Skico adds bonus weekends to ski season at Aspen Highlands |

Skico adds bonus weekends to ski season at Aspen Highlands

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A rider blows through the trees of the G zones of Highland Bowl March 31 after a series of storms loaded up the snow. It's time to start thinking about the coming season. Passes go on sale Monday.
Aspen Times file photo |

Don’t plan that Fruita mountain-biking trip or dust off those golf clubs just yet — there’s more skiing to be had in Aspen in April.

Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday that it will extend the ski season by two weekends at Aspen Highlands.

Highlands will close daily operations as scheduled with a big party April 10. However, it will reopen Saturday and Sunday, April 23 and 24, and Saturday and Sunday, April 30 and May 1, the company said.

The goal will be to open 100 percent of the terrain for the extended season, including Highland Bowl. The Exhibition, Loge and Deep Temerity chairlifts will operate. The Cloud 9 and Thunderbowl chairs will remain closed. The hours of operation will be 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“It just seemed to make sense.”Rich Burkley, Aspen Skiing Co.

Skico will stick to the scheduled closures of the other ski areas. Buttermilk will close Sunday. Snowmass will close April 10 and Aspen Mountain will close April 17.

Rich Burkley, Skico’s vice president of mountain operations, noted Highlands has a base of more than 90 inches and it is “still growing.”

“Just seemed to make sense”

The slopes received 7 inches of snow Tuesday and Wednesday, and as much as 22 inches over the past week. Given the conditions, Skico officials decided to add to the season at Highlands this year since it hasn’t benefited recently from an extended season. Plus, snow really hasn’t been melting off the Highlands slopes.

“We have a pretty decent snowpack as it stands right now,” Burkley said. “It just seemed to make sense.”

Aspen Highlands Mountain Manager Kevin Hagerty said the ski area opened strong this season and now will be able to remain open into May.

“The late season should bring true spring skiing and good winter snow in parts of the bowl, especially in the G zones, which receive northern sun exposure, keeping the snow nice and soft,” Hagerty said in a statement. “March brought good snowfall, so what better way to celebrate the onset of El Nino than two bonus weekends at Highlands?”

Merry-Go-Round restaurant will be open at Highlands and parking at the base of the mountain will be free for the extended weekends.

All Aspen-Snowmass season passes are valid for the extension as they are during the regular season. Lift tickets are $69 a day for adults and $45 for children, teens and seniors. Pass-extension days for Flex, Adult Classic and Adult Mountain Collective passholders will be $32, and $23 for Child, Youth, College Classic passholders as well as Child, Teen, Senior Mountain Collective passholders. Passholders from other resorts can present their pass for a $39 rate.

Ski ‘em if you’ve got ‘em

Burkley noted that Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan’s philosophy is to open early and close late if snow conditions are good.

Highlands won’t open the weekend of April 16 and 17 to give the crew a break and because that’s the closing weekend at Aspen Mountain.

Schneetag, the annual season-ending event at Highlands, will be held as scheduled Sunday, April 10. Teams of four are invited to create a craft that they will pilot down a slope and attempt to float across a 20-by-40 foot pond. Every team has a theme and will perform a skit before they descend.

Skico doesn’t expect to attract a lot of paying customers with the extension.

“This is sort of a thank-you to locals,” Burkley said.

The ski season was extended at Aspen Mountain last season, and it wouldn’t quit snowing in late April and into May. One of the best powder days of the season was in May, he said. Weather forecasters are calling for an unsettled spring.

“It could be some of our better days” during the extended ski season, Burkley said.

If it keeps snowing, there’s a chance Skico officials will extend the season beyond May 1, according to Burkley. He said Aspen Mountain is scheduled to open for summer operations May 28. It could open earlier for late skiing with a few adjustments.

“There’s always a chance,” he said.