Aspen sees, feels excitement in air | AspenTimes.com

Aspen sees, feels excitement in air

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Wednesday would have been a powder day if the mountains were open.

“It’s crazy,” Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said, adding that Aspen Highlands received 14 inches from Wednesday’s winter storm. Hanle estimated that Aspen Mountain and Snowmass received a comparable amount. There already were 6 inches early Wednesday morning and 8 inches from Sunday’s storm on the top of the mountains, Hanle said.

It’s a good start for the preparation of the 2007-08 season, which begins in 36 days. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open Nov. 22. If Mother Nature keeps it up, an early opening is possible ” but not guaranteed.

“This gets people excited,” Hanle said, adding that several people approached him Wednesday asking if an early opening might be in the future.

Last fall was short-lived, with several winter storms blowing in during September. A 2-foot storm enabled people to ski the final Sunday in September while the gondola was still running its summer schedule, Hanle said. October and November 2006 were snowy months, which allowed Skico to open the lifts a week before the season officially began.

Whether this week’s snowfall will stick remains to be seen. Skico soon will take steps to preserve whatever it can to prepare the ski areas.

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“We need a couple good storms before we can start track packing to preserve it,” Hanle said. “It will be an added bonus if this sticks around.”

The Skico will fire up the snowmaking machines Nov. 1. Making snow before that date isn’t cost- or energy-efficient because it’s not typically cold enough. But there are always exceptions with weather.

“If it’s just too good to pass up, we might,” Hanle said.

The blustery weather wreaked havoc on drivers Wednesday, with traffic backing up all way to the Galena Street stoplight in the afternoon rush hour.

Both the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office reported no weather-related accidents as of Wednesday afternoon.

But then again, it’s difficult for drivers to get in an accident if they aren’t moving because of traffic jams.

The Colorado Department of Transportation closed Highway 82 over Independence Pass, east of Aspen, shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday, citing adverse weather conditions. CDOT’s website (www.cotrip.org) listed Independence Pass as closed until further notice.

Justin Gagner, assistant manager at Big O Tires in Basalt, said his staff was slammed all day with people wanting to put their snow tires on.

“We had a three-hour backlog this morning,” he said, adding that he stopped taking customers at 4 p.m., three hours before the store was scheduled to close. “People forget that it’s going to snow.”

Gagner said it’s first-come, first-serve at Big O Tires. He advised people to be prepared for long waits.

A strong and cold ” especially for October ” low-pressure system that developed early Wednesday affected resort areas throughout Colorado.

Much lower temperatures and snow are in the forecast for early today. The forecast calls for skies to clear out this afternoon, with another shot of light snow tonight.

By Friday, a high pressure system should arrive with clearing and warming under mostly sunny skies. A stronger and colder low-pressure system looks poised to affect the area beginning late Saturday, according to snowforecast.com.

For Sunday and Monday, a strong and cold low-pressure is due to move through Colorado, with significant snowfall possible. Temperatures look pretty low for October, according to snowforecast.com.

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