Aspen, Snowmass open for the season; more snow in the forecast for Thanksgiving |

Aspen, Snowmass open for the season; more snow in the forecast for Thanksgiving

Angus Graham cooks up breakfast in the lift line for the fifth season in a row at the Village Express chairlift in Snowmass Saturday morning.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times |

Skiers and snowboarders braved cold temperatures but no lift lines Saturday morning for Snowmass Mountain’s 2015-16 opening day.

Temperatures in the single digits early morning didn’t deter many skiers and snowboarders from hitting the mountain, but the cold air did perhaps keep the crowds away.

The Village Express started rolling shortly before 8:30 a.m., bringing skiers and riders to the top of the west side of Snowmass, with open runs that connected to the Big Burn lift.

The groomed runs below Village Express were quick and tacky, giving plenty of skiers and riders a pleasing opening day experience. Skier Jared Kidd, who lives near the base of Buttermilk, had time for a couple of runs from the top of Village Express before he had to head to work.

#AspenOnTheHill November 21st – Aspen/Snowmass Opening Day from On the Hill on Vimeo.

“I’m just glad to be out here. It’s a great morning, a beautiful day,” Kidd said.

High winds on Friday afternoon and night did a number on some of the Big Burn runs. Timberline, Wineskin and Dallas Freeway were hit fairly hard, with many branches and rocks sticking out through the wind-blown snow. A run down Sneaky’s was fully covered and fun, though.

Opening days are often about more than snow conditions, though, as was the case for Sarah Peterson and Michael Jensen, two Californians who just moved to Aspen for the winter.

“It’s my first time boarding here in Colorado,” Peterson, who’s from Northern California, said. “So far, I love it, it’s great. It’s expensive, but so far it looks like it’s going to be worth it. I’m looking forward to riding a lot of powder this winter.”

Powder could be plentiful around the Aspen area if El Nino winter forecasts turn out to be true. While some forecasters are conservative in their snowfall estimates, some forecasters are brazen in their predictions for many powder days.

Just last month, a forecaster at Accuweather forecast 150 to 170 percent of average snowfall around the Aspen region for November, and as much as 200 percent of average for December and April. Predictions for January, February and March all came in at more than 100 percent of average, too.

Skiers like Kidd are hopeful those predictions are true, but there’s no crystal ball on opening day.

“I think it could go either way,” Kidd said about El Nino. “But I’m looking forward to the new lift at High Alpine. I think that’s going to be great.”

A couple of storms have delivered the goods to Aspen and Snowmass over the last week, with Snowmass reporting 13 inches in the last 7 days, and Aspen reporting 8 inches, according to the snow and grooming reports on On Saturday morning, Ajax was skiing as if it had gotten the most snow out of the two.

If a storm this week materializes, more snow could make for a Happy Thanksgiving on Thursday.

The powder forecasting site is tracking a slow-moving storm near California that is expected to “slowly spin toward Colorado with snow likely from Wednesday night through Thanksgiving Day.”

“Right now I am still not confident in the exact details of the storm, but I put 4-8 inches in the forecast for most mountains from Wednesday night through Thursday night and will continue to refine this forecast during the next few days,” Meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote in his forecast. “Thanksgiving could be the best powder day of the next 7-10 days.”

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