The local buzz about an early opening for Aspen Mountain turned out to be true.
The mountain will open to skiing and snowboarding on Saturday and Sunday, a little less than two weeks ahead of the scheduled Thanksgiving Day start, Aspen Skiing Co. said.
The mountain will close again from Nov. 18 to 22 and then reopen daily for the season starting Nov. 23, five days before the previously planned Nov. 28 kickoff. Snowmass Ski Area’s season also will start ahead of schedule on Nov. 23.
As for the upcoming weekend, Skico plans to open more than 200 acres of terrain on Aspen Mountain. Top-to-bottom skiing on Aspen Mountain will be available in both the Spar Gulch and Copper Bowl areas of the mountain, Skico said. The company plans to release more details on terrain later this week.
The Silver Queen Gondola and Ajax Express Chair will be running, along with the Sundeck and Ajax Tavern restaurants. All season passes will be valid. The company has not yet determined the walk-up lift-ticket rate, Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said.
Hanle said as long as nightly temperatures remain favorable, snowmaking will continue each day this week to improve conditions on the mountain’s middle and lower sections. Conditions at the top, which has an 18-inch base, are excellent, he said.
“The natural snowfall and cold temperatures that we’ve had will allow us to do this,” Hanle said. “We don’t foresee any extremely warm temperatures that can melt us out.”
Hanle said a crew skied the upper parts of Aspen Mountain on Saturday, “and they said it was phenomenal. It’s going to be good skiing.”
Sunday’s announcement of the early opening was welcome news to Bill Miller, longtime owner of Hamilton Sports in the Ajax Mountain Building on East Durant Avenue. He also is opening a new operation, Miller Sports on South Hunter Street, in the space formerly occupied by Performance Ski, which moved into the nearby Pomeroy Sports spot. Pomeroy Sports closed its doors in April when owner Tom Anderson retired.
Hamilton Sports is open, and Miller Sports will be ready for business on Nov. 21 or 22, Miller said.
“As a ski-shop owner in Aspen, the early opening is fantastic news,” he said. “It’s news that will get out to the rest of the country and the world. Early-season snow is very important to the town and its businesses, especially the ski shops.”
Miller recalled the subpar snowfall of Aspen’s past two winter seasons.
“We’re due for a good year,” he said. “We really needed this good early snow and an early opening to create a positive buzz for the upcoming season.”
Skico also announced that Thanksgiving weekend will feature special events, including the Thanksjibbing rail jam at Snowmass Base Village on Nov. 29 and the first Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert of the season featuring Elephant Revival on Nov. 30 at the base of Aspen Mountain.
No early opening is planned for Buttermilk or Aspen Highlands, where skiing and snowboarding will get underway on Dec. 14 as scheduled, Hanle said.