Aspen Mountain reopens for skiing |

Aspen Mountain reopens for skiing

Charles AgarThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN With more than 3 feet of snow coating the hills, Aspen Skiing Co. officials will open the top of Aspen Mountain to midday skiing and riding this weekend.We are going skiing, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle, who has hinted at the possible opening in recent months.Skiers and snowboarders can access seven runs and about 45 acres of mostly intermediate terrain under the Ajax Express lift from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.The Silver Queen Gondola, which recently was repaired, already was scheduled for regular summer opening Friday and will shuttle skiers and spectators to and from the top from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (The base of Aspen is bare and top-to-bottom skiing impossible.)Its your typical early summer conditions, quipped Rich Burkley, vice president of mountain operations, in a press release. Better than a glacier, but not as good as a powder day. It will certainly be fun and is the perfect excuse for having a beer or two at the Sundeck. If youve got it, ski it.The announcement comes just one day after Arapahoe Basin closed for the season, and the opening coincides with the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.Premiere pass holders ski for free, while skiers with all other passes must pay $19 for adults, $17 for youth and seniors, and $12 for kids.As the Skico recently changed its ticketing system, all 2007-08 passes must be reissued before accessing summer lifts. To avoid lines, the company recommended that pass holders acquire their new pass Thursday.An adult, single-day lift ticket over the weekend will cost $29. Youth and seniors will pay $26 and children will pay $18.The move will require some extra staff, Hanle said, including a few lift operators, a snowcat driver and ski patrollers.Maintenance crews will push snow onto Summer Road to cover three sections that have been plowed for vehicles, and skiers will have to walk the gantlet of ongoing construction on the steps at Gondola Plaza.The Sundeck restaurant will be open for lunch.Ski rentals are available at Four Mountain Sports/D&E Ski & Snowboard Shop for $25, and lessons also are available through Camp Aspen/Snowmass.Skiers reactAwesome, said Steve Centofanti when he heard the news on Friday. Its gonna blow people away.A partner at Durrance Sports in Aspen, Centofanti said he expects increased business during the opening (the shop has some alpine touring gear available for rent), but he called the move mostly a PR campaign.Its just marketing, but its a good thing, Centofanti said, adding that he is only disappointed that Skico officials did not get the word out sooner.Were going skiing! said an excited Rob Scholdan, who works at Pomeroy Sports near Gondola Plaza.Pomeroy has converted over to flyfishing for summer, and all rental skis have been sold or are packed away in storage, Scholdan said.But the opening is good news for Scholdan who said he looks forward to hitting the slopes.I was kind of done, Scholdan said of a ski season full of great powder days, but lately hes caught himself staring wistfully at the slopes loaded with snow.Others said they have better things to do.Its backcountry time, said Maurice Eaton of Aspen, who will be working at the Food & Wine Classic over the weekend.Id much rather get up on the pass, but its good theyre opening, he said.More than a PR campaignTheres very little precedent for it, said Jerry Jones, a former ski industry executive and current consultant based in the Eagle Valley. This is a heck of a bonus for the skier.Jones said its costly to get a ski area cranked up, but said the opening could draw skiers from around the state.Its not the first ski area extension this year, as the Skico opened Aspen Highlands for two additional weekends in late April.And Hanle said the move sprang from Skico higher-ups who love to ski and want to thank the community, but added that good press during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen doesnt hurt either.Well certainly take advantage of the fact that theres a lot of cameras and media in town, Hanle said. Wed be stupid not to.The three-day opening could gain network news exposure as well as likely video spots featuring Food & Wine chefs on skis, but thats not why Skico made the call, Hanle said.With or without Food & Wine, Skico executives would have opened the mountain, Hanle said.Hanle expects more curiosity-seekers, locals and second-home owners than folks driving from afar for a few runs.I have no idea how many people are going to show up, he said.