On the Hill: Should’ve known better | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: Should’ve known better

Jon Maletz

I should’ve known better.The signs abounded in the days leading up to Snowmass’ opening Saturday. It hasn’t snowed in nearly two weeks. Warm temperatures made it difficult for snowmaking crews to provide ample coverage. And one Times employee (who shall remain nameless) told me, “They should be paying me to ski up there.” Then there was a Nov. 21 e-mail from the Aspen Skiing Co. that was less than encouraging. Only 117 acres were slated for opening day and excluded the Big Burn; there wasn’t enough snow to connect the area with the top of Sam’s Knob. Despite all of this, I decided to brave crowds in excess of 2,500 to see for myself, especially after a promising opening on Ajax. I soon found out I wasn’t in Aspen anymore.Saturday was the first time I walked across a pile of hay at the base before clipping in. And as I adjusted my gloves, I watched a snowboarder stray to the left of Fanny Hill, hit a large patch of dirt and land flat on his back. (I’d give the maneuver a 3.6 – high degree of difficulty, but poor execution.)Things didn’t improve much as we climbed on the Village Express. Coverage was sparse and small saplings dotted fields of crusted snow on much of Sam’s Knob. All traffic at the top was funneled down narrow Banzai Ridge. There was little open – nine trails total – and, as a result, slopes looked more like iced over L.A. freeways during rush hour. Ever been stuck behind two trucks blocking both lanes of a highway? Anyone who skied Snowmass Saturday knows the feeling. Reporter Charles Agar said conditions were akin to an average day at Butternut Basin in Western Massachusetts. He was being generous. I should’ve known.The Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.