Finally, a powder payoff |

Finally, a powder payoff

After suffering through two months of below average snowfall, locals’ patience is finally starting to be rewarded.

About one foot of snow has fallen in the last week, creating the conditions that locals know, love and – of course – expect.

“The lucky ones that came out [Tuesday] got some really special conditions,” said Aspen Highlands mountain manager Ron Chauner.

“When I got out here, about two inches was on the ground at the base,” he said. “The snow report said there were six inches [higher on the mountain]. On Broadway there were about eight inches and at Temerity, there was a foot to fourteen inches.”

Warm temperatures at the base and wind-loading at the top were responsible for the vastly different snowfall amounts.

Skiers and riders who were out early found similar conditions at Snowmass. There were wind-loaded pockets of six inches or more and a few wind-scoured spots where rocks still poked through.

The new snow allowed the opening of new terrain. To the delight of fans of the steep and deep, the Hanging Valley Wall opened at about noon. The Campground section also opened for the first time this season. A new trail on Burnt Mountain called Long Shot is scheduled to make its debut Thursday. Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President John Norton said some snow needs to be moved with Snowcats on the lower portions of that trail.

Norton described Long Shot as an “intermediate backcountry skiing” experience. “It’s a very pretty trail, extremely pretty,” he said.

The trail starts adjacent to Elk Camp and goes all the way down to the Two Creeks base area. Much of it is gladed and parts that open up are dotted with tree islands. Norton described it as a “narrow Sheer Bliss.”

Norton said he has finally broken out his “A skis,” in part because conditions have improved enough and in part because he’s tired of skiing on battered boards.

Chauner is sticking to his “B-plus” boards for now.

“I think it will be A-ski time with another eight to 12 inches,” he said. “Now the key is if we get another storm before this gets skied down, say in the next one to three days.”

Scattered snowstorms remain in Aspen’s forecast. But, while conditions are drastically improving, locals can only look at Vail and Summit County with envy.

Several storms that have struck there have gotten hung up on the central mountains and missed the Aspen area. Vail, for example, has been blessed with six feet of snow so far this month.

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