Aspen ski slopes have received 3 feet of snow; Skico watching to see if early opening possible

Cold temperatures this month have allowed limited snowmaking to start on Aspen Mountain. Snowmaking will start 'full force' at midnight on Halloween night, according to Skico officials.
Daniel Bayer/courtesy photo

The upper slopes of the Aspen-Snowmass ski areas have been blanketed with more than 3 feet of snow in October, including more than 25 inches in the past week, Aspen Skiing Co. reported Wednesday.

The early storms have raised hopes for a second straight early opening at Aspen Mountain, but Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday it’s too soon to determine if lift-served skiing and snowboarding can start before the scheduled opening. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are slated to open Nov. 28. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are slated to open Dec. 7.

Last season’s early conditions were enhanced by ideal snowmaking temperatures. Cold temperatures throughout the first nine days of November allowed Skico to cover some trails on the lower two-thirds of Aspen Mountain. Limited snowmaking has started on Aspen Mountain this season and will start “full force” at midnight on Halloween night.

Hanle said there is no definitive date for making a decision on an early opening.

“It’s definitely on our minds but too early to pin down a day,” he said. “I think we have 10 days to two weeks” before a decision is made.

The Aspen Water Department’s unofficial weather report showed that the water plant had received 26.5 inches of snow as of Wednesday. That includes 5 inches that fell overnight Tuesday. The biggest dump of the month came Oct. 24 with 7 inches. That makes it one of the snowiest Octobers ever since records were kept starting in 1934-35. The average snowfall for the month is just shy of 9 inches. Aspen’s record snowfall for the month is 41.45 inches in 1984-85.

The last time the water plant recorded more snowfall in October than this year was 1997-98 when 27.7 inches fell.

Word of warning: high snowfall in October doesn’t guarantee a snowy winter. The winter of 1984-85 was well below average despite a record October. The winter of 1997-98 also was significantly below average despite nearly 28 inches of snow in October.

But the Roaring Fork Valley is undeniably off to a good start. The independent ski area Sunlight Mountain Resort has started making snow. The ski area outside of Glenwood Springs is scheduled to open Dec. 13, but if conditions remain favorable, it announced it will open for weekends between Thanksgiving and Dec. 13, when it opens daily.

Prodigious amounts of snow throughout the Colorado mountains are spurring ski areas to open early. Winter Park announced Wednesday it will open Nov. 2 — the earliest opening ever in its 80 seasons. Winter Park has scored more than 40 inches of snow this month.

Eldora will open Nov. 1, two weeks ahead of schedule. That will be its earliest opening ever.

Copper Mountain and Breckenridge plan to open Nov. 8. Arapahoe Basin, Keystone, Loveland and Wolf Creek are already open.

October is featuring more than bountiful snow. It’s also bringing colder than usual temperatures., a local forecasting service, reported Wednesday that the unofficial low of 1 degree above for Aspen was the all-time coldest temperature in the town for October. The record was forecast to be shattered Wednesday night and Thursday morning with a forecast low of between minus-4 and minus-7.