Opening day will greet skiers this Thanksgiving with less terrain than in recent years.
Due to a lack of adequate snowfall on the top of Aspen Mountain, where there is no snowmaking capability, skiers will be limited to riding the Little Nell and Bell Mountain chairlifts until more snow falls, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced Monday. Skiing will be on the Deer Park, Spar Gulch and Little Nell runs, where mountain operators have been making snow over the last two weeks.
“We are one storm away from top-to-bottom skiing,” SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle wrote in an email. “So, we’ll have an old school (pre-1986) opening.”
Hanle was referencing the 1986 opening of the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain. While the gondola won’t do skiers much good on opening day this year, it will still operate to service the Sundeck, which opens on Thursday. Foot passengers will be able to ride the gondola for free on Thursday only.
“When you’re running a business at the whims of Mother Nature you do what you can,” Hanle said, noting that there have been years when opening day skiing was limited to Little Nell only. “It’s not going to be the best opening day ever and it’s not going to be the worst.”
The calendar also puts Thanksgiving — which is the traditional opening day of the season here — at a particularly early date this year, Hanle noted.
Over at Snowmass Ski Area, skiing will be limited to Fanny Hill, with the Village Express chairlift open to midway. There also will be skiing at the beginner meadows area located at Elk Camp. The Elk Camp Gondola will be open, but skiers at the meadows will have to download. The new restaurant at Elk Camp will open as scheduled on Thanksgiving, and foot passengers will be able to take a free gondola ride on Thursday to check it out.
With a few additional days of snowmaking, more terrain openings on the Village Express lift, as well as skiing on the Big Burn, will be possible, Hanle said.
“We are fortunate to have world-class snowmaking and groomers out there,” Hanle said.
Between the two mountains, SkiCo expects to open between 125 and 150 acres, Hanle said. Lift ticket prices for opening day have not been announced yet, but will be discounted from regular season pricing, which put a daily lift ticket at $108 last season.
Aspen Highlands is scheduled to open Dec. 8, with Buttermilk opening Dec. 15.
Skiers in previous years have been able to ski the top of Aspen Mountain. Last year, opening day on Ajax consisted of skiing on 164 acres, including top-to-bottom skiing, while Snowmass opened with 160 acres. The year prior was one of the best opening days in memory with all of Bell Mountain open on Ajax and 805 acres open at Snowmass. In 2009, Snowmass opened with 400 acres and Ajax opened with 200 acres.
With temperatures in the 40s and 50s expected through the weekend, Hanle noted that the weather should be good for watching the World Cup racing that will take place on the Lift 1A side of Aspen Mountain on Saturday and Sunday.