ajax opening

Aspen Mountain is dressed in white in this photo from February 2021. Ajax will make its debut for the 2022-23 season on Saturday with 174 acres. Snowmass will open with 78 acres. 

Skiers and riders will get top-to-bottom turns on 174 acres on Aspen Mountain when the ski area opens five days early on Saturday, while Snowmass will open with 78 acres, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Tuesday.

It will be the best opening for Aspen Mountain since the 2018-19 debut, when it opened with 180 acres.

“It’s great to open with this much terrain this early in the season,” said SkiCo Vice President of Communications Jeff Hanle. “Getting Aspen Mountain top to bottom is a tremendous feat made possible by our snowmaking and trails crews.”

The trails scheduled to be opened on Ajax on Saturday are Buckhorn Cutoff and Buckhorn Trail, Copper but not Copper Bowl, Silver Bell, Deer Park, Dipsy Doodle, Easy Chair, Lazy Boy, Midnight, North American, One & Two Leaf, Pumphouse Hill, Silver Dip, Spar Gulch and Little Nell. The Silver Queen Gondola and Ajax Express will operate along with the Gent’s Ridge chair, but there won’t be skiing beyond the bottom terminal of Gent’s Ridge.

At Snowmass, the Village Express lift will operate to midway and the Elk Camp Gondola will operate in full. The Elk Camp Meadows beginners’ lift will spin as will the Sky Cab on Fanny Hill.

The trails scheduled to open are Upper Scooper, Lower and Upper Hal’s, Upper Velvet, Fanny Hill and Pocket Park on lower Fanny Hill, and Elk Camp Meadows.

The Sundeck Restaurant will be open for food and drinks at Aspen Mountain and Elk Camp Restaurant will open at Snowmass.

Season passes can be used at the ski areas. The Premier Pass, also known as a full-season pass, can be used for the extra days. The Valley Pass and the one- and two-day per week passes can be used by paying a $29 extension fee prior to Thanksgiving. An adult single-day lift ticket will be $76.

The Ikon Pass through SkiCo’s corporate cousin, Alterra Mountain Co., can be used with a $57 extension fee.

Aspen Highlands will stick to its opening on Dec. 10 and Buttermilk will open Dec. 17. Buttermilk’s opening was intentionally delayed this season to allow for base area improvements to be completed.

Ample early season snow combined with cold temperatures for snowmaking allowed SkiCo to get in a good position to start the season. Forecasting service Aspen Weather reported that Snowmass and Aspen Highlands have received more than 60 inches of snow since Oct. 23. In addition, cold temperatures have allowed SkiCo to blow snow well into daytime on some days in November.

Uphill traffic on designated routes is permitted across all four mountains with a valid uphill pass and a visible strap displaying a 2022-2023 sticker, which can be picked up at any ticket office. The uphill pass remains at $69 this season. Uphilling isn’t allowed on Aspen Mountain during operating hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.