Rejoicing at the big dump |

Rejoicing at the big dump

Joel Stonington
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The mixture of a truly absurd powder day on Friday ” and the opening of Aspen Highlands after reporting nearly 4 feet of snow ” was enough to destroy the hardiest legs.

Though there was difficulty and suffering, Aspenites are pulling through the rough times with the kind of fearlessness expected of true survivors.

Folks returned to offices at noon Friday with the kind of smiles co-workers abhor. And few at Highlands on Saturday could contain themselves. There was spontaneous giggling and shouts of joy.

Two weeks ago, no one could have imagined a Highlands opening like Saturday’s. Riding up Loge Peak chair at 9 a.m., there wasn’t a rock poking through, and the blue runs that hadn’t been groomed were nearly unskiable because of the volume of snow.

At the top of Loge, people were airing off the cat track and down into the bottomless powder of Sodbuster and Garmisch. From there, few could piece together even a few turns. For the most part, people just had to point down the hill and let it ride.

As the freshies got skied out, everything in Deep Temerity stayed soft, with the packed-down snow allowing aggressive turns. With each piece of terrain that was opened, people choked on face shots and flew down untracked, bottomless runs.

Here at The Aspen Times, we were quite recently making comparisons to that winter in the ’70s when it didn’t snow. Similarly, the World Cup looked like it might be canceled because of a lack of snow and warm temperatures, then on Friday the big dump ended up as the canceling factor for the downhill.

Sure, it was a bummer about messing up the scheduling of the downhill, but for the locals it was perfect. The dry November ended to a friggin’ 4 feet of snow in 48 hours.

Guess the ski season has begun.

Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands both picked up 5 more inches of snow over the past 24 hours, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s Sunday morning snow report. An additional 4 inches fell at Snowmass and Buttermilk.

The avalanche danger in the Aspen zone is rated high above treeline on W-NW-N-NE-E aspects, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. At treeline, the danger is considerable with pockets of high on any any wind-loaded or cross-loaded W-NW-N-NE-E slope. Above treeline on SE-S-SW aspects, the danger is considerable. Below treeline, the danger is rated considerable on all aspects.

With the increase in winds overnight Friday, expect to find fresh wind slabs near and above treeline. These slabs will require extra caution if you travel anywhere near them. Both natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely in these areas.

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