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Snow forecast to aid early skiing at Aspen Mtn, Snowmass

Aspen Skiing Co. officials are sticking with plans to open limited terrain at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass on Saturday, but a favorable forecast for snow could expand the opportunities.

As of Thursday afternoon, Skico announced it would open 75 acres of terrain on Aspen Mountain and 60 acres at Snowmass. That is unchanged from Monday’s early-opening announcement.

“We will open additional terrain on natural snow as conditions allow,” Skico said in a statement Thursday.

Two inches of snow fell in the Aspen area Wednesday, and the forecast is promising for more snow in the next few days.

Aspenweather.net, a micro-forecaster, posted on Thursday that 4 to 8 inches of snow was possible for the ski areas by dawn Friday with additional amounts during the day. Aspenweather.net meteorologist Cory Gates also forecasted another 4 to 8 inches of snow at the ski areas Monday.

At Aspen Mountain, Skico is planning to open the Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts. The Silver Queen Gondola will be open for sightseers only, not for skiers and snowboarders.

When unloading the Bell Mountain lift, riders will go to skier’s right to the Deer Park Trail. Spar Gulch will be open to the Little Nell trail. The Sundeck Restaurant will be open.

The upper third of the mountain isn’t covered by snowmaking and not enough natural snow has fallen as of Thursday to open those slopes, according to Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president of operations.

At Snowmass, the Village Express lift will be spinning to midway to provide access to Upper Scooper to Lower Hal’s and Fanny Hill. The Elk Camp Gondola will provide access to Elk Camp Meadows. The Elk Camp Restaurant will be open.

Ertl said the company’s philosophy is to open terrain as early as it can and extend the season beyond scheduled closure, as long as it can provide a good product. The intent this season is to open Aspen Highlands prior to the scheduled opening Dec. 7. Buttermilk is also scheduled to open Dec. 7.

Aspen Mountain lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. On Snowmass, the Village Express lift will operate from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with the Elk Camp Gondola running from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Season passes can be used during the early opening. Skiers and snowboarders who need to pick up their passes can go to the Aspen Mountain ticket office from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Snowmass Gondola ticket office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

If you have a season pass that includes the Ikon base level pass, that has to be submitted by Dec. 12. Season passholders who have the Ikon benefit will get their promotion code when they pick up their Aspen season pass and then have to submit their Ikon information online.


‘Million Dollar Quartet,’ Village People, Crystal Palace among newly announced Wheeler Opera House winter events

The Wheeler Opera House announced its full roster of winter events Thursday evening, adding concerts, theater, magic and film events to its previously unveiled December and Aspen Laugh Festival lineups.

Newly announced concerts in the lineup include the ’70s pop icons The Village People on Feb. 15 ($68-$128); rock band Guster, performing an acoustic show on March 4 ($39); a Classics Albums Live production of the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” on March 25 ($45); the Queen tribute act Killer Queen on March 27 ($50-$65); and the Austin-based folk trio Steel Betty on March 29 ($15/free for Wheeler Wins members). The nonprofit Wheeler Associates also will present a performance by country great and Aspen favorite Robert Earl Keen on Feb. 26 ($40-$50).

On the comedy front, the “Chelsea Lately” alum and “Champions” star Fortune Feimster will headline on Jan. 11 ($35/free for Wheeler Wins members), stand-up legend Paula Poundstone will return March 12 ($48) and “America’s Got Talent” star Piff the Magic Dragon plays March 13 ($40).

Following last winter’s popular reunion, the cast of Aspen’s iconic Crystal Palace dinner theater will return to the Wheeler stage for two nights on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 ($50).

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Million Dollar Quartet” will come to the theater on March 6 ($65). Stars of Broadway’s “Jersey Boys,” “Motown: The Musical” and “A Bronx Tale” will be featured in “The Doo Wop Project,” playing Feb. 8 ($45-$50). The theater also will host the Metropolitan Opera’s “Met in HD” live broadcasts in January through March.

Family-friendly events include the two-person circus and variety at The Great DuBois: Masters of Variety, recently featured in the film “The Greatest Showman,” on Jan. 10 ($17.50 child/$25 adult); Cirque Zuma Zuma on Feb. 16 ($28 child/$45 adult); the fairy tale production “Wilde Creatures” on March 7 ($17.50 child/$25 adult); and the Enchantment Theatre Company’s “Peter Rabbit Tales” on March 19 (17.50 child/$25 adult)

Magicians and illusionists in the lineup include Justin Williams, star of the Netflix series “Magic for Humans,” on March 21 ($40) along with the previously announced Adam Trent show Dec. 29 ($25 child/$50 adult).

The theater will produce a winter edition of its Aspen Mountain Film Festival, as well, with two days of adventure film screenings Feb. 28 and 29 ($20). Additional adventure film programs include “The Longest Wave” on March 20 ($15) and An Evening of Ocean Film on March 22 ($15),

The historic theater unveiled the lineup to its Wheeler Wins members Thursday night and opened early members-only ticket sales immediately. Tickets go on sale to the public Monday at noon at the Wheeler box office and aspenshowtix.com.

“Year after year, we strive to bring the best lineup to our community,” Wheeler director Gena Buhler said in the announcement. “This year is no different — a combination of the types of programming you know and love, mixed in with (what we hope will be) new favorites like Aspen Mountain Film Festival Winter Edition, and a Tony award-winning Broadway musical.”

These newly announced shows come in addition to previously announced events including “A Very Electric Christmas” (Dec. 8), Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy: A Celtic Family Christmas (Dec. 19), “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Live On Stage” (Dec. 22), “ABBA Mania” (Dec. 25), “Best of SNL” Featuring Alex Moffat and Mikey Day (Dec. 27), the New Year’s Eve celebration featuring Yonder Mountain String Band (Dec. 31) as well as next year’s Aspen Laugh Festival (Feb. 18-22) headlined by “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.

The full lineup winter is online at wheeleroperahouse.com.

Glenwood-to-Aspen light rail is the answer

Regarding Toni Kronberg’s letter supporting an aerial gondola (“Visions of an aerial gondola over Aspen,” Nov. 19, aspentimes.com): Toni! Your gondola idea might work between Snowmass Village and Aspen Mountain via Buttermilk-Highlands as a skier mover; but a more practical solution for the entire valley from Glenwood and Carbondale to Aspen is light rail.

We acquired the rail right-of-way years ago as a way to solve the Roaring Fork Valley’s long-term transportation needs. Valley-wide light rail, combined with feeder busses, is the only practical solution to our valley-wide congestion.

Jim Markalunas


Aspen Animal Shelter changes lives

When I moved to Aspen, my parents signed me up for hockey. My first day on the ice was a disaster. I fell all the time, I could barely stand, I thought the other kids were making fun of me.

It was a really hard day.

I went home and hugged my dog, Paco … then everything went away. It was fine.

My family rescued Paco from an animal shelter. Since we got him, he has been my best friend. Like our last dog Bruno (Bruno died), Paco is always there when I need him. I want to make him happy too.

Friday is my birthday. I am turning 7. I asked my friends to give money to the Aspen Animal Shelter so Seth (Seth Sachson runs the Aspen Animal Shelter) can rescue more dogs and so that other kids can have what I have when I come home to Paco.

I want Seth to make all the animals happy. Also, people rescue them when you donate and the animals don’t have to be homeless, they also get food and a warm place to stay while they wait to be adopted.

Paco helped me play hockey. Because any hard day always ends up being OK. I like the hockey coaches too. They are nice and they help me. I hated hockey. Now I like it. It’s fun.

So please tell people to donate to the shelter. They make dogs happy and they make kids happy and they save dogs from being killed.

Some shelters have to kill dogs if people don’t take them after some period of time. I never want that to happen. I’m having my mommy ask my friends at my birthday party to give to the shelter. I hope other people do too.

Please go to Kids for ColoradoGives: https://www.coloradogives.org/kidsfor

Leopold Freidheim


New Silverpeak owners plan largest marijuana chain in state

The new owners of Silverpeak dispensary in Aspen plan to turn it into the largest chain of marijuana stores in the state by the end of next year.

A big step in the process occurred Wednesday when Pitkin County commissioners unanimously approved transferring the company’s grow and retail licenses to the new owners, James Young of Aspen and Chapman Ducote of Aspen and Miami, Florida.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Ducote told commissioners. “We have long legs and big aspirations to expand the brand.”

The idea is to spread Silverpeak’s high-end marijuana retail experience throughout the state, Ducote said in an interview after Wednesday’s meeting. The company he and Young formed — called Silverpeak — has closed on or is in the process of closing on 27 retail marijuana stores across the state that will eventually be rebranded as Silverpeak in one form or another by the end of 2020, they said.

The company also is investing in marijuana production and manufacturing assets, Ducote said. The Silverpeak sale includes the company’s High Valley Farms marijuana cultivation facility in Basalt and the retail store on Cooper Avenue in downtown Aspen.

Ducote said he and Young plan to retain all of Silverpeak’s employees after the sale goes through.

The state of Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division has already approved the license transfer, which was contingent on the commissioners’ approval.

Representatives of Pitkin County’s Environmental Health and Building departments recently toured the Basalt facility and found a first-class operation, said Kurt Dahl, environmental health manager. Several minor issues need to be fixed in the next 30 days before the county officially signs off on the new arrangement.

Ducote said he plans to look at using solar power and possibly invest in a water treatment facility that will allow the Basalt growing facility to draw water from the Roaring Fork River instead of trucking in water.

Commissioner George Newman brought up the fight between High Valley Farms and its neighbors in 2015 and 2016 over marijuana odors coming from the facility. That problem was fixed in 2016 and county officials said Wednesday that no complaints have been registered since, though Newman reiterated that the new owners will have to continue to mitigate the odor and could lose their license if they fail to do so.

Ducote is professional race car driver, entrepreneur and athlete, according to his website. Young is the owner of Vanguard Scientific Systems, which sells the equipment that extracts the oil from cannabis used in vaping devices, edibles and other products.

A call to former Silverpeak owner Jordan Lewis seeking comment on Wednesday was not returned.


City can afford to fix affordable units

City can afford to fix affordable units

Hunter Creek condos has three phases. Phases 1 and 3 are all free market and the majority of the complex. Phase 2 has 87 units in four buildings. They were remodeled and moved into in December 1981. Living room windows have a three-floor “warm weather” window system. They haven’t opened and closed properly for 18 years. They don’t seal and are out of alignment. The external frames separate, allowing water to leak into the units. Energy efficient they never were. The frames are hollow aluminum; they don’t perform in this climate. The three-floor windows are a “curtain” design with no support. Our 87 units share a three-floor living room curtain window. Each unit has 12 to 16 windows.

To replace the window system, footings will have to be dug, poured and framed.

Most of the 87 units are deed restricted, meaning employees must meet wage and residency requirements and don’t gain the free market appreciation. We are limited in appreciation to 6% annual for a certain amount of years.

The city of Aspen has a 150 Fund for housing. The city of Aspen’s $10 million purchase of Centennial is a great addition to their 3,000-plus employee units keeping employees in town. As with any facility, maintenance is the highest expense. It would be a fabulous investment for Aspen to utilize the 150 Fund in assisting with maintenance costs for such extensive ventures for all deed-restricted units.

Phase 2 has seen our reserve fund fees, HOA fees and special assessments and loans all rise a lot in recent years and will again for 2020. We have replaced roofs twice, hot tubs, boilers, stuccoed the exterior and replaced awnings over the years.

Issues yet to resolve are the window walls and radon. The cost to replace the window wall system will run approximately $950,000 to $1.3 million per building.

I hope that a solution can be worked out for all deed-restricted units. The city’s 150 Fund would certainly assist the deed-restricted owners.

Ed Petrosius


Mountain Rescue Aspen to host workshop on staying safe on backcountry tours

Mountain Rescue Aspen wants to get the winter off on the right foot by holding a free, public workshop to train or refresh skiers on how to plan a trip in the backcountry.

MRA will host “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour” on Dec. 5 at its CB Cameron Rescue Center at the Aspen Airport Business Center.

“We keep hearing that people want to learn more about planning,” said MRA representative Greg Shaffran.

The volunteer organization is happy to oblige. It has increased its winter and summer workshops to try to help people stay safe in their travels — whether that’s skiing and riding in the winter or climbing and hiking in the summer. It’s now holding four backcountry safety events per year.

Aspen was hit hard by avalanches last winter. Three local residents died, one near Green Mountain in Express Creek and two others on the Pearl Pass Road in Brush Creek drainage near Crested Butte.

MRA obviously wants to help reduce the community tragedies, Shaffran said. The December event will feature an exercise where five friends plan a backcountry ski tour. Shaffran will introduce the event and talk about route selection and navigation resources.

Brian Lazar, assistant director of Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will discuss avalanche conditions and applying them to terrain during planning. Debbie Kelly of MRA will discuss emergency response plans and group rescue gear. Famed Carbondale mountaineer Michael Kennedy will discuss group dynamics and the human factor. Rich Burkley, a longtime Aspen Skiing Co. executive, will discuss “sidecountry” access and concerns.

Shaffran noted that most avalanche accidents in the Aspen-Snowmass area occur in the sidecountry — backcountry terrain just outside ski area boundaries.

A Q&A session will be held after the presentations.

MRA has made changes that will allow it to vastly expand its capacity at public events. Vehicles will be moved out of the garage to accommodate more people. Light snacks and beverages will be provided starting at 5:30 p.m. The event is 6 to 7:30 p.m. The workshop also will be livestreamed on the MRA Facebook page.

“We want to grow these community events,” Shaffran said.

The targeted audience is everyone from newcomers planning their first backcountry excursions to savvy adventurers who are brushing up on their skills.

There has been an explosion in backcountry travel over the past decade or so. Shaffran said he has also become aware of a growing ethic for backcountry travelers to be prepared.

MRA also will hold its annual avalanche workshop in January. This will be the 35th annual event, which features classroom and field work. This winter, people who took the class last winter will assist the MRA team in teaching skills to attendees.

“The idea snowballs from there — they’re teaching people to teach,” Shaffran said.

The audience at the December backcountry-planning workshop will be encouraged to enroll in the avalanche workshop.


Thank you from the Aspen uphill community

Official opening day is around the corner but for those in the uphilling community who have been up Aspen Mountain lately, it feels like the season is already in full swing.

Big thanks to Aspen Mountain operations, the snowmakers, and especially Brad and the cat crew who managed to give us top to bottom groomed snow on Aspen Mountain, weeks before the lifts started spinning.

You didn’t have to groom a wide lane down Spar Gulch or Little Nell, or any of the cruisers off Ajax Express, but you did. It’s made things safer and much more fun, and on behalf of the uphilling community, I’d like to say thank you. We all appreciate it.

Ted Mahon


A good time to chill in Aspen

Citizens might like to know that 5:30 to 7 p.m. the second Thursday of every month is the safest time to be out and about town. The mentally unhinged will be huddled at climate change grief therapy and not available to bother you on the street.

Maurice Emmer


Visions of an aerial gondola over Aspen

The only way I know how to physically get those rubber-tired vehicles spewing greenhouse gases and clogging the roadways called cars and shuttles off the roads is with an aerial gondola.

Aerials are easy to build, easy land-use approval, easy to operate, cheap to build and maintain, and kids and families and worker bees that don’t need a dump truck never have to wait for a bus.

Many thanks for the Airport FOCUS Committee for recommending aerial be looked as part of a future multi-modal solution.

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, I would like to give thanks to Pitkin County Manger Jon Peacock for opening up the airport discussion on two topics — terminal replacement and the runway expansion — with the support of the Pitkin County commissioners.

Happy early Thanksgiving!

Toni Kronberg