tail grab underneath "the couch" lift on Aspen Mountain on March 1, 2019.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times file photo

Aspen Skiing Co. will kick off the ski season early for the second year in a row by opening Aspen Mountain and Snowmass on Saturday — five days before the scheduled opening on Thanksgiving Day.

Skico announced it will open 75 acres of terrain on Aspen Mountain and 60 acres at Snowmass. The tops of both ski areas will be unavailable for skiing and riding until more snow falls. Snow is forecast for the Aspen-area starting Wednesday.

“If we get a big dump, we’re going to open more terrain at the top,” said Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president, mountain operations. By big dump, she clarified, she is thinking six inches or more.

At Aspen Mountain, the Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts will operate to start the ski season. The Ajax Express won’t be able to open to start the season.

The open trails include Deer Park and Spar Gulch. When skiers and riders get off the Bell Mountain lift, their only option as of now will be to bear to skier’s right onto Deer Park.

The Silver Queen Gondola will be open only for sightseeing traffic. The Sundeck will be open to serve food and beverages.

At Snowmass, the Village Express chairlift will be open only to the midway point. Open trails will include Upper Scooper to Lower Hal’s Hollow to the bottom of Fanny Hill. In addition, the Elk Camp Gondola will provide access to the Elk Camp Meadows beginners’ area.

The Breathtaker Alpine Coaster will be operating and Elk Camp Restaurant will be open.

Ertl said additional terrain will be open as soon as possible at both ski areas if the forecasted snow materializes. Ertl said the goal is to open the mountaintops prior to Thanksgiving Day.

The ski slopes benefitted from abundant snowfall in October, but conditions have been dry for the last two weeks. The Aspen Water Department’s unofficial weather report showed that the water plant received 26.5 inches of snow in October. That made it one of the snowiest Octobers ever since records were kept starting in 1934-35.

The upper slopes of both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass don’t have snowmaking coverage, so the natural snow couldn’t be augmented there.

“The team has done a great job track-packing and tilling it down,” Ertl said of the snow base. Now, all that is needed is more snow.

Skico got approval this summer from Pitkin County to add snowmaking to cover some terrain on the upper third of Aspen Mountain, but the green light came too late in the season to construct the system. Skico has been making snow on lower slopes of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass as temperatures have allowed.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are still scheduled to open Dec. 7.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass join numerous Colorado ski areas that opened, some of them the earliest ever.

Arapahoe Basin opened first on Oct. 11, followed a few hours later by Keystone. Winter Park opened Nov. 2, its earliest start in its 80 seasons. Loveland and Wolf Creek were also in the October mix. Eldora had its earlier opening when it started spinning Nov. 1, two weeks ahead of schedule.

Copper Mountain and Breckenridge opened Nov. 8 and Steamboat and Vail opened Friday.

Aspen Mountain lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Snowmass, the Village Express lift will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the Elk Camp Gondola running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

All pass products are good for the early opening.

For opening weekend through Wednesday, Nov. 27, lift tickets are $109 per day for adults and $69 for children, teens and seniors. Half-day tickets for adults are $79 and $52 for children, teens and seniors. Sightseeing tickets for both the Silver Queen Gondola and the Elk Camp Gondola are $37 for adults and $26 for children.

The sightseeing tickets include a $10 lunch credit at either the Sundeck restaurant on Aspen Mountain or the Elk Camp restaurant on Snowmass.

Ticket offices are currently open at the base of Aspen Mountain and at the Snowmass Base Village Gondola seven-days a week. The Snowmass Ticket Pavilion on the Snowmass Mall and the Two Creeks Ticket Office will open for the season Saturday, Nov. 23.