Summer fun begins around Aspen |

Summer fun begins around Aspen

ASPEN – Ski season might not be officially over, but summer has officially begun – at least at the Aspen golf course and on certain sections of the local rivers.

“I know we live in Aspen, and everyone wants snow, but we’re the opposite here – we want grass,” said Jim Pratt, assistant golf professional at the Aspen Golf Club. “And we’ve got that.”

The Aspen Golf Club – both the driving range and the 18-hole golf course – opened Wednesday, making it one of the earliest openings in recent memory. According to Pratt, the driving range generally opens the first week in April, but the golf course is a bit more weather-dependent.

But this year, the unseasonably warm weather and dearth of snow made conditions prime for an early opening.

“We’ve been watching the weather, and we figured, ‘Why not just open for business?'” Pratt said, adding that the golf club has a new range-ball machine and will have a new fleet of golf carts by mid-month. “It’s always weather-dependent, so I’d say we’re in great shape this spring.”

The price for a round of golf, nine or 18 holes, is currently $29.

Golfers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the summer-like weather. Early snow runoff means an early start to rafting season for some river rats and local outfitters.

“We just looked at what the weather was like and said, ‘You know what? It’s the same weather that we had in September and October, so let’s go,'” said Renee Fleisher, director of group services for Blazing Adventures.

The Snowmass Village-based company sent its first raft trip out on March 25, which was the earliest date ever. The company has had at least one raft on the river – it is currently running the Shoshone section of the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon – every day since.

“The water levels are higher than they would be when we run our late fall trips, and it’s going to be 70-plus degrees in Glenwood, so it should be a really fun trip,” Blazing Adventures operations manager Rich Zelter said last week, when the Colorado was running at about 1,200 cubic feet per second. “We’ve got the permits, and the gear is all in order, so we’re set and ready to make it happen.”

While Aspen Whitewater Rafting also has permits to run Shoshone, owner Jim Ingram said the company will wait until May 1 to hit the water.

“We’ll wait and hopefully get a couple of weeks on the Roaring Fork and maybe Shoshone,” he said. “But in my honest opinion, any trip on the Arkansas (over Independence Pass) will be better any day of the week, hands down.”

But Ingram, like Pratt, admits it’s all weather-dependent when it comes to outdoor sports in the Rocky Mountains.

“After four consecutive high-water years, and last year – which was unbelievable – it’s just different,” he said. “But who knows what will happen? Either way, as a person who’s lived through low-water years like 2002, it will be great to get back on the river.

“And we’ll make sure it’s fun for everyone.”

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