gondola

Silver Queen Gondola buckets sport evidence of some early-season snow Saturday, with snowblowers on full blast below. 

 

The gondolas and lifts will start turning Thursday morning, officially kicking off the 2021-22 winter season, Aspen Skiing Co. announced today.

Despite less-than-ideal snowmaking temperatures of late and little natural snowfall (5 inches in the last week, 4 of which fell in the last 48 hours since a SkiCo snow report was published Monday), Aspen Mountain will boast 50 acres of skiable terrain, accessed via the Ajax Express and Gent’s Ridge lifts. With a 12-inch base at Aspen Mountain, according to the snow report on Monday, skiers and riders will have to use the Silver Queen Gondola to download at the end of their day. Open trails will include portions of Silver Bell, Upper Copper, Lazy Boy and Deer Park. For those looking for beginner terrain, Snowmass will open with seven acres at the Elk Camp Meadows Learning Area, accessed by the Elk Camp Gondola. Lifts will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 

“We’re thrilled to be open,” said Katie Ertl, senior vice president of mountain operations at Aspen-Snowmass. “Amid a challenging start to winter, it has been great to see our teams come together to give us all the chance to get out on the hill and make some turns. We will continue to work hard to open more terrain as we get cold temperatures and more natural snow, and we’ll have a ton of people working out on the hill, so please be alert and aware out there.” 

The winter season means more than just skiing and snowboarding — on-mountain dining, too, will return, as well as opportunities to take in the views. The Sundeck will be open for food and beverage service, as will Elk Camp Restaurant in Snowmass. The Breathtaker Coaster will be up and running, and the climbing wall at Limelight Hotel Snowmass will be open in the afternoons.

Lift tickets for Aspen Mountain will be $149 for adults and $99 for children, teens and seniors. Sightseeing tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children, teens and seniors, a SkiCo press release notes, adding, “Access to Snowmass will be free on Thursday and Friday. Beginning Saturday, access to the Elk Camp Gondola will be $40 for adults and $30 for children, teens, and seniors for sightseeing, skiing and riding. For pricing and details on other on-mountain activities, visit aspensnowmass.com/visit/activities/winter.” 

This year, SkiCo celebrates its 75th anniversary, and it has planned a lineup of music and entertainment at the base and top of Aspen Mountain, as well as at Elk Camp Restaurant in Snowmass, with games and activities at Elk Camp. Parties require organizing, though, so Aspen Mountain will be closed to uphillers beginning today until Opening Day to allow for the preparations. Those with the gusto to get up there early can still do so, just at the other three mountains.

Early season conditions exist and there is heavy vehicle traffic with snowmaking, grooming and mountain prep underway on all mountains,” the press release warns. “Uphillers are advised to be alert and avoid heavily trafficked areas.For the most up-to-date uphill policies and information on purchasing an Uphill Pass, please visit aspensnowmass.com/policies/uphill-policy.” 

And of course, COVID-19 protocols are still in place, so masks will be required in all indoor facilities. Yes, that includes the gondola. For full COVID-19 procedures and information visit aspensnowmass.com/safety/covid19-operating-procedures.  

As for Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk, they are currently scheduled to open Dec. 11.