Opening-day opulence |

Opening-day opulence

Steve Benson
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Heavy snow and hordes of people descended on Snowmass Ski Area Saturday for the resort’s opening day.

Winds gusting to 60 mph Friday night scoured the slopes, but snow began to fall around 9 a.m. Saturday.

“By noon the skiing was great,” said Doug Mackenzie, the general manager of the ski area. “It was better than we could have expected.”

Close to 10 inches of snow greeted more than 3,000 skiers and snowboarders, but so did a broken-down lift.

The Fanny Hill lift experienced an assortment of problems throughout the weekend and was periodically shut down. Mackenzie said the lift had been tested prior to the opening, but not with a heavy load.

A chain broke Saturday, causing the cable to fall out of alignment, and on Sunday other small problems closed the lift, forcing some skiers to hike from the base to access the Burlingame lift near the Snowmass mall.

“Hopefully we’ll get these glitches out,” Mackenzie said.

Other than the Fanny Hill lift breaking down, he said the opening weekend went smoothly.

“It’s definitely been fun with all the locals out here with good conditions,” he said.

With temperatures being as warm as they were throughout October, Mackenzie said snowmaking was limited. The resort usually has over 300 hours of snowmaking under its belt by opening day, but this year, Mackenzie said snowmaking was limited to only 41 hours.

“We could have never opened without this [natural snow],” he said.

Close to 6 feet of snow has fallen on Snowmass in November alone.

Additionally, Saturday’s storm brought the coldest temperatures of the season, which will further enhance snowmaking capabilities. Mackenzie said temperatures dropped to 20 below zero at the top of Snowmass Saturday night, and it was still 4 below at 3 p.m. Sunday.

“We can’t miss these cold temps,” he said.

Snowmass Ski Patrol continues to boot and ski pack closed terrain to prepare for additional lift openings.

Besides the Fanny Hill lift, four other lifts were open over the weekend. Coney Glade, Sam’s Knob, Big Burn and the ski school Poma serviced 560 acres of terrain and 28 trails.

The time frame for the opening of additional terrain is yet to be determined.

Steve Benson’s e-mail address is

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