Snowmass shakes early-season blues |

Snowmass shakes early-season blues

Snowmass Ski Area has finally shaken the doldrums that plagued it the first half of the season and – with luck – could start opening some of its best steep-and-deep trails next week.

The famed Hanging Valley Wall is in great shape, but the problem is getting skiers and riders there, said Skico vice president of mountain operations Mike Kaplan.

While Hanging Valley Wall has ample snow, it hasn’t stuck as well to the chute called Roberto’s or the Headwall, the first set of steeps that adventurers encounter in that section of the mountain.

Snowmass ski patrol supervisor Wayne Hyrup said a Snowcat will be used Sunday to push snow into Roberto’s from above while patrollers with shovels stop it from tumbling to the flats below. He said he was reluctant to guess what day the Hanging Valley area could open.

Hyrup noted that the Hanging Valley Glades further down the mountain have been open for the last four days. “There’s beautiful skiing in there,” he said.

The best of Snowmass’ other difficult terrain needs another storm cycle or two and some wind loading before it’s ready. The snowpack recently slid right down to the rock in areas around the Cirque, wiping out progress made in recent storms.

“The snowpack is horrendously unstable,” said Hyrup. The patrol has been trying to get slopes set up for the next storms, but skiing is “on hold indefinitely because of the snowpack” on trails like AMF and Gowdy’s, he said.

Nevertheless, Snowmass is in a lot better shape than it was two weeks ago when wind scouring forced closure of the Big Burn. The Burn reopened after less than one week and skiing in its glades was exceptional this week.

About 2 1/2 feet of fresh snow in the last week has allowed the Skico to open nearly 1,753 acres at Snowmass, or about 58 percent of the 3,010 total skiable acreage.

Less than one-fifth of the massive ski area was open during the busy Christmas and New Year’s holiday period, so business plummeted.

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