Aspen’s World Pro Ski Tour stop moved to January due to poor snow conditions

A skier is interviewed during the World Pro Ski Tour event on March 10, 2018, at Snowmass Ski Area.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The World Pro Ski Tour’s return to Aspen will have to wait another month after next week’s races were postponed Wednesday due to warm temperatures and a lack of snow.

Originally scheduled for Dec. 10-12 on Aspen Mountain, the head-to-head ski races will now take place on Jan. 8 and 9.

“Sadly, this is the type of thing we’re seeing more and more these days with events early or late in the ski season,” said Jeff Hanle, Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of communications, in a press release. “Climate change is happening, and it will cut into the industry’s ability to host these types of events unless we take drastic actions.”

While Skico was able to open Aspen Mountain for top-to-bottom skiing and snowboarding last Friday, a day after the mountain opened for the season, terrain remains extremely limited and continues to worsen as the warm and dry weather persists. The WPST races were to be held on the lower half of the mountain, which is in far worse shape than the top.

Despite a change in the weather pattern expected to come next week — snow is in the forecast Monday and Tuesday — the tour and Skico decided Wednesday to go ahead and postpone the races to next month.

“Our primary goals as a Tour are to deliver races that are safe for our athletes and exciting for our spectators,” said Jon Franklin, CEO of the World Pro Ski Tour, in the news release. “Aspen is a great and historic race venue, and we are excited to race there no matter the date.”

The World Pro Ski Tour’s history dates back in some form to 1969, when Aspen’s own Bob Beattie launched World Pro Skiing. In 1998, what was then called the U.S. Pro Ski Tour folded, the beginning of a 20-year hiatus before the WPST was brought back to life in 2018 with its first event at Sunday River in Maine.

A skier competes in the World Pro Ski Tour event on March 10, 2018, at Snowmass Ski Area.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

That same winter included the Rocky Mountain Pro Ski Classic at Snowmass Ski Area, won by AJ Ginnis, and this year’s event in Aspen will be the first to feature Ajax since the tour’s return.

Unlike most traditional Alpine ski racing found on the World Cup, which has athletes competing against the clock, the WPST is a head-to-head, tournament-style format that is believed to be more spectator-friendly and has seen a resurgence in recent years, even on the World Cup.

The races in Aspen had been slated to be the first of this season, although that honor will now be with Granby Ranch, which will tentatively host races Dec. 17 to 19. Steamboat Springs and Howelsen Hill are scheduled to host a WPST stop in February, while New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley will host the “world championship” at the end of the season. Those dates have not yet been announced.