Case of the Aspen powder blues
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” With Aspen Mountain loaded with some 13 inches of fresh snow Monday morning, frustrated skiers waited nearly an hour past the 9 a.m. scheduled opening while ski patrollers cleared potential slide areas.
The elbow-to-elbow queue of anxious skiers trailed down the gondola steps and into the gondola plaza area, and Aspen Skiing Co. staff distributed a little swag and apologies to the eager group.
At about 10 a.m., gondola operators opened the floodgates, prompting shouts from the crowd, while a surge of pushing, shoving and name-calling broke out at the head of the line.
Skico officials said ice on gondola cables caused a delay in loading the buckets in the early morning, which delayed ski patrollers from getting to work clearing potential slides for about 15 minutes.
But it was the large quantity of wet snow that caused the delay, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
Because of the heavy dump, patrollers had to ski cut and bomb steep slopes ” especially the Spar Dumps ” and other areas that were cracking and unstable. The job required three passes by busy patrollers, and avalanche bombs on Aspen Mountain rattled town late Monday morning and into the early afternoon.
Many skiers expressed frustration because it’s not the first time Aspen Mountain skiers have been stalled on a big powder day.
“When you get a foot to two feet of snow, it happens,” Hanle said. “We’re not going to send people up there if [ski patrollers] aren’t satisfied with the conditions.”
Hanle said Aspen skiers have a short memory and don’t recall delays during other heavy snows in years past. He added despite the crowd’s impatience Monday, no one else had a chance to ride the powder until the mountain was safe and everyone was given the go-ahead.
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The 2020-21 ski season is going to look substantially different from previous ones. The Colorado Department of Public Health has released its final guidance on coronavirus protocols for resorts and guests to follow.