Nooners’ popular with S’mass skiers |

Nooners’ popular with S’mass skiers

Getting a nooner has taken on new meaning at Snowmass this winter.

The ski area has started a “noon groom” program where a different trail is picked for a special, late-morning groom job four days per week. It’s proved popular with some customers.

“There are people waiting for the rope to drop,” said Aspen Skiing Co. Vice President of Operations Mike Kaplan.

Recently about 75 skiers and riders waited for the noon groom to end and the rope to drop on the Slot, a run on the Campground section of the mountain.

A trail is selected the night before, then closed at about 11 a.m. the next morning. Two snowcats till the surface to create the perfect corduroy that cruisers crave. The trail is then reopened sometime between 11:30 a.m. and noon, when the job is done.

Snowmass is grooming more trails than ever during the night, Kaplan said. But during conventional grooming the snow has a chance to “set up” or get more compact as the nighttime temperature drops.

When skiers and riders get to it the next day there’s usually a couple of inches of velvet-like corduroy left on top. But with the noon groom, cruisers are treated to several inches of soft snow.

The noon groom idea was hatched this season by Snowmass General Manager Doug Mackenzie. He thought of it last season, when a lack of snow forced the Skico to close limited terrain for noon grooming to create acceptable conditions for the afternoon, according to Kaplan.

While waiting for a rope to drop for a groomed run is a joke to many locals and some tourists, the demand for that type of terrain just keeps growing. Aging Baby Boomers, complete with failing knees and wilting ambition, often prefer smooth slopes.

“I think you’ve been seeing that [demand] more over the last five years,” said Kaplan. “And over the last 20 years – oh, my God.”

At Snowmass, the Skico aims to groom two trails each night off each major chairlift, such as Elk Camp, Big Burn and Alpine Springs plus the noon groom trail.

The Skico is trying increased grooming at Highlands and trying to allow for a greater variety of conditions at Buttermilk this season, said Kaplan. Traditional levels of grooming is taking place at Aspen Mountain.

The noon groom program hasn’t been expanded to any of the other three mountains. There isn’t enough skier and rider traffic to make it necessary at Highlands and Buttermilk, Kaplan said. And it would be logistically difficult at Aspen Mountain.

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