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The environment desk at Aspen Public Radio covers issues in the Roaring Fork Valley and throughout the state of Colorado including water use and quality, impact of recreation, population growth and oil and gas development. APR’s Environment Reporter is Elizabeth Stewart-Severy.

SkiCo braces for dry conditions, possible closures

Courtesy of Christy Severy

Aspen Skiing Company canceled the Full Moon Dinner that was scheduled at Buttermilk’s Cliffhouse Restaurant on Tuesday, as safety concerns are growing on area mountains.

In the week since the last snowfall, rocks, dirt and grass are slowly making gains on the ski runs. Ski Co’s Jeff Hanle said this does not bode well for skiing or riding by moonlight.

“We don’t have the snow to make it a great experience for people, to make it safe to ski down in the dark with your headlamp,” he said.

Daytime skiing is likely to see impacts, too, especially on Buttermilk, which sits at a lower elevation than the other Aspen ski areas. Ski Co doesn’t have the ability to make snow up top, and that could lead to more restrictions.


“We’re not going to close Buttermilk," Hanle said. "We could lose top to bottom skiing.”

That could happen this week. Earlier in the season, skiing at Buttermilk was limited to Panda Peak.

Hanle said ski patrol will close runs across all four mountains if they become dangerous. The Big Burn on Snowmass closed after winds stripped much of the coverage over the holiday weekend.

Snowcat crews are also working on “snow farming,” that is, moving snow to cover thin areas.

“They’re out searching for snow and trying to move it on to open runs,” Hanle said.

Next week, Snowmass will host the U.S. Grand Prix, an Olympic-qualifier for both the U.S. Freeski and Snowboard teams. Hanle said the slopestyle course is ready and the superpipe is close. The competition runs from Jan. 10-14.


Aspen native Elizabeth Stewart-Severy is excited to be making a return to both the Red Brick, where she attended kindergarten, and the field of journalism. She has spent her entire life playing in the mountains and rivers around Aspen, and is thrilled to be reporting about all things environmental in this special place. She attended the University of Colorado with a Boettcher Scholarship, and graduated as the top student from the School of Journalism in 2006. Her lifelong love of hockey lead to a stint working for the Colorado Avalanche, and she still plays in local leagues and coaches the Aspen Junior Hockey U-19 girls.
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