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Getting a ski jump on things: Aspen Snowmass to open earlier than planned

Snowmaking machines blow snow onto the Little Nell run at Aspen Mountain on Friday.
Brent Gardner-Smith
Aspen Public Radio
Snowmaking machines blow snow onto the Little Nell run at Aspen Mountain on Friday. Aspen Skiing Co. announced that Ajax and Snowmass Ski Area will start loading the lifts five days earlier than planned, with opening day now set for Nov. 19.

Aspen Skiing Co. will start spinning the lifts at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area five days earlier than planned, with opening day moved to Nov. 19.

Early-season storms have already dropped more than 3 feet of snow in some locations on the mountains, and cool temperatures made for favorable snowmaking conditions, according to a Skico news release.

Ajax and Snowmass were originally scheduled to open on Thanksgiving, Nov. 24.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are still set to open on their originally scheduled dates: Dec. 10 and Dec. 17, respectively.

Opening-day terrain, lifts and ticket prices will be announced next week.

Katie Ertl is Skico’s senior vice president of mountain operations.

“We are off to a great start," she said in the press release. "The teams are working hard to get ready for an exciting early opening.”

The excitement and favorable conditions for the early opening are a far cry from last year’s preseason attitudes and coverage, when dry weather left something to be desired on the slopes leading up to Thanksgiving.

Last November, Ajax opened with 104 acres and Snowmass opened with just seven acres at Elk Camp Meadows. (With full coverage, Aspen Mountain has 675 skiable acres and Snowmass has more than 3,000.)

At the time, Skico officials attributed the limited coverage that was available to an expanded snowmaking system on Aspen Mountain and a surprise storm that delivered several inches to the mountains just in the nick of time.

The Sundeck will be open on Aspen Mountain, and the Elk Camp restaurant will be open at Snowmass for dining. Live music is scheduled at both locations from noon to 3 p.m.

Ski and snowboard lessons will be available.

Uphill traffic on designated routes is still permitted across all four mountains with a valid uphill pass and Skico-provided armband displaying a 2022-23 sticker.

But starting Saturday, uphilling will not be allowed at Aspen Mountain during operating hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. That policy remains in place throughout the ski season.

The Highland Bowl and Temerity at Aspen Highlands are closed to uphill traffic at all times to allow crews “to safely continue early-season preparation efforts” on the steep terrain. Bootpacking is already in progress to prepare the Highland Bowl for the winter season.

The Golden Horn trail in the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club race-training area at Highlands will be closed to the public for all uphilling, skiing and riding.

The National Weather Service is forecasting sunny skies and chilly temperatures this week, with daytime highs in Aspen in the 30s and low 40s and nighttime lows in the teens. In Snowmass Village, expect colder weather, with daytime highs in the 20s and 30s.

More snow could be on the way next week, with a chance of snow showers forecast Sunday night and Monday night into Tuesday.

Kaya Williams is the Edlis Neeson Arts and Culture Reporter at Aspen Public Radio, covering the vibrant creative and cultural scene in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. She studied journalism and history at Boston University, where she also worked for WBUR, WGBH, The Boston Globe and her beloved college newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Williams joins the team after a stint at The Aspen Times, where she reported on Snowmass Village, education, mental health, food, the ski industry, arts and culture and other general assignment stories.