Paul E. Anna: High Points
December 1, 2011
So perhaps we jinxed ourselves.
It was just three weeks ago that Rich Burkley, Aspen Skiing Company vice president of mountain operations, waxed poetic in a Skico press release: “The 2011-12 season has started as a talented overachiever with near perfect snowmaking temperatures and abundant natural snowfall,” he noted with confidence as he announced that Snowmass would be opening five days early on Nov. 19.
But just before that early opening day, temperatures soared and, worse, the wind began to howl. It was not long before the conditions, which may have peaked around the 14th of November, began a slow decline. By Thanksgiving, the unseasonably warm days had made things difficult for those who worked to open Aspen as well. But still, the skiing last weekend was better than I think anyone expected. The races came off hitchless, and for recreational skiers it was all good.
Not that Rich was the only optimist out there. The writings in this column on Nov. 18 raved about what promised to be a great opening and a prodigious ski season. Yowzer was the word I used as I implored all of you to get up and get out for that opening weekend. In fact, I used it three times.
But it just goes to show you how quickly things can change here in the mountains. Two storms missed us and then yesterday, Denver got dumped on with an upslope snowfall while all we got was wind and warmth. While I am convinced that a winter that “started as a talented overachiever” will eventually, once again, show us its talents, right now we are in between rocks and a hard place.
While skiing at Snowmass last Thursday, a liftie mentioned that he thought we got a little greedy. Maybe, he said, the snow gods were reacting to our early opening by playing some games. Perhaps they are withholding their generosity for a while because we toyed with the sacred tradition of Thanksgiving first tracks. Perhaps he is right, but personally I prefer deities who don’t play games.
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In any event, we are not in this alone. The Alps are likely in worse shape than we are and they have had to cancel the World Cup Races in Val d’Isere scheduled for next week. That means the men will be staying in Beaver Creek for a few more days, hoping the wind dies and some more snow falls.
In the meantime, the lifts continue to run and the calendar continues to turn with Buttermilk and Highlands on track for a Dec. 10 opening. Hopefully by then the jet stream will have taken a turn for the better and the gods will have gotten over their pique and we will have a big dump or three.