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Aspen Mountain opens for the season with 180 acres of skiable terrain

Austin Colbert / Aspen Times
People wait in line to be among the first up Aspen Mountain for opening day on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen Mountain’s early opening on Saturday was probably enough of a good thing. But a bonus 50 acres of skiable terrain was a welcome addition.

“So excited. My quote is, ‘Woohoo!’ How’s that?” said Aspen Skiing Co. president and CEO Mike Kaplan shortly after the Silver Queen Gondola opened for the 2018-19 season. “We are always cautiously optimistic, just because you never know what tomorrow brings. But man, living in the moment here, it feels good so far. We are excited and I think we are off to a great start and I think it will be a great season.”

Aspen Mountain had originally been scheduled to open Thanksgiving Day, as it does each year, but a surprisingly snowy preseason combined with cold temperatures ideal for snowmaking allowed for plenty of turns to be made Saturday, five days earlier than planned.

When the early opening was announced this week, 130 acres was promised, with all 3,200 vertical feet available. When the ropes were dropped Saturday morning, 180 acres were available with the Nell, Bell and Ajax Express chairlifts all running.

“It was kind of the perfect storm, right? Cold temps — we were basically running snowmaking straight through from midnight on Halloween,” said J.T. Welden, who took over as the Aspen Mountain manager in the spring. “It was really that storm last Sunday, a week ago from last Sunday, that put us over the edge. And that was an overachiever. Forecast 2 to 4 (inches) and we picked up almost a foot up top.”

Beginning Monday, Welden said they will shutdown the Bell and Nell lifts and open the Gents Ridge lift for the season. After that, snowmaking won’t be of much help and natural snow will need to fall for more terrain to be open. The good news it that snow is in the forecast for later in the week.

Snowmass is scheduled to open Thursday as originally planned, while Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to open Dec. 8.


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