Aspen Ski Resort

Skiers, Riders Line up for Highland Bowl

imagesSkiers and snowboarders showed up to Aspen Highlands in force Tuesday after a massive snowstorm created some of the best conditions of the season.  The parking structure at Aspen Highlands filled up quickly causing city officials to direct motorists back to Aspen to take the free bus.

Photos of the 12,392-foot Highland Bowl circulated in social media showing an impressive procession of skiers and snowboarders snaking up it with wisecracks about town being empty because all of the locals were seemingly hiking and skiing the bowl. Other locals shared photos of an avalanche that slid sometime Monday night in nearby Maroon Bowl, which is out of bounds.

Aspen Highlands was originally scheduled to shut down for the season this Sunday but the Aspen Skiing Co. has decided to reopen the mountain the following weekend, April 27 and April 28, in appreciation of their customers and the bountiful April snow.

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Colorado Ski Visits Down 11%

colorado-ski-map-620x406According to The Colorado Springs Business Journal ski visits across the state of Colorado are down 11.5% so far this season, compared to the same period last year. The Journal sites the lack of snow and late openings for many Colorado resorts as major factors in the drop of skier traffic.

“First period is largely fueled by in-state visitors, and an unseasonably warm October and November kept many Coloradans from tallying lots of ski days” said Melanie Mills, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, a nonprofit industry group that represents several of the state’s largest ski resorts. “Snow did not arrive in earnest until mid-December.”

Despite the slow start, ski areas saw a strong holiday period with conditions more in line with an average year. The New Year started with storms, which bodes well for the rest of the season, she said.

“There is some real buoyancy in the indicators for the months ahead. February and March hotel bookings are pacing ahead of last year by 3.5 percent and 8.6 percent respectively,” Mills said. “Carnival and Easter are well-timed for ski visitation this year and Colorado’s traditional snowier months lie ahead.”.

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January Approaches 20-Year Record for Frigid Days in Aspen

imagesThis month will grab honors as one of Aspen’s most frigid Januarys in at least 20 years if the mercury plunges below zero again in the next 10 days.  This month has chilled skiers, frozen pipes, tortured cars and chattered teeth with lows at or below zero on 10 days so far, according to records tracked at the Aspen Water Plant.
This cold snap featured two periods with consecutive subzero days — Jan. 3 through 5 and Jan. 12 through 16. Subzero weather isn’t unusual for Aspen in January, but it doesn’t usually strike for this many days. Records from the observers at the water plant show that since 1994 only two years came close to matching this icebox performance. There were 11 days with temperatures at or below zero in January 2008, including five in a row. There were nine days with the super-low temperatures in 2007, according to the water plant’s records.  Last year there were only four days of subzero temperatures in January. In 2005, there was none.
The first half of the winter will be remembered as much for being dry as it was for being cold. The snowpack in the upper Roaring Fork River basin fell below 40 percent of average Monday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snowpack is measured at an automated Snotel site near Grizzly Reservoir, roughly 15 miles east-southeast of Aspen. It should typically have 8.7 inches of water in the amount of snow at this time of year. The snow-water equivalent was only 3.4 inches Monday, making it 39 percent of average, according to the Snotel site.  The total amount of precipitation — snow and rain — at the site is only 53 percent of average since Oct. 1.

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2012-13 Skier Visits Creep Up by 4 Percent in Colorado

Arapahoe Basin Ski AreaColorado’s ski areas hosted 11.4 million skier visits last season, a nearly 4 percent increase over the previous season’s 11 million.

The 11.4 million mark, while an increase over the dismal and dry 2011-12 season, is the third-slowest season in the past decade, and the annual increase falls well below the national spike of 11 percent.

Colorado Ski Country USA, the trade group that represents 21 of the state’s 25 ski areas, reported 6.4 million skier visits in 2012-13, an increase of 3.8 percent, or 235,000 skier visits, over 2011-12. Vail Resorts’ four Colorado ski areas — Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek — saw about 5 million skier visits.

Colorado’s 2012-13 season started slowly, with weak snow and local skiers staying home. Storms in late December and late spring fueled a rebound in visitation. But it wasn’t enough to pull the state closer to the 12 million-skier-visit benchmark it reached in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2011.

Declining skier visits does not necessarily correlate to decreasing revenues, as evidenced by ski areas that saw increased revenues in 2011-12, which saw record declines in visitation.

Aspen Skier Visits Up 3 Percent Last Winter

indexSkier visits across Aspen Skiing Co.’s four area mountains were up 3 percent in the 2012-13 season over the previous year’s numbers, while skiing across the state as a whole rose 3.9 percent. The skier-visit data was announced Friday at the annual season-ending meeting for Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade group representing 21 resorts.

The group, which does not represent Vail Resorts properties, reported there were 6.4 million visits to its member resorts last winter. With the Vail numbers included, Colorado played host to an estimated 11.5 million skier visits, which is defined as one person skiing or snowboarding for any part of a day at a mountain resort.

SkiCo spokesperson Jeff Hanle didn’t have the exact number of skier visits at SkiCo mountains, but he said it was in the neighborhood of 1.3 million. He termed the numbers as “positive news.” “A lot of people look at the ski industry and say, ‘Oh, you know, it’s not a growth industry and you’re going to be struggling,’” Hanle said. “This shows that snow trumps everything.”

Lackluster early-season snowfall — which caused some resorts to open late — gave way to better conditions over the holidays, followed by a classic Colorado spring with heavy snow through April. Due to strong conditions, SkiCo kept Aspen Highlands open for a bonus weekend in late April, and reopened the top of Aspen Mountain for skiing on Memorial Day weekend. With strong domestic business over spring break, Hanle said it “felt like the good old days” in March in Aspen.

Vail and Snowmass Expanding

In anticipation of its 50th winter of operations, Vail is completing installation of a new gondola, using the same alignment as the original gondola when operations began in 1962. The similarities end there, however. Each car on this new gondola will have heated leather seats and Wi-Fi access. It’s also the fastest of its type in the world.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service approval of a ski area expansion at Breckenridge has been appealed by two groups, reports the Summit Daily News. One of the appeals contends that habitat for lynx will be fragmented by the ski area operations.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will be allowed to go forward with its 230-acre expansion in an area of Snowmass called Burnt Mountain. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Wyoming group was out of order in its objection and should have noted its argument at the proper time. The expansion will make Snowmass the second largest ski area in Colorado, behind Vail.


New Backcountry Hut Stunning

The man who was instrumental in expanding one of the renowned backcountry ski-hut systems surrounding Aspen was honored Thursday with completion of a new hut that bears his nickname.

Opa’s new hut is stunning. It’s tucked into a granite-lined niche at 12,000 feet. While standing on the expansive deck facing due south, it only takes a subtle turn to see it from Grizzly Peak east of Aspen to Taylor Peak, which looms to the hut’s west. Jagged peaks are planted everywhere between.

The hut is about 6.5 miles southeast of Ashcroft and about 1.5 miles southeast of the summit of Taylor Pass. It’s roughly half way between the Friends Hut and the Goodwin-Green Hut.

“When I look at the system, I think of this as the center of the web,” said Hawk Greenway, longtime manager of the Alfred A. Braun Hut System. Opa’s Taylor Hut is located within 4.5 to six miles of five other huts in the system, so it will be integrated into multiday trips, he said.

Like all huts in the Braun system, Opa’s won’t be for the casual backcountry traveler. Nearly all the routes to Braun huts cross big avalanche paths. The huts also can be difficult to find. There are no trail signs.

Opa’s hut is burrowed into a granite outcropping. It’s invisible from the northwest until travelers are upon it. The most direct route during the summer, via Express Creek Road and another forest route from the summit of Taylor Pass, most definitely isn’t a route backcountry skiers will want to take because of avalanche danger, said Greenway and David Swersky, a member of the hut system’s board of directors.

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Colorado Resorts Welcome Early Snowfall on Upper Slopes

Fall is definitely in the air in Colorado’s high country … and winter, too.

The accompanying image reveals spectacular fall colors in the Aspen-Snowmass region, but also a fresh dusting of snow that blanketed the upper slopes early Monday.

Snow and a mixture of snow and rain fell throughout parts of Colorado, and resorts were quick to spread the news.

“If this is a sign of things to come, you better dust off the skis now and wear your boots to watch the Broncos’ game tonight,” Jeff Hanle, spokesman for Aspen-Snowmass, said in a news release.

The Broncos are playing the Falcons on Monday Night Football in Atlanta, but the comment shows the level excitement generated by the first tangible snowfall of the season in Colorado, arriving about two months before most resorts expect to open for skiing and snowboarding.

The Denver Post reported: “Snow acknowledgments were passed along by Colorado Ski Country USA, Loveland Ski Area, Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park Resort and Copper Mountain, among other ski areas and resorts.”
Some of the resorts received as much as an inch of snow, mostly above 11,000 feet, which qualifies as a significant dusting.

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Alpine Ski Racing 2012/13 World Cup Schedule

The 2013 FIS 2012/13 World Cup alpine ski racing schedule shows the overwhelming number of competition events are, as usual, being held throughout western Europe.

Here in the states we get our usual men’s stop in Beaver Creek and the women in Aspen but that’s it.  Actually, last year we had the women in Beaver Creek but that was a replacement for the cancelled Val d’Isere competition.

World Cup ski competition is huge in Europe and whether it is a scheduled daytime race or one of the few night events you can catch at least the WC race, if not the training runs, on TV. Of course, the live crowd of spectators is enormous and they are all in a frenzy rooting for their favorite racers, ringing cowbells, partying hardy – and spending a lot of Euros in the local community.

Click here to read the rest of the article and find the link to the 2013 schedule.

Colorado Ski Areas Likely to Start Making Snow This Week

In what sounds like good news for ski resorts eager to start making snow, the National Weather Service is forecasting a strong cold front to drop out of Canada mid-week, with overnight lows dropping into the teens and 20s starting Wednesday night.

That’s plenty cold to fire up the snow guns, which have already been moved into position at Arapahoe Basin and Loveland, the two resorts that traditionally compete for opening day honors. Starting Wednesday, nighttime lows should stay well below freezing, especially at the higher elevations.

A similar weather pattern prevailed last year, with a significant snowfall dusting the higher terrain around the Continental Divide Oct. 8. Arapahoe Basin opened a few days later, on Oct. 12.

Tuesday looks to be the nicest day of the week if you like sunny and warm weather, with highs climbing into to 60s. By Wednesday, highs will only reach the mid 50s as cooler air rushes down from central Canada. At this point, there looks to be just enough moisture with the system to trigger a few showers that could change over to snow down to valley levels Wednesday night and into Thursday.

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