Swiss cheese on Buttermilk

Scott Condon

Although the lifts are closed, skiing isn’t over. Unfortunately, I picked Tuesday morning to extend my season.There will undoubtedly be many good days on the backcountry slopes this spring, thanks to the hefty snowpack. Tuesday wasn’t one of them. Conditions at Tiehack shortly after dawn could be best described as interesting.My friend and I suspected we made a mistake when we pulled into the parking lot and saw grass and rocks poking through a thin, spotty layer of snow. But, hey, we wanted to make the uphill journey one last time. Besides, we drove from downvalley at an ungodly hour, so we decided to make the best of it.We picked our way up the slope and steered clear of the worst of the grass patches, mud and even a small stream flowing beneath the snow.Buttermilk closed two weeks ago, so Aspen Skiing Co. snowcats haven’t massaged the snow into the usual immaculate corduroy that the ski area is known for. We knew that and didn’t care, but we weren’t quite prepared for the strange substance we encountered.The lower slopes were pocked like a lunar landscape. Fresh snow from the night before coated the divots with a thin frosting. It was like skinning up an uneven mound of Swiss cheese topped with a bit of the cottage variety.Higher on the mountain we encountered a strange variation of dust on crust, except in this case it was an inch or two of decent snow layered onto ice that, surprisingly, held an edge. The sound from our skis was like a windshield wiper sweeping over a windshield covered with ice.All in all, it wasn’t bad. Our final run in a ski area ended a bit short of the base. We yanked off our skis and walked down from the top of the lower Tiehack lift.Now my boards will hang in the garage awaiting one final trip in a few weeks. Hopefully we will find corn rather than cottage cheese on Mount Sopris.Avalanche reportThe backcountry avalanche danger in the Roaring Fork Valley is moderate above treeline. Near and below treeline the danger is moderate, with increasing danger with warmer temperatures.Timing in the backcountry will be important for safe travel. An early start and an early finish will be necessary to avoid wet snow avalanche activity. Avalanche danger details provided by the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center. For more information, visit For conditions around the state, call the Colorado Avalanche Information Center at 920-1664 or visit


Hanukkah has arrived in Aspen

Members of the valley’s Jewish community gathered at the Albright Pavilion at Aspen Meadows Thursday for their second annual menorah lighting ceremony to celebrate and acknowledge the first day of Hanukkah.

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