Aspen Mountain snow still drawing skiers
May 12, 2011
ASPEN – More than 70 inches of snow have fallen on Aspen Mountain since it closed for the season on April 10 – making it a magnet for skiers who still want to make their turns and raising safety concerns among Aspen Skiing Co. officials.
More than 7 inches had fallen on the slopes by early afternoon Wednesday, with plenty more falling after an assessment by a Skico employee.
The latest deluge had Skico expecting another “surge” of skiers using climbing skins or snowmobiles to get up the mountain so they could ski down Thursday, company spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Skico is urging adventurers to use caution since the ski patrol hasn’t worked the slopes in a month.
“It’s essentially reverted to wild conditions,” Hanle said. “Treat it like the backcountry.”
The never-ending snow this spring has Skico officials considering firing up the chairlifts on Aspen Mountain again for novelty skiing, perhaps on Memorial Day weekend.
“Yeah, it’s a possibility,” Hanle said.
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No decision will be made until closer to Memorial Day, which is 18 days away. Extended warm weather could melt any hopes for a late re-opening, Hanle noted.
The “violent return” of winter spurred the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) to raise the avalanche danger on Wednesday.
One danger is the addition of all the new snow to a snowpack with wet, saturated weak layers, which will not handle the load well, CAIC reported.
A second problem is the cornices that have formed at the top of ridges. “Cornices are huge, bigger than many have seen them in many years,” CAIC reported. “Falling cornices will make excellent avalanche triggers, and you will need to treat them with a great deal of respect for the remainder of the season.”
In the long term, the deep snowpacks and large cornices will continue to present problems later this spring. “A rapid transition to above freezing temperatures, or a sustained period of warm temperatures could produce very large and destructive avalanches,” the CAIC said.
The full report is available at avalanche.state.co.us/index.php.