Majority of terrain open for Highlands’ bonus weekend

by Dorothy Atkins, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

About 90 percent of the ski terrain on Aspen Highlands opens today for a bonus weekend of skiing, thanks to recent snowfall.
Aspen Skiing Co. earlier this month announced that Highlands would be open for an additional weekend due to consistent end-of-the-season snowfall, which brought over three feet of snow during a seven-day period. The mountain was scheduled to close April 21.
Overall, SkiCo expects to open 922 of the mountain’s 1,028 acres, with about 19 of Highlands’ 119 trails closed. All of the beginning and intermediate runs, and about 82 percent of the expert terrain will be accessible.
Expert runs toward the base of the mountain with sparse coverage will be closed, said Jeff Hanle, SkiCo spokesperson. Those include Turks Delight, Moment Chutes, Lower Stein, Finale and expert terrain under the Thunder Bowl lift. In Highland Bowl, B-fore, Grahamster’s, Mosh Pit, Ball Room, Y-12 and Hot Y’s will be off limits to skiers and snowboarders. SkiCo also has shut down the Thunder Bowl lift until next winter, Hanle added.
Keeping Highlands open an extra weekend requires on-mountain staff, including ski patrollers, lifties and snow-cat drivers, to put in extra hours, Hanle said.

 Chris Council/Aspen Daily News
Thomas Bakonyi soaks up the sun on Friday morning while talking to his colleague Devin Pool (not pictured) at the base of the Exhibition lift at Aspen Highlands. The two lift operators were on standby to start the lift as needed for ski patrol who were working on the mountain in preparation for today’s re-opening.

Highlands employees took a few days off at the beginning of the week and had an employee ski day Monday. Most are heading back to work this weekend, he said. SkiCo also is pulling in some of its salaried management staff from the other mountains to fill in where need be, Hanle said.
Although he expects some skiers celebrating this weekend, SkiCo doesn’t have any formal festivities planned because Highlands hosted its annual closing party this past Sunday, Hanle said. As far as SkiCo’s concerned, Sunday is just going to be another ski day, he said. There are no plans to further extend the mountain’s closing.
SkiCo is offering discounted day passes at $40 for a ski day this weekend. Parking at Highlands will cost $10, and shuttles between Buttermilk and Highlands will be running, along with a direct bus from Rubey Park, as well as the Castle Maroon bus, which stops at Aspen Valley Hospital on its way to Highlands. Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro and the Merry-Go-Round, both mid-mountain restaurants, will be open. There will be drink specials at the Merry-Go-Round and a band will play live music there 12-3 p.m. today and Sunday.
SkiCo doesn’t have any expectations on the number of people who will choose to ski this weekend, Hanle said. This late in the season it’s hard to tell who will be in the mood for skiing and who will want to do other spring outdoor activities, he said.
“I can’t imagine it’s going to be like closing day last Sunday,” Hanle said of skier visits. “We just don’t know who will come and who still wants to ski.”