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What crowds?

Catherine Lutz

I’d just like to say that we’ve got to have the finest mountains in the whole world. Now that the thick of the holiday rush is over and I can look back at the last two weeks, the skiing was just about the only thing that kept me (and a lot of locals, I’m sure) sane.Granted, it snowed just about every day in the last week – the Skico is reporting 26 inches of new snow in the past seven days and 50 in December! – but with business up 10 percent compared with the last holiday season, how could it be that there are still fresh tracks to be had? Anyone who experienced the lines at the gondola and the Village Express chair during the holidays would have sworn nothing could have been left unskied.Not the case.On one of the busiest days of the season – the same day Buttermilk set a skier-visit record – I was the only skier on four consecutive runs on Aspen Mountain. I won’t divulge which runs, but while the line for the gondola stretched to the stairs, I was schussing away in plenty of soft powder, giggling to my solo self.Colleagues and friends reported a similar phenomenon at the other mountains – plenty of snow and plenty of elbow room (if you know when and where to look) throughout the holidays. New Year’s Day was a powder day, with no one on the mountain till at least noon. Maybe it’s the herd mentality that draws most of the people to just a few runs, or maybe the traffic patterns were intentionally designed by savvy locals to keep the best stuff for themselves. Uncrowded by design? We made fun of it, but we like it.Fast forward to the present: Conditions are stellar right now on the hill. All the recent snow has added a nice, soft layer to the snowpack, and everything underneath is feeling creamy. As mentioned above, fresh tracks can still be found. Everything facing east, like Walsh’s, is skiing exceptionally well.Snow reportLocal slopes received between 1 and 4 inches of new snow within the past 24 hours, according to the Aspen Skiing Co.’s 5 a.m. snow report. Highlands picked up 4 inches, Snowmass got 3, Aspen Mountain gained a couple of new inches and Buttermilk got 1 inch.Avalanche reportThe backcountry avalanche danger in the Roaring Fork Valley is considerable with pockets of high at and above treeline. Below treeline the danger is moderate.Use caution on all aspects and elevations on terrain steeper than 30 degrees. Be aware of the terrain near and above, as avalanches have the potential to run a little larger. Avalanche danger details provided by the Roaring Fork Avalanche Center. For more information, call 920-1664 or visit http://www.rfavalanche.org. For conditions around the state, call the Colorado Avalanche Information Center at 920-1664 or visit geosurvey.state.co.us/avalanche.


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