Cold front unlikely to keep skiers and riders off the mountain

Josie Taris
The Aspen Times
The NWS forecasts low temperatures and high winds over through Friday across Colorado.
Rick Caroll/The Aspen Times

The National Weather Service (NWS) reports that a strong cold front is moving through Colorado from Wednesday evening to Friday morning, but it is not expected to affect operations at Aspen’s ski resorts. 

In Aspen, temperature lows are forecast around 1 degree Farenheit in the evening and a 14 degree high on Thursday — higher temperatures than averages in the Front Range. 

But, wind chill poses a greater threat to safety. With wind gusts up to 45 mph on Wednesday night and 30 mph Thursday during the day, it will feel like -10 to -15 degrees with the wind-chill factor.

In these conditions, it is imperative to wear warm, protective clothing to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. It can occur in as little as 10-30 minutes with wind-chill factor, according to NWS.

The wind gusts are predicted to flow northwest, which will not affect lift operations, said Jeff Hanle, director of public relations for Aspen Skiing Co.

“The chairs, when they’re being blown sideways from the wind direction, that’s more impactful than if the wind is blowing straight down in alignment,” he said. “If you look at Aspen mountains, the chairs are running north/south, so if you get a strong wind coming across east to west or west/east, usually that’s more impactful than a wind that’s just blowing up and down the line from north or south.”

In his nearly 30 years in Aspen, he said, he cannot remember a time that any of the mountains closed due to cold temperatures. The protocol is to take extra precautions for staff and warn guests about the extreme cold.

“Our snow report or our grooming report tomorrow will probably say: ‘Make sure you dress in layers. Take frequent breaks. Cover your skin,’” he said. “We’ll put those kinds of messages out there. But, if a guest or somebody who lives in town (is) cold, they’re going to go inside.”

For mountain staff, Skico will give out extra hand warmers, direct employees to dress in extra layers, and ensure staff get regular warming breaks.

As for the snow, Hanle said the snow-safety report he receives daily said low temperatures will turn unpacked snow into a loose, sugar-like texture. But, packed snow on the runs will not be as impacted by the temperature drop.

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