Snow much fun on Aspen Mountain
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Peter Ditzler spent almost 27 hours traveling from Philadelphia to Aspen, just so he could ski on a Sunday in June.
His first flight was canceled. His second ran low on fuel, causing him to miss his connection in Washington, D.C. He spent Friday night in the nation’s capital and caught a plane out the next morning. It was 6:30 p.m. on Saturday by the time he finally arrived in Aspen, having left Philadelphia at 4 p.m. on Friday.
“And the thing is, none of those delays bothered me one bit. I was just smiling, knowing I’d be skiing,” said Ditzler.
Fortunately for Ditzler, Aspen Mountain opened an hour early on Sunday, at 9 a.m., giving snow enthusiasts a full four hours of the rapidly-melting white stuff. The earlier opening was advertised simply using mountain whiteboards Saturday afternoon.
“All the die-hards were here,” said lift operations manager Jim Smith.
Nine-year-old Domenic Policaro, of Aspen, had already skied 79 days this year. He’s 9th in the nation for National Standard Racing (NASTAR), in the 9- to 11-year-old category.
He arrived Sunday at 8:45 a.m. and skied without stopping until 1 p.m.
“It was good and it was slushy and it was sticky at the end,” he said, enthusiastically.
Roughly 900 skiers took advantage of Aspen Mountain’s reopening on Friday, and about 1,700 did on Saturday. Though he didn’t have official numbers, Smith guessed the mountain saw roughly 1,300 to 1,400 skiers on Sunday.
Tamra and Tom Wieringa had planned to hike and bike in Aspen this weekend. Instead, they rented equipment and headed to Aspen Mountain. Since they had already sent their ski clothes back to Chicago, they skied in their summer clothes.
The Green Turtles had traveled from Baltimore, Maryland to Vail for the Warrior Vail Colorado Lacrosse Tournament, which starts on Tuesday. Mike Connell, a parent of one of the players on the high school club lacrosse team said that 17 players and their families had decided to ski at Aspen Mountain on Sunday. The group decided it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“We can’t believe we’re snowboarding in June,” said Connell.
Some folks on the hill remembered the last time Aspen Mountain was open for skiing in June. Aspenite Curt Larson still has his lift ticket from June 21, 1995.
“This is basically the second-longest year on record,” said his friend Boyd Billings.
As the skiing wound down on Sunday, skiers and snowboarders mingled on the Sundeck with folks who had ridden the gondola up just for the view, bikers who planned to ride down, and even a few who had hiked to the top. A bluegrass band played; dogs frolicked; babies sunbathed; beer, food and massages were for sale; and many of the shirtless or bikingi-clad revelers were still wearing their ski or snowboard boots.
“The skiing’s okay ” it’s the scene,” said Doug Pearson, of Aspen. “Not that we need a whole lot of motivation to sit down and have a few beers together, but why not go skiing?”
Outside the gondola, the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies was providing guided nature tours for those who hadn’t come to ski. For the first time in 12 years , June hikes were going out on snowshoes, said naturalist Carly Sieff.
By 1 p.m. on Sunday, the crowds had turned the snow to slush. While there is no official word about whether Aspen Mountain could open next weekend, skiers and Aspen Skiing Co. staff alike had doubts.
“It won’t hold up for another week, that’s for sure,” Billings said.
“I don’t know if they’ve officially announced it’s not going open next weekend, but I doubt it very seriously,” echoed Smith.
On the Sundeck, the crowds weren’t worried about next weekend yet. Most were just enjoying the bluegrass and beer ” and the fact that they’d just been summer skiing.
“It couldn’t have been any better for June 15th,” said Billings.