Snowmass sees 3,000-4,000 skiers daily in first week, 874 acres open to date | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass sees 3,000-4,000 skiers daily in first week, 874 acres open to date

Dan Kiely skiing under the Big Burn lift on opening day on Nov. 22 at Snowmass Ski Area.

Snowmass Ski Area kicked off its season with more than 3,000 smiling skiers, 570 acres of terrain, 20 trails, sunshine and clear, bright blue skies.

"It was really strong, and one of our better openings," Aspen Skiing Co. vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said Nov. 26.

The mountain's Nov. 22 start was a stark contrast from last season, which began with only two runs, Elk Camp Meadows and Fanny Hill, totaling 19 acres.

"Twenty (trails) is way better than two. It's a fact," Aspen resident Jaila Jafarabadi said while heading up the hill on opening day.

Snowmass' new mountain manager Susan Cross, who greeted early skiers in Base Village, quipped that she also was in charge of the weather.

While the day started warm and sunny as the first lifts spun, ominous-looking clouds built up as the morning progressed. By the afternoon, the National Weather Service updated its advisory to a winter storm warning through the weekend. High winds and snow pummeled the Elk Mountains on Nov. 24, while Nov. 25 brought sunshine and fresh powder.

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Skico opened another 300 acres at Snowmass in the following days, reaching 874 acres by Nov. 27.

Snowmass also saw 3,000 to 4,000 daily skier visits throughout week one, according to Hanle.

"The weather's great, the skiing's great, people are happy," Cross said opening day. "People are happy after the last couple seasons. This is the fun stuff, this is what it's all about."

About 50 to 60 skiers and snowboarders waited in line at the Village Express for the first lifts to start running just before 8:30 a.m.

"The stoke is high here at Snowmass," lift supervisor Dan Newman said. "It's a hot piece of greatness. Everyone's happy is the overwhelming sentiment. It doesn't even compare (to last year)."

Snowmass opened with The Big Burn, Max Park, Powerline Glades, Sneaky's Glades, Lunch line, Upper Scooper and Lower Hals to the bottom of Village Express.

Steve Sewell, Snowmass' outgoing mountain manager, called his last opening day on the job "bittersweet." Sewell started working on Snowmass ski patrol in 1977 and has been the mountain manager since 2006.

Sewell, who will leave his post Jan. 1, plans to spend his first day of retirement skiing without his radio.

Skico hopes that more snow in the forecast will continue to improve conditions and open more terrain, said senior vice president of mountain operations Katie Ertl.

Forecasts predict snow through Sunday, as of the Sun's press time.

Skiers offered a similar outlook and sense of optimism opening day, which also occurred over the holiday centered on gratitude.

"We're real thankful for this upcoming snow," Carbondale resident Kaelin Bamford said.

Elk Camp restaurant and Sam's Smokehouse are open for the season; Up 4 Pizza will begin daily operations begin Dec. 6.

Lift tickets are $139 per day for adults and $92 for children, teens and seniors through Dec. 14. Partial-day tickets for adults are $93 and $61 for children, teens and seniors. Children six and younger ski for free.

A ticket to ski at Snowmass during the preseason last year was $45 for adults and $24 for kids, teenagers and seniors.

The Breathtaker alpine coaster, now in its second winter season, also is up and running for riders.

Snowmass' operations will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Aspen Mountain opened Nov. 17 with 180 acres and has since added more terrain.

Aspen Highlands, including parts of Highlands Bowl, also will open one week early on Saturday, Skico announced Nov. 26. Buttermilk's season will commence Dec. 8 as scheduled.

erobbie@aspentimes.com

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