Early snow leaves skiers drooling | AspenTimes.com

Early snow leaves skiers drooling

Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The snow is deeper today at the top of the Snowmass Ski Area than it was during the first week of January 2002. And plentiful fresh tracks were had by some on Thursday.

There is now 32 inches of snow at the top of Snowmass and 22 inches on top of Aspen Mountain, according to Mike Kaplan, senior vice president of mountain operations for the Aspen Skiing Co.

“It is looking great,” he said. “We’re psyched.”

Thirteen inches of snow fell on the top of the local ski areas Wednesday night, and more was expected Thursday night. Elsewhere around the state, the Wolf Creek Ski Resort opened Thursday with a 50-inch base on top, and Vail said its crews on Vail Mountain had trouble getting to the summit to measure the deep snow.

But the Skico is not yet ready to bump up its planned opening of Aspen and Snowmass on Nov. 28.

“We need another good storm before we consider whether we can open early,” Kaplan said. “We will play that one by ear.”

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Snowcat crews have begun track-packing the early-season snow high on Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, and bootpacking crews are expected to move on to the north-facing upper mountain trails at Aspen Highlands on Monday. Yesterday, patrollers were also conducting limited avalanche-control work at Highlands.

Kaplan said he had heard the skiing was “great” on Snowmass and Aspen Thursday. “There were a lot of people up there today,” he said. “We had a film shoot on Aspen Mountain. They had a good time. It’s in great shape.”

Ironically, the two snowstorms this week have not been conducive to making much artificial snow. Temperatures have not been cold enough to have productive nights of snowmaking, save for one good night this week.

“We are anticipating cold temperatures now,” Kaplan said.

On Aspen Mountain, snowmaking crews will be focusing on the main portion of the World Cup race course. “This natural snowfall really helps with the course,” Kaplan said. “It allows us to focus on the track.”

Skiers and riders who venture up on the ski areas do so now at their own risk. Ski patrollers may be on the hill, but they are not working in the same manner as they do when the mountains are formally open, i.e., they are not necessarily controlling avalanches or providing medical services.

In addition, mountain operations crews using snowcats and snowmobiles may be encountered. “People need to be extra careful,” Kaplan said.

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