Despite June standing on the doorstep, it remains very much winter at the top of Aspen Mountain. Between hidden powder stashes and the raging Sundeck party that was Saturday, it’s like closing day never ended even if it took place more than a month ago.
“There were a lot of people up there,” Aspen’s Jack Belcaster said. “The upper mountain is still very nice. Bit of a line, but you get through it pretty quickly and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves. Can’t go better for Memorial Day.”
With conditions still so prime — the reported 66-inch base is actually larger than the 60-inch base that existed on the April 21 closing day — Aspen Skiing Co. opened the upper portion of Ajax for skiing and riding for three days this weekend, beginning Saturday and going through Memorial Day on Monday.
The last time Aspen Mountain was open for Memorial Day weekend was 2017 — with around 130 acres available — that being the sixth time since 2008 it was possible. Lack of snow and warm spring weather made that impossible in 2018.
The mountain received 16 inches of new snow over roughly this past week, with a few more snowflakes still possible, leading to more winter-like skiing conditions than the spring slush usually found this time of year.
“We had snow, what, two days ago? And you can feel that,” Aspen’s Alex Swecker said. “It gets a little sticky, but it’s great. It was a beautiful day.”
According to http://www.onthesnow.com, Aspen Mountain is one of four ski areas open this weekend in Colorado, the others being Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge and Purgatory. Breckenridge recently announced it had extended its season to weekends through June 9, while A-Basin will remain open until at least the weekend of June 14-16.
There are 130 acres available for play this weekend in Aspen, centered on the Ajax Express chairlift. Officially speaking, there is no top-to-bottom skiing and everyone is asked to download on the Silver Queen Gondola.
However, ski town culture wasn’t necessarily created by people following the rules. Swecker was among more than a handful of diehards who opted to take the hard way down, which included a bit of hiking and rock hopping as they took Aspen Mountain’s full 3,200-foot, top-to-bottom route to the base.
“Saw a bunch of other people doing it from the gondola on my way up and I just don’t like taking the gondola down,” Swecker said. “It’s a little muddy. I tried to ride through the grass with my board, but that didn’t work out as well as I hoped.”
Saturday was a warm, sunny bluebird day on the mountain, and today is expected to be the same. However, rain and snow could return to the area on Monday.
“You can definitely tell it’s getting a little patchy in places, but for the most part it’s still really good skiing this late in the season,” Belcaster said.
Ajax Express will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today and Monday. The gondola will operate until 4 p.m. for downloading and non-skiers. The Sundeck Restaurant will be open for food and beverages from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Summer operations also are underway on Aspen Mountain so sightseeing tickets will be available for $27 per day or $32 for the entire weekend.
For skiing and riding, anyone who had a premier pass last season can ski free. Any child 3 and younger gets a free ticket. Children 6 and younger who were passholders last season also ski free.
Other passholders from the 2018-19 season will pay $27 for a lift ticket for skiing.
The ticket price is $54 for people who weren’t passholders last season.
Anyone wanting to attend the celebration of life memorial Monday for Aspen’s Sam Coffey can ride the gondola for free. Coffey, a well-known local skier, died last week while vacationing in Mexico. The event is expected to start at 11 a.m. Monday on Richmond Ridge, just up from the gondola building.