Ready for prime time: 93% of Aspen Snowmass ski slopes open for holiday masses

People walk through the gondola plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain the day after Christmas.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

For the second straight winter, nearly all skiable terrain at the four local ski areas is ready for the holidays and the hordes that they bring.

Aspen Skiing Co. reported in its ski conditions summary Thursday that 5,170 out of 5,540 acres, or 93%, were open. Some of the steeps still haven’t opened at Snowmass, where 3,041 of 3,342 acres, or 91%, of the terrain are open.

That’s slightly better than last season when 5,056 acres were open Dec. 26, including 2,985 acres at Snowmass, according to Jeff Hanle, Skico vice president of communications.

Snow on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day softened the slopes and boosted the snowpack slightly above average in the Aspen area. The Natural Resources Conservation Service’s snow telemetry site on Independence Pass showed the snowpack was 105% of average for Dec. 25.

Skico tracks monthly snowfall averages at the end of the month rather than on a daily basis, but Hanle said Snowmass appears to be tracking “almost spot on” for average thus far.

“Temperatures were consistently cold for a good stretch, so that kept the base and snowpack high,” he said.

SnoTel sites elsewhere in the region show the Fryingpan Valley is well above average for snowpack, while the Crystal River Valley is mixed. In the Fryingpan, the Ivanhoe site was at 135% of average, Nast was 212% of average, and Kiln was at 120%.

In the Crystal, McClure Pass was at 90%, Schofield was at 97%, and North Lost Trail was at 133%, according to the NRCS.

The weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Day typically produces the highest skier and snowboarder numbers, but that’s weather dependent. Sunshine brings out skiers and riders. The good news is more snow is expected this weekend. The bad news is it will come with frigid temperatures.

Local micro-forecaster forecasted 3 to 6 inches of snow on the ski slopes by dawn Saturday and another 2 to 4 inches by dawn Sunday. Temperatures on the mountains will be in the single digits both days.

“To this point, the holiday period has been consistently strong. No big surges yet, just strong, steady business levels across all mountain,” Hanle said after returning from front-line duty at one of the ski areas Thursday afternoon. Skico officials who are usually office-bound take on shifts loading chairlifts, busing tables at restaurants or in other mountain operations during the busiest periods of the ski season.


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