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High Points: Turkey and turns makes for the best holiday of the year

Paul E. Anna
High Points
Opening day on Aspen Mountain on, November 23, 2019. Aspen Skiing Co. opens Aspen Mountain and Snowmass this Saturday.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Around here, Thanksgiving is the favorite holiday of the populace. Not just because it is the day we all come together to eat and drink ourselves silly. Though we do like that. No, it’s the favorite holiday because it usually coincides with the opening day of ski season.

Ah, but this year, the jubilation comes early as the Aspen Skiing Co. has announced that they will fire up the lifts on Aspen and Snowmass early, on Nov. 19, as in tomorrow. When you wake up in that morning, there will be 174 acres of top-to-bottom skiing open on Aspen Mountain and 78 acres available on Snowmass.

That makes the 19th, the favorite holiday of this year.



You could sense said jubilation for the early opening last week when the announcement was made. “Better than Christmas,” a friend said to me with righteous enthusiasm when she first heard the news, and she was right. It actually feels a bit like when you were a kid and got to open some of your Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. You still might leave some goodies for X-mas morn, but it is was always so fun to get a jump on the holiday revelry.

And, this ski season we have five whole extra days of revelry. Four separate storms over the last four weeks dropped enough snow to make the mountains look ridable. Add to that, the cold snap which has been in place this past ten days or so and the conditions have been ripe for the snow machines to blow powder pretty much non-stop. If you have been paying attention to the lower half of Aspen Mountain this week, the snowmakers have been busy rolling the artificial freshies into a formidable base. Top to bottom turns down Spar Gulch to Little Nell should be sweet.




There is nothing quite like opening day. Sure, it lacks the party atmosphere of a closing day on Highlands, but there is an optimistic, anticipatory pleasure that saturates the first day of ski season.

Even though it’s like riding a bike — you know how to do  it — there is always a hint of nervousness that comes from contemplating your first turns of a new year. In fact, the whole process of getting your equipment out and putting on your boots for the first time can seem a bit uncomfortable. But, once you hop on the slopes, and you weight and un-weight for that initial turn, you know you are back in the ski groove.

I’ve always said that one of the great things about living here is that there are seasons within the seasons. The flow of a ski season, from late November through mid-April, has its own arc.

It begins with the first month or so as the days get shorter, the snow piles up, and there is hardly anybody but locals on the cold and dark slopes. Then, overnight, everything changes. At Christmas, crowds descend for the holidays, and this place becomes the stuff of the legend. The vibe becomes very resort-y.

Once the New Year partiers come and go, there is a week or so of exhaustion and recovery from the madding crowds before the heart of the season kicks in. January and early February have always been about us — those who get out amongst it on a daily basis to ski the lightest powder on the coldest days. The crowds roll back in around Presidents Day, and the spring sunshine sets up a mellower sunny vibe that takes us to the end of the season. Before you know it, the ski season is over.

So, take advantage of the early open this year. After all, first turns are the best turns.