Ward: Why did they plow then? | AspenTimes.com

Ward: Why did they plow then?

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Last March, I was invited to a meeting of Upper Castle Creek “shareholders” with regard to the discussion of when to close the road at Ashcroft. It was decided by the attendees — and later approved by the Pitkin County commissioners — to close both the Maroon Creek and Castle Creek roads every year on Nov. 15. 

We all acknowledged that it was essential for the snow to accumulate on the paved asphalt, so that cross-country skiers and backcountry users of the Braun Huts could ski up the road by Thanksgiving. A packed snow surface reflects the sun’s rays, drives the cold temps into the pavement, and doesn’t allow the pavement to heat up and melt the snow.

However, I was stunned on Nov. 27 as I skied up the road from Ashcroft when the only snow on the road was the four inches of light fluff that fell Saturday night. Apparently, the county road crews had plowed off all the wonderful snow we had at Halloween and early November up until Nov. 14.   

What were they thinking? For the past 50 years, the county protocol has been to stop plowing the road in October. They even had a sign at Ashcroft saying that the road was not plowed.  

Ashcroft Ski Touring and the Pine Creek Cookhouse was one of the first, if not the first, cross-country ski areas in the country to utilize a U.S. Forest Service permit and the county road. It continues today, serving thousands of people each winter. 

The Braun Huts serve backcountry skiers who access the Lindley, Green Wilson, and Tagert huts via the Ashcroft/Castle Creek Road. Each year, that number is over 4,300 skier nights.

We are a ski resort, and our precious snow needs to be nurtured, groomed, and cherished. We should take every effort to keep and save our snow, like POW (Preserve Our Winters) — not just plow it off the upper Castle Creek road to satisfy a few late season hunters who happen to camp out near the Pearl Pass Road. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the Pine Creek Cookhouse has a delayed opening thanks to the county!

Next November, don’t be surprised to see a sit-in at Ashcroft blocking any plow trucks of Pitkin County! This should never happen again. We can do better.

Craig Ward

Braun Huts board member