On the Hill: Early season? | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Early season?

Aspen Times Staff

Skiers and riders in the Roaring Fork Valley are eagerly wondering if the local ski areas will open early.The answer is – maybe. “If it keeps snowing,” said Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle. He said the company has fielded that question every day this snowy fall.If the snow keeps falling, upper Aspen Mountain would open early, according to Hanle. As it stands now, Aspen Mountain and Snowmass are scheduled to open Thursday, Nov. 23. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to open Saturday, Dec. 9.There’s reason for optimism for an early opening. Last night’s snowstorm dumped up to 10 inches of powder on the slopes, Hanle said, and since snow started falling on Sept. 22, about 5 feet of snow has fallen on upper slopes.Snowmass was the big winner Wednesday, with 10 inches of snow. Aspen Mountain had 9 inches, and Aspen Highlands had 8. Buttermilk scored 6 inches at its lower elevation.All the early snow has kept Skico crews busy. Snowcats have driven over some of the intermediate terrain served by Lift 3 on Aspen Mountain, as well as on the Big Burn and parts of High Alpine and Alpine Springs at Snowmass. Scrunching the snow down with the cats’ tracks builds a better base and will protect the snow from melting as quickly if the weather warms back up, Hanle said.Some areas have been track-packed twice and already have base depths of up to 20 inches, according to Skico officials.Boot packing in Highland Bowl, achieved by having workers march up and down the steep slopes, will begin after the current storm moves out, Hanle said. More than 2 feet of snow is already on the ground in the bowl.Snowmaking equipment has been tested and will fire up whenever weather is favorable after Nov. 1, according to Hanle. The World Cup skiing course on Aspen Mountain will have the priority for snowmaking. The women’s races are scheduled Nov. 25-26.