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Plentiful snow, plenty of smiles

What a way to erase last November’s nightmare.

Conditions at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain for the opening weekend were better than anything the resorts could offer for the first couple of months of last season.

Skico Vice President of Operations Mike Kaplan recalled that it was probably early January last season before conditions were as good as they were Saturday and Sunday.

There were still rocks to be dodged or, unfortunately, run over last weekend. But, hey, it’s mid-November.

Snowmass Ski Area General Manager Doug Mackenzie had some impressive vital statistics committed to memory while taking a break on opening day at Sam’s Knob Restaurant. Last year the opening was delayed until the first week of December. A grooming report from Dec. 3 showed there were 118 acres open.

This year, the ski area opened with 572 acres. Mackenzie anticipates opening more than 1,000 acres by early December.

The only big blemish on Snowmass’ opening was a mechanical problem with the Coney Glade chairlift. A gear tooth snapped off Saturday morning and created additional damage, Mackenzie said. The lift was closed for the day but was repaired by Sunday. No one had to be evacuated from the lift Saturday, although it ran on slow speed to unload after the problem occurred.

Aspen Mountain opened Friday as a benefit for the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Three snowboarders were at the head of the line for the first ride up the bucket, reported a member of the Dogs of Bell, an informal group of Ajax loyalists who are always among the first to make tracks.

Aspen Mountain was open to snowboarders just for that day. Those slopes are off-limits again until April.

It wasn’t just Skico officials who were enthused about the opening. Being in the right place at the right time yielded nearly knee-high powder at Aspen Mountain Friday and Saturday as various trails opened.

Sam’s Knob offered great shots throughout Saturday at Snowmass.

“I think it was one of our best opening weekends ever,” said Skico spokeswoman Rose Abello. The company wouldn’t say how many customers showed up for the opening.

Skiers and riders expressed hope that this season will truly be different than the last two. “I don’t want to hear `It’s too this or it’s too that’ this season,” said one skier braving temperatures in the teens on Ajax Friday.

Another skier on Ajax had a sticker on a ski that said, “F– El Nino.” The weather phenomena of El Nino and La Nina were supposed to create extraordinary ski conditions the last few seasons. They were a bust.

The Rockies are back to a “normal” winter. Skiers and riders hope that means something good.


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