History: Scoping Snowmass

The crew in charge of studying Snowmass, led by Jim Snobble in the early 1960s, put up snow stakes to measure snow depth and anemometers to check the wind speeds and direction all over the mountain. They spent a lot of time bushwhacking around on skis in the winter and on foot in summer — studying the mountain, getting a feel for it, trying to determine which slopes would be best (they didn’t want slopes toward the east or the west where there were wind problems). It was an in-depth study of the mountain and what they thought could and could not be developed. According to Snobble’s oral history, “If you ski a mountain often enough through the trees, you get a feel for where the best fall lines, the best lift locations might be — where you keep coming out at a particular point — a process of winnowing things out and trying to determine where we would want lifts eventually. … We felt after two winters of studying it and working out there and playing and having a hell of a good time, that — I wrote the report, which was a compilation of all the data we had gathered and all our opinions and so forth — we just felt it was eminently suitable for development and could be opened with five lifts if we included the campground area, to provide something a little more expert so it wouldn’t get the name of just being another big Buttermilk.” Snobble felt that was essential to the initial development and fortunately the Aspen Skiing Co. went along with his assessments.

Here, Bill Mason, Don Rayburn, Hal Hartman, Art Bowles and Jim Snobble (left to right) unload from the Trackmaster Sno-Cat near the top of Snowmass. The photograph looks down on the future golf course.