High Points: Ten weeks and counting until the ski season is here

Paul E. Anna
High Points
A bluebird powder day in Aspen always fires up the local crowd and guests.
File photo

I don’t often give Vail props, but the mothership of American skiing has got me jonesing for the upcoming season.

And, that is a good thing. It happened on Monday night during the Broncos’ game — which is another story for another time — when a commercial for the Epic Pass came on during the ESPN broadcast. The advertisement showed a  group of skiers making spectacular turns in the Back Bowls of Vail in pristine powder snow. It was maybe 15 seconds of video, but it was enough to get the juices flowing for sure. 

We may be ten weeks out, or actually 69 days away if you are counting (And, I am) before the big wheels start turning on the lifts, but that is time enough to start getting ready for the ski season. Sometime over the next 10 weeks will come the moment when the first snow shows itself on the high peaks.

We’ll have the race to get into ski shape, either in classes or solitarily in our homes. We’ll get the first snow in town, and, hopefully, the first dump to get the slopes in appropriate ski form. There is lots to look forward to this winter here in Aspen.

Start with opening day on Nov. 24; that would be Thanksgiving Thursday. How lucky are we to live in a town with an “opening day”? Most places, the calendar just turns from one page to the next, one day to the next with nothing special, save for Cinco de Mayo and St. Paddies Day.

But, we have an actual annual reason to get giddy on the final Thursday in November. (I mean, other than just Thanksgiving.) We have “OPENING DAY.” This ski season will also bring the return of the White Circus, when the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup returns to Aspen Mountain and the America’s Downhill course. Ruthies and Aztec and Spring pitch will be lined with spectators once again — same as it ever was — to watch the world’s fastest skiers plummet down the mountain the first weekend in March.

Don’t get me wrong, I love X Games, but the purity and the history of racing on Aspen Mountain just brings a different vibe to the town — and a different crowd.

This place would not be what it is today if Dick Durrance hadn’t flown to Europe in 1949 to convince the powers of the time that Aspen had the right stuff to host the 1950 FIS Championships. Now, over 70 years later, we get to welcome the best Austrian, Swiss, French, and other skiers to our slopes. 

And, then, there is the opening of “The Backyard,” the new and improved base building at Buttermilk. Personally, I don’t know why they are changing the name, I liked Bumps just fine, but the space itself was getting a touch long in the tooth. Many of you never make it over to Buttermilk; it is the “forgotten” mountain. But, those of us who love to ski Tiehack look forward to seeing what $23 million — the cost of starter home in the West End -—will do to improve the experience at what will inevitably be referred to as “the old Bumps.” Regardless of what they call it, Henrietta will, as always, make sure the food is great. I’m looking forward to my first beer in The Backyard. 

Each ski season brings its own personality. Some are colder than others, some get more — or less — snow, and others are, to use that Vail registered word, epic. We who live here are just fortunate to have something so special to look forward to. Ten weeks and counting.