Aspen Mountain, Snowmass prepped for ‘one of top openings in a long, long time’ |

Aspen Mountain, Snowmass prepped for ‘one of top openings in a long, long time’

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Michael Faas/The Aspen TimesShannan Osburn enjoys the freshies Wednesday on Midnight during the benefit day for the Aspen Valley

ASPEN – Skiers and riders hardy enough to brave frigid temperatures will hit the jackpot Thursday with the official opening of Aspen Mountain.

The Aspen Skiing Co. intends to open about 476 acres, or 70 percent, of the terrain on Aspen Mountain, the company announced Wednesday. There will be no wait for the steeps to open this season – Jackpot, Walsh’s, Kristi and Hyrup’s will open in addition to all of Bell Mountain, Copper Bowl and Slalom Hill.

“It is definitely up there in the top openings in a long, long time,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “Sheer acreage, base, everything is up there.”

The Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol has records going back to the mid-1980s, Hanle said. This year’s opening day base is the second best on record. The base for opening day in 1996 was 29 inches. It is 27 inches this season.

Ten inches of snow fell at both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass in the 24 hours prior to midafternoon Wednesday, the Skico reported.

Terrain served by the Ajax Express chairlift at the top of the mountain and portions of Bell Mountain were opened Wednesday for the annual benefit day for Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club and will remain open. However, skiers will have plenty to be thankful for with the opening of untracked powder Thursday for the official opening.

The Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express and Gent’s Ridge chairlifts will be in operation.

Snowmass will open with 805 acres served by eight lifts, according to a memo circulated by Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations. The Village Express chairlift out of the base will provide access from the midstation to Upper Scooper, Velvet Falls, Dawdler, Hal’s Hollow and Fanny Hill. The Village Express from the summit will access Max Park, Lunchline and Banzai Ridge. The Sam’s Knob chair will provide access from Fast Draw to Slot.

The Big Burn section of the ski area will open from Whispering Jesse to Sneaky’s, including Timberline, Wineskin, Dallas Freeway and Mick’s Gully.

On the east side on the ski area, the Elk Camp Gondola will provide access to the Meadows Beginner Area and the Meadows Lift. The Elk Camp chair will serve Bull Run, Grey Wolf, Bear Bottom, Gunner’s View and Sandy Park.

“This pod will have the best skiing in our resort [Thursday],” Burkley’s memo said.

Skiers and riders will be able to return to Base Village via Adam’s Avenue.

Season passes will be honored starting Thursday. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk will open Dec. 11.