Missing snow turns up in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Missing snow turns up in Aspen

Andre Salvail and Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
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ASPEN – There was no need to redefine winter sports Sunday after Mother Nature dropped a coat of fresh powder on the Aspen area and its four ski mountains.

“It’s about time,” visitor James Duncan said as he rode the Hunter Creek bus into downtown Aspen on Saturday evening. It was 6 p.m., the flakes were falling at a fairly rapid pace, and the bus was sliding a bit when it braked at each stop.

“I’ve been here a few weeks, just seeing friends and stuff, and couldn’t bring myself to get out on that hard stuff and the ice,” said Duncan, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “This changes everything. I didn’t think it would ever snow.”

“Hallelujah and amen, too,” said Duncan’s friend, Amy Reid, who said she hoped to hit the slopes somewhere in the area either Sunday or Monday.

Cheers erupted when the chatty bus driver optimistically proclaimed that it would snow every day from now until the end of the season.

With the much-needed winter storm that arrived Saturday afternoon and hung around for much of the evening, the Aspen and Snowmass ski areas both picked up 9 inches of much-needed new snow, according to Aspen Skiing Co.’s Sunday snow report. Aspen Highlands saw 5 inches of fresh stuff, while Buttermilk gained 8 inches.

It was the first significant snowfall since Dec. 14, when 3 inches was reported at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, according to Tom Renwick, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.

He noted, however, that dry weather conditions and above-average temperatures are likely to prevail over the next seven days.

“There’s a slight chance of something happening Wednesday,” Renwick said. “I mean, really slight, like less than 10 percent for something barely traceable.”

“It looks dry until the 20th of January,” said Ryan Boudreau, a forecaster with aspenweather.net, explaining that the La Nina weather patterns have had a bad influence on Rocky Mountain snowfall totals.

Regardless of what’s ahead, it did snow Saturday, providing a long-awaited shot in the arm to visitors and residents needing a powder fix.

They swarmed the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain bright and early Sunday. By 9 a.m., the line at the gondola stretched down the stairs into the gondola plaza and around the corner along the shops in the Little Nell building.

One young woman said she was puzzled when her boyfriend got up at 7:30 a.m. and started getting ready to head to the gondola. She took her time, she said, and learned why he was so eager when she saw the crowd.

She got the last laugh – she hopped in the fast-moving singles line and nearly caught her boyfriend’s group in the mob waiting to board the gondola.

Some ambitious skiers and riders hoofed it over to Lift 1A in an effort to satisfy their powder jones quicker, but they encountered a long line there as well – a relatively long line, for Aspen. The wait was about 15 minutes.

Skiers and snowboarders whooped and hollered as they plowed and glided through the light powder. The crowd at the base was seemingly swallowed up by the mountain; lift lines on the upper slopes were very manageable.

Every skier and rider knew that rocks were lurking beneath the powdery surface, but that didn’t prevent them from hurling down the slopes with abandon.

The Back of Bell was snow-loaded and skied well with the danger of subsurface rocks. The Face of Bell wasn’t quite as forgiving. There were still numerous rocks to negotiate. One skier reported that Walsh’s was a popular destination early in the morning and got skied out fast.

Snowsliders who were in the right place at the right time got fresh tracks in the Dumps when the patrol dropped the rope at Bear Paw and other trails.

The line at the gondola remained overflowing until late morning. Riders were mostly understanding of the wait, given that it was finally a powder day.

The snow also was a welcome sight to people who make their living removing it.

William Portillo, an employee of A-1 Maintenance, said it had been at least a month since he’s had to plow sidewalks and other areas of the city. On Sunday afternoon, Portillo and a co-worker removed snow in front of Courage.b, a women’s fashion boutique at the corner of East Hopkins Avenue and South Mill Street.

John Meyer, a manager at Good Earth Landscaping and Maintenance, said snow-removal work has been dismal this season. He said he knew of one company that even went out of business recently because of the lack of snow.

“We haven’t plowed since the 14th of December,” he said Friday. “We’ve been dead in the water.”

The company mainly serves residential customers in the Aspen area with landscaping and yard maintenance in the summer and snow removal in the winter.

Part-time workers who blow snow on an as-needed basis for Good Earth haven’t been making much money this winter, he said. Most of them have other jobs, though.

“There’s some companies that all they do is snow removal, and they’re really hurting,” Meyer said.

asalvail@aspentimes.com


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