Aspen, Snowmass slopes aren’t ready | AspenTimes.com

Aspen, Snowmass slopes aren’t ready

ASPEN ” Don’t pack away those hiking boots just yet. Ski season will be on hold without a change in the weather.

It’s only eight days away from the scheduled opening of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass ski area on Thanksgiving Day.

“Right now, today, we couldn’t open anything,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle after emerging Tuesday afternoon from a meeting among the company’s top operations staff. “We will definitely do everything we can to get ski terrain open.”

That will require cooperation from Mother Nature. Snowmass Ski Area will be able to open a small amount of terrain if temperatures drop low enough to allow expanded snowmaking, Hanle said. Aspen Mountain needs natural snowfall as well as low temperatures for snowmaking to open terrain, he said.

Balmy weather has prevented the Skico from undertaking a substantial amount of snowmaking so far this fall. Through Monday, Skico crews had fired up snow guns on eight of 12 nights since Nov. 1, although temperatures were often marginal.

“There’s no panic. We’re poised to go,” Hanle said. He noted that some of the veterans on the staff, like Snowmass Mountain Manager Steve Sewell and interim Aspen Highlands Mountain Manager Doug Mackenzie, pointed out that conditions have been similar at this time of the season over the past 20 to 30 years. Often, they noted, snowstorms saved the day right around Thanksgiving.

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Hanle said Skico officials are consulting “about 20” different weather forecasting sources. They pick the ones that provide the most favorable forecasts, he quipped.

Colder night-time temperatures are a common denominator. Weather.com, for example, shows lows in the 20s this week and into the teens next week. A weak front was supposed to pass through Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, offering a 30 percent chance of snow. Weather.com forecast a 60 percent chance of snow on Thanksgiving Day.

It will take eight to 12 inches of snow to open terrain off of lift three at Aspen Mountain, Hanle said. Snowmaking doesn’t extend all the way up that chairlift, so coverage is inadequate with a storm or two.

If Snowmass can make adequate amounts of snow, the plan is to start with an opening of the Village Express lift to the mid-way station.

Hanle said inquisitive travelers are being warned that conditions may limit or delay the opening. Skico isn’t trying to hide anything.

“It is what it is ” and it is warm and it is dry,” Hanle said. “The plan is ” it’s going to change every day between now and Thanksgiving.”

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.