Powder rules! Work must wait
If Aspen measured a local equivalent of the gross national product, it probably dropped a notch or two Monday.
Numerous locals finally got to invoke the powder rule yesterday morning – and skip work for a while – when Aspen Mountain was covered with eight inches of fresh snow and Snowmass was blanketed with nine inches.
An estimated 500 people were stacked up at the Silver Queen Gondola waiting to tear up the slopes bright and early Monday morning. The bucket’s opening was delayed about 15 minutes because of ongoing avalanche control work by the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol. Spar Gulch remained closed until noon because of slides.
People in the crowd were anxious although mostly understanding. When they reached the top, the payoff was knee-high powder on east-facing slopes like Christmas Tree and Back of Bell No. 1 and No. 2. Winds of up to 40 mph Sunday night loaded the powder on those slopes.
Aspenite Brigitte Center was among the happy horde waiting to score the powder at Ajax. She credited “a great boss” for letting her hit the slopes on powder mornings. Center is a self-employed artist.
Hub of Aspen owner Charlie Tarver said he wasn’t doing anything as the boss that he doesn’t encourage his employees to do. “Anybody who shows up on a day like this, we fire,” he joked while waiting in line for the gondola.
Self-employed land-use planner Glenn Horn probably took the greatest steps to make sure he was at Aspen Mountain for the opening. He and his two sons left Denver after the Broncos game Sunday evening but pulled off Interstate 70 at Eagle because of dicey driving conditions.
Horn managed to make the 70-mile drive from Eagle, drop off his two sons at school, pick up his equipment at his Aspen office and make it to the gondola before the opening.
“I was just planning on making it to work in time. Then I realized how much it snowed so I had to ski,” he said.
It wasn’t only locals who altered plans for powder. Pete Paulin of Decatur, Ill., extended his vacation one more day on Aspen Mountain.
“All of our lawn furniture was completely covered,” said Paulin. “We decided it was bliss that was waiting for us. The world can wait. The powder is beckoning.”
He said rearranging his plans was no problem because he is “on the pro leisure circuit.”
Skiers and riders at Snowmass found even slightly more powder than on Ajax. Fortunately, the wind wasn’t so great that it scoured the slopes, said Aspen Skiing Co. Vice President of Operations Mike Kaplan.
Powder hounds who couldn’t hit Snowmass Monday should head there today for the opening of the High Alpine section, which won’t be groomed, he said.
The ski patrols stayed busy throughout the day. The wind-loaded slabs of high-density snow rested on a rotten lower layer of snow.
A sign outside the Ajax patrol shack said, “Don’t Even Ask,” referring to inquisitive skiers’ habit of asking what trails would likely open and when.
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Aspen Skiing Company brings beverage kiosks in alignment with COVID-19 operating procedures.