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Skiing Opens In Aspen And Snowmass This Week With Precautions In Place

Alex Hager
Aspen Public Radio
Aspen Mountain and Snowmass will open for skiing and riding, mostly on man-made snow. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk will have limited openings around the Thanksgiving holiday, and are scheduled for full openings in December.

For the first time since Coronavirus ended the season early in March, lifts will be taking skiers and snowboarders up Aspen Mountain and Snowmass this week. Both mountains are set to open on Wednesday, but pandemic safety measures will make the experience look a bit different.

On-mountain restaurants will be limited to 25% capacity or 50 people maximum in accordance with “orange” level restrictions on the state’s COVID-19 dial. Mike Kaplan, Aspen Skiing Company CEO, encouraged people to use outdoor picnic tables and restrooms.

Other protocols include six feet of distance and mandatory face coverings in lift lines.

In a Pitkin County community meeting on Thursday, Kaplan said people should not let their opening day excitement make for an unsafe day on the mountain.

“Be thoughtful about where you ski and when you ski,” he said. “Make sure these opening weekends that you’re helping to social distance. If you’ve been out there and you start to see a line form, maybe that’s time to head down or take a break.”

The skiing itself will likely be limited to man-made snow after one of Colorado’s driest years on record has left the mountains largely bare. SkiCo is debuting top-to-bottom snowmaking on Aspen Mountain this year.

Many of the state’s mountains, including those owned by Vail Resorts, require skiers to use a reservation system to book time on the mountain – an effort aimed at controlling capacity. Kaplan announced on Thursday that such a system is “likely” to be rolled out sometime in the next few weeks. SkiCo originally announced that it was developing a reservation system, but did not initially plan to implement one. Now, soaring virus rates in the Roaring Fork Valley may necessitate one, Kaplan said.

Aspen Highlands will open limited terrain on ThunderBowl and Golden Horn for Thanksgiving Day, then close for private race training use until reopening to the public on December 12.

Buttermilk will open on December 18 for general use, but the Panda Peak beginners lift will be open Nov. 26 through Nov. 28.

Sunlight Mountain in Glenwood Springs is scheduled to open December 11.

Alex is KUNC's reporter covering the Colorado River Basin. He spent two years at Aspen Public Radio, mainly reporting on the resort economy, the environment and the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, he covered the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery for KDLG in Dillingham, Alaska.
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