AVSC provides a sneak peek of Ajax | AspenTimes.com

AVSC provides a sneak peek of Ajax

If you weren’t there, maybe you don’t want to know. Aspen Mountain opened up the Silver Queen Gondola and the Ajax Express chair Wednesday, a day before, ahem, opening day. The advance opening wasn’t really a surprise. The Skico fund-raiser for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club has been an annual event for the last 14 years, according to AVSC Marketing and Development Manager Alan Cole.For $30, adults could purchase a lift ticket and hop on the gondola to carve turns under a majority of the terrain below the Ajax Express chair. Youths under 18 could get a ticket for $10. There was also the option of paying $50 for an AVSC membership, which provided a lift ticket as well as benefits for the upcoming season. Pass service officially begins today when Ajax and Snowmass open for the 2005-06 winter season.Some skiers, like Grant Bayless of Niwot, couldn’t wait until this morning. Bayless, who is staying at his Aspen condo for the holiday weekend, said the lift ticket he bought Wednesday morning was worth the price.”We’ve supported the ski club over the years,” Bayless said during a ride up the chairlift. “The skiing is awesome. I’ve already done a little bit of trees, a little bit of pow, a little bit of the groomers. It’s all here today.”Loren Lujan, a member AVSC’s snowboard program, said he was enjoying the day off from school riding with his friend Henry Dodderidge. Dodderidge, who attends prep school in Virginia, is back in Aspen for Thanksgiving.”The conditions are pretty good,” Lujan said on a ride up the mountain. “The groom is fun but the powder is kind of rough.”Lujan said the best part about Wednesday’s fund-raiser was the chance to take to the mountain before the expected holiday crowds arrive.”Everyone from AVSC is here, but It’s nice that it’s not as crowded,” he said. “You have the mountain to yourself basically.”Aspen will open more terrain today. The Gent’s Ridge chair next to the Ajax Express will be running, and guests will be able to ski from the top to the bottom of the mountain on 23 runs. Skiers and riders had to download off the gondola Wednesday because the terrain below the express lift was closed. The Sundeck restaurant at the top of the mountain used Wednesday’s advance opening as a tune-up for the impending crowds this weekend.Brian Phillips, a former Aspen resident who now attends law school at the University of Denver, said his legs were a little fatigued after his first day of skiing on Aspen Mountain this year. Phillips is also back in town for the holiday.”No matter what you do on dry land, your ski legs are never there on the first day of the season,” Phillips said.Because of the early season conditions, Phillips said he stuck mostly to groomed runs. The conditions were better than he expected, he said.”It’s pretty amazing up there,” he said. “I wasn’t here at Thanksgiving last year, but I hear this is better conditionsthan we had last year. It started getting crowded later this morning, but first thing up there it was like you had the whole mountain to yourself.”Chase Demeurenaere, another AVSC snowboarder, said the groomed runs were fun. However, the group of teammates he was with was more interested in finding spots of untouched snow.”I’m riding with my coach and five or six of the other guys on my team,” Demeurenaere said while standing in the express lift line. “We’re hitting powder and cliffs and jumps. The snow’s pretty good for this time of the year.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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