High Points: When spring blows into Aspen

Paul E. Anna
High Points
It's that time again, at the intersection of closing days and the full onset of spring.
Anna Stonehouse/Snowmass Sun archives

Are the backs of your legs sunburned yet?                           

They likely are if you got out for the first time in your shorts this week. I saw bikers and hikers, runners, and yes, skiers, all with pasty white limbs hanging out of their short pants as people caught the first real heat of the new season.

It took a while, but spring blew in on a west wind with a vengeance on Monday. That was three weeks after its scheduled arrival with the vernal equinox. We actually had some single digit mornings following the official spring change of season, which was par for the course after such a long and snowy winter. But most folks, even the skiers, said “Hallelujah” as the sun settled in for a couple of days and got us to near 70 degrees. It made people smile.

Speaking of smiles, there will be plenty of those to go around this Sunday when Aspen Highlands and Snowmass host their final ski days of the season. The snow on both mountains, particularly up top, where the base exceeded 100 inches, is still in stellar condition and there will be lots of turns left for those who hike the hills. But for lift-bound skiers, the last hurrah on both mountains comes in just a couple of days. Highlands is the place to be, of course, if you want to be part of an historically great party; but personally, I choose to wind it down with a few mellow, slushy turns on the Burn. It’s just my style these days.

I’m wondering how outgoing Skico President Mike Kaplan will be handling the challenge of dealing with dueling mountain closures on Sunday. This will be his last “official” closing day for both mountains as his term comes to an end on April 30. He was helping load the Tiehack lift on April 2 on the Buttermilk bacon closing day, resplendent in a Hawaiian shirt. But this week, he will have to either make a decision to close just one of the mountains down or groove between the two with final appearances at both. My guess is you’ll see him at both Snowmass and Highlands at some point during the day.

Regardless, the rest of us, like Mike, still have one more week of lift-served skiing as the Skico served up a little lagniappe (a Cajun word meaning “a little something extra”) when they extended the season on Ajax until April 23. That gives a friend of mine seven extra days to get her 100-day pin, and she’s going to have to ski all of them if she hopes to make it. Maybe Kaplan will give it to her as a final act on Sunday, the 23rd.

Though it’s great to see the sun and warm up after a long, cloudy winter, this is always a bit of a melancholy time around here. We so look forward to the ski seasons each year, and they go by quickly. You always seem to wonder just how many any of us have left. This was a particularly great one and, who knows, perhaps it portends more in the future. But still, it’s always a little hard to say goodbye.

Anyway, enjoy the sunshine and the finales on Highlands and Snowmass. And don’t forget the sunscreen.