So long, snow … spring has sprung
Aspen Times Staff Writers
Extraordinary spring weather this weekend set records, opened golf courses and closed a significant portion of Aspen Highlands.
Temperatures in Aspen over the weekend were approximately 25 degrees warmer than normal. The average high temperature in Aspen this time of March is usually 42 degrees ” this year, Aspen saw highs of 64 degrees on Friday, 67 degrees on Saturday and 66 degrees on Sunday.
The Friday and Saturday temperatures topped 50-year-old records, according to National Weather Service officials. The previous recorded highs for March 19 and 20 in Aspen were 60 and 65 degrees, respectively, in 1949 and 1959. The March 21 record of 68 degrees, set in 1988, still stands. (The National Weather Service cannot officially declare any records broken because the old temperatures were taken at a different site than this past weekend’s measurements.)
The warm temperatures and quickly deteriorating snowpack forced the Aspen Highlands ski patrol to close all of the east and northeast aspects of Highland Bowl. All runs in the Y zones and B zones are closed up to Be One, the last run before the peak. Be One, Ozone and the G zones remain open.
Asked if the east side of Highland Bowl would be opening again this season, a member of the Aspen Highland ski patrol said the decision depends on the weather. Another good freeze could reconfigure the snowpack in a way that makes it safe to open. But from the looks of the long-range forecast, the patroller predicted that the east side of the bowl would “probably not” not be reopened.
On Aspen Mountain, Spar Gulch was also closed at around noon Saturday while ski patrol set charges in Spar 5 and Spar 6, two gullies that are prone to spring slides. The closure lasted about 35 minutes.
Meteorologists predict the warm weather will hold through Wednesday.
“These conditions are a result of a strong high-pressure system in the Southwest that’s remained pretty stationary. It’s keeping the cold air well north,” said Chris Cuoco, of the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
Cuoco said that warm, dry conditions are decimating the state’s snow pack, increasing the chance of spring forest fires.
The first wildfires of the season were reported on the Front Range last week. The largest, a three-acre blaze in Coal Creek Canyon, “ate through patches of snow” and injured a 13-year-old boy, according to a report in the Denver Post.
Locally, cyclists and joggers were seen heading up Independence Pass and toward Ashcroft this weekend. River Valley Ranch Golf Course in Carbondale has opened all 18 holes and is offering a discounted early season rate. Already, the course has seen it’s first hole in one.
“The course came out of the winter really well. Our greens are a touch slow because we haven’t taken the mowers to them yet, but the weather’s really helped make the course playable, even this early in the spring,” said Russ Aragon, head professional at River Valley Ranch.
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