Corduroy

Early morning corduroy at Snowmass Ski Area.

After the lifts stop turning, the waiting game begins. Sure, you store your skis and pull out your bikes and other gear to enjoy the mountain activities that come with summer, but it’s always with an eye toward the opening day of the next ski season. While you soak up the warm weather and work tirelessly to stay in peak après shape, the team at Aspen-Snowmass never stops. “Every summer we’re doing repairs,” says Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications for Aspen Skiing Company. “We’re up on the lifts doing regular maintenance, replacement and recertification. We need to have all of it done before the snow flies.”

On-mountain maintenance is like the work you’re only able to do around your house during the summer: Crews mow grass, pick rocks, clear brush and update or refurbish vehicles and structures.

What’s unlike your summer chores is that these crews are working on more than 5,500 acres of skiable terrain, 630 acres of snowmaking, 15 restaurants, 41 lifts, 27 snowcats, 103 snowmobiles and 275 hotels, blockhouses and cabins, across four mountains.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and after six months of daily operations, the lifts are the first to get attention. “The lift-maintenance team works year-round,” says Katie Ertl, SkiCo’s senior vice president of mountain operations. “As soon as we stop the lifts and the snow clears, we can get better access. That’s when we can start pulling things apart like shift trains and gearboxes. Things that need to be maintained or repaired to get us up and running for another year.”

While you’re frolicking in the dancing fountain and hiking with friends, the Summer Parks Crew (made up of patrollers, groomers and the lift-maintenance team), handles the trails and “critical grooming.” “Starting in late summer, we start mowing,” says Hanle. “We’ve got big tractors with blades on them, and we just mow the runs so the air pockets are gone and the brush is even. So, when winter comes, the snow lays flat on the runs rather than in clumps. It’s just like cutting your grass.”

Once the slopes are cleaned and the temperatures drop, the team at Aspen-Snowmass starts getting serious. After what must be a classic locker-room pep talk, the crew puts on their game faces. “As soon as we get close to opening, you have snow guns running, snowcats pushing out snow and ski patrol setting lines and making sure signage is out for safety,” says Ertl. “By the time we open, we’ve gone through massive amounts of training for lift operators, ski patrol, ski school and guest services. And when we open up that first morning, our goal is to be at our best from the beginning until closing day. Then we start all over.”

You may not be able to keep your lawn green, your car in tip-top shape or fix things around your house, and that’s OK. You just keep working on your squats and afternoon cocktails. The Aspen-Snowmass crew has you covered. And we sure feel lucky that they do.

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JT Welden

Aspen Mountain Mountain Manager

Ski or ride?

Ski

First job at Aspen Mountain?

Lift operations at Aspen Mountain

Level of difficulty at Aspen Mountain?

Intermediate to expert

Who will enjoy your mountain?

All types. There is something here for everyone.

Most unique part of Aspen Mountain?

The history.

What will a skier/rider remember when he or she leaves Aspen Mountain?

Wow! This place is really big for 675 acres.

Personal favorite aspect of Aspen Mountain?

The easygoing vibe and proximity to town.

Hot tip for anyone skiing/riding Aspen Mountain:

Explore the mountain on your own first and then get someone in the know to really show you around.

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Kevin Hagerty

Aspen Highlands Mountain Manager

Ski or ride?

Ski

First job at Aspen Highlands?

Ski rental technician

Level of difficulty at Aspen Highlands?

Intermediate to expert

Who will enjoy your mountain?

Those looking to experience breathtaking views and challenging terrain with a hike.

Most unique part of Aspen Highlands Area?

The [Highland] Bowl to [Willow Creek] Bistro.

What will a skier/rider remember when he or she leaves Aspen Highlands?

The incredible terrain in the Highland Bowl.

Personal favorite aspect of Aspen Highlands?

The people.

Hot tip for anyone skiing/riding Aspen Highlands:

Hire a ski guide or take the ambassador tour on Wednesday up the Bowl.

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Travis Benson

Buttermilk Mountain Manager

Ski or ride?

Ski

First job at Buttermilk?

Snowcat operator

Level of difficulty at Buttermilk?

Beginner to expert

Who will enjoy your mountain?

A wide variety, from experienced park and pipe rides to families looking to explore the sport together.

Most unique part of Buttermilk Area?

The family environment of our employees.

What will a skier/rider remember when he or she leaves Buttermilk?

A great outdoor experience and a sense that the service was top of the line.

Personal favorite aspect of Buttermilk?

Both the employees and the guests who make this mountain so special.

Hot tip for anyone skiing/riding Buttermilk:

Make sure to experience all sides of the mountain—our ski school, the food and the Cliffhouse and Bumps—but most importantly, the view from the top of the mountain that is unmatched.

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Susan Cross

Snowmass Mountain Manager

Ski or ride?

Ski

First job at Aspen-Snowmass?

Skier services representative at a bus stop

Level of difficulty at Snowmass

Beginner to expert

Who will enjoy your mountain?

A happy family! There’s something for everyone.

Most unique part of Snowmass Ski Area?

Burnt Mountain because it’s new, requires a hike and is fun finding your way around.

What will a skier/rider remember when he or she leaves Snowmass?

Outstanding guest service from employees who love what they’re doing.

Personal favorite aspect of Snowmass?

The size and scope, including off-mountain activities. It’s more than just skiing now.

Hot tip for anyone skiing/riding Snowmass:

Take advantage of all we have to offer at Snowmass, from the varied terrain to the amazing on-mountain restaurants to the non-skiing activities, we have something for everyone and we want you to experience it all.