ASPEN, Colo. (AP) – Aspen is reporting brisk business this holiday weekend as it reopens slopes to skiers thanks to late-season snowpack.
Aspen Mountain saw some 1,700 skiers and snowboarders on 25 runs and 136 acres Saturday. The Aspen Daily News reported that the Aspen Skiing Co. will consider being open weekends into the summer.
Vice President of Mountain Operations Rich Burkley says the goal is to keep skiing through July 4. That was the late mark in 1995, another year of heavy snow.
How’s the late skiing? Not bad. Burkley said the base at the top of Aspen Mountain is about double what it was on New Year’s Day and described the conditions as “wall-to-wall snow.”
Skiers were impressed.
“It’s funny because you think it’s going to be a novelty,” skier Jeremy Wallace told the newspaper. “You just come out, going to socialize and for the party aspect and then you realize the conditions are actually favorable. There’s actually legitimate skiing.”
This year marks the third time in the last 20 or so years that Aspen Mountain opened for an early-summer second helping of skiing. The previous two times were in 2008 and 1995. Burkley said late skiing is fun — and almost inescapable when conditions permit.
“What would happen if we didn’t do it?” he said. “The amount of grief we would get” from the local community would outweigh any reason to stay closed.”
Most of the seasonal employees SkiCo relies on to run the lifts during the winter have long since departed. SkiCo President and CEO Mike Kaplan and other company executives manned the lift lines during the long weekend of skiing.
While lift-served May and June skiing is a rarity in these parts, summer skiing at the top of Independence Pass is an annual tradition.
The upper reaches of Highway 82, closed to traffic from November through to a few days before Memorial Day, welcome the faithful as soon as the gates open, providing access to high alpine backcountry lines at the top of the 12,095-foot-high road.
“Skiing ice cream while getting a sun tan,” is how Aspenite Patrick Sagal described the experience.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)