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Paul E. Anna: High Points

Paul E. Anna
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

So the last week of February, with a Leap Day serving of lagniappe, was the week that saved the season. The 2-plus feet that piled up gave us not only the best base of the season but a handful of powder days as well. It also brought hope that this ski season will be saving its best for last.

I have long felt that each ski season has four distinct seasons. The first season is Thanksgiving to just before Christmas. That’s when the days are the shortest, the sun is at its most indirect angle and we are just getting a feel for what kind of year it’s going to be. The Christmas and New Year’s holidays, though just a couple of weeks long, constitute a season unto themselves. Everything is different, work and service are the orders of the day and the slopes are packed with tourists.

Next up is what I call the serious season, those weeks from mid- January until late February when we are on our own. This year we had bits and pieces of storms, some nasty winds and just a couple of powder days. Still, this is the time that I consider to be the heart and soul of a ski season. We are at our strongest. Generally, we have established our ski communities for the year and picked out the mountains and the lines that will define our season. Our gear is all worked in and we are locked and loaded when a storm comes.

The last season of the year, the easy season, begins when the Skico lets that first chairlift stay open until 4 p.m. That happened last week and it changes everything. The sun is now high in the sky in the mid-afternoon and doesn’t set until around 6 p.m. It just makes sense to give skiers on say, the Burn or the Gondy on Aspen Mountain, or even the Buttermilk Express, an extra two, maybe three runs in the late afternoon.

To me the late chair heralds the arrival of spring. And yes I know we are still 10 days away from the Spring Equinox, which occurs at 11:14 p.m. on March 19 this year. And I also know that, for some, daylight saving time, which kicks in this Sunday morning, is the unofficial harbinger of the new season.

On last Sunday, I caught my first 3:57 p.m. ride up the mountain this season. It had been a spectacular bluebird afternoon at Snowmass and the legs were a tad tired. The snow had begun to set-up as soon as it was hit by the shadows following a warm day. Everyone at the top of the Sheer Bliss lift seemed to shift gears. Most had been scheming as they skied around the hill, planning to get to that last chair of the day and they had accomplished the goal. Now it was about relaxing and cruising home, taking advantage of the extra run and the beauty of being atop the mountain late on a Sunday.

Hope the final season of your season is great.


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