Don’t put those skis away just yet
ASPEN – The never-ending winter might become a little more bearable for some Roaring Fork Valley residents come Memorial Day weekend.The Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday it will open 136 acres of terrain for lift-served skiing on the top of Aspen Mountain for the three-day holiday weekend, Friday through Monday, May 28-30. It will keep the mountain open for following weekends as long as conditions hold up.Skiers and riders who invested in a full-season pass will ski for free during the extended season as long as they display their 2010-11 pass; other passholders will have to cough up as much as $19.Skico officials have mulled the extended season in recent weeks. Adequate snow coverage was never an issue, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said. More than 80 inches of snow have fallen on Aspen Mountain since the chairlifts stopped on April 10. There has been little melting this spring, so the mountaintop base stands at 71 inches. The key to allowing the expanded season, Hanle said, was the ongoing cool temperatures.”We didn’t have an extended period where conditions turned to mush,” he said. “The groomed stuff is going to be good.”The Skico will open 25 trails of mostly intermediate terrain that is served by the Ajax Express chairlift. The lift will operate from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Silver Queen Gondola will be used for uploading and downloading. (The gondola was scheduled to open for the summer on Memorial Day weekend, so its hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the last ride down at 4:30 p.m., according to the Skico.) The Sundeck and Ajax Tavern will be open for dining and beverages.Hanle said he wasn’t sure how many additional employees the Skico will have to hire to handle skiing operations. The work force will include ski patrol, trail crew, cat drivers and a lift crew at the Ajax Express. The gondola crew and Sundeck workers were already reporting for duty for summer.The re-opening isn’t unprecedented. The top of Aspen Mountain was opened for Memorial Day weekend and subsequent weekends in 1995. It opened for Food and Wine Festival weekend in mid-June 2008.”We haven’t had summer conditions this good since 2008,” quipped Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations, in a statement released Thursday. “We figure that if we open for skiing maybe it will quit snowing. We encourage everyone to go up and make a few turns, then jump on your bike, hit the trails or swing the golf club. It’s certainly a unique opportunity to enjoy everything the valley has to offer.”Anyone who purchased a Premier, Premier Silver and a six-and-under pass for the 2010-11 season can ski free with their passes. Other passholders get a discount: adult and senior passholders, ages 18 to 69, pay $19; senior passholders, age 70 and above, pay $15; youth passholders between 13 and 17 pay $13; and child passholders, ages four through 12, pay $10.Single-day tickets for non-passholders will be $32 for adults; $25 for youth and seniors; and $15 for children. Regular summer rates will be charged for foot passengers.The Skico won’t mount a huge marketing effort for the extended season but it will spread the word in Colorado and milk the great snow conditions for publicity, Hanle said.
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