Magic number for more terrain on Highlands, Snowmass, Ajax is 8 inches
With Mother Nature apparently still on vacation here, the scheduled opening of Aspen Highlands on Saturday has been delayed until the area receives 8 inches or more of natural snowfall, the Aspen Skiing Co. announced on Tuesday.
SkiCo representatives have informed merchants at the base of the ski area who were gearing up for the Dec. 8 opening, as well as employees who were scheduled to be on mountain, that their services are not needed in a full capacity — yet.
“People are working but they are not working as much as they should,” said SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle, adding that many employees are in training.
A change in the weather pattern is expected this weekend, which could meet SkiCo’s goal, or exceed it.
Ryan Boudreau, forecaster at Aspenweather.net, was careful not to predict specific snowfall accumulations but said it’s supposed to start snowing on Friday and continue through the weekend. The storm is predicted to end on Monday, and another system is forecast to move in on Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We are very confident this pattern change will deliver good snow amounts for this weekend,” he said.
Boudreau also said snow is in the forecast for the next two to three weeks.
“We’re on a good cycle,” he said. “How long it sticks, we’re not sure.”
Hanle estimated that there is about a 6-inch base mid-mountain at Highlands. Currently, there isn’t enough of the white stuff for top-to-bottom skiing on the Exhibition chairlift. Snowmaking capability only goes to the top of the Jerome Bowl, which is the pitch below the first catwalk near the base of the mountain under the Exhibition chairlift.
“In spite of the best efforts of the team at Highlands we haven’t received enough snow to open to the public,” Hanle wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon announcing the delay.
However, more terrain will open on Aspen Mountain Thursday. Copper Bowl will open with the connection from the top of Bell chair via Copper and Lazy Boy.
Additionally, after hosting an FIS World Cup, NorAm races, the Canadian Men’s National Team and Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, the lower west side of Ajax reopens Thursday.
Lift 1A will serve Spring Pitch, Strawpile and E. 5th Ave. on a daily basis. The SkiCo will run a shuttle from gondola plaza to 1A until the snow connection is made on Tower 7 and 10 roads. Aspen Mountain also is 8 inches away from top-to-bottom skiing, according to the SkiCo.
At Snowmass, snowmaking efforts remain focused on Banzai Ridge, Coney Glade (the run), Lowdown Park and Funnel. Again, with good temperatures SkiCo is a few days away from these additions. Sneaky’s and Mick’s Gully on The Big Burn also are close to entering the mix of open terrain.
“We need another 8 inches or a foot to get us back on track,” Hanle said.