Aspen-area trails clear of snow to about 11,000 feet |

Aspen-area trails clear of snow to about 11,000 feet

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A rider enters an aspen grove this week on the Tom Blake Trail, which opened for the season June 22. Many Aspen-area trails are opening as snow melts and wildlife protection closures end for the summer.
Art Burrows/courtesy photo |

Snow is disappearing quickly on the high altitude hiking trails in the wilderness surrounding Aspen, the trails crew is clearing downfall as quickly as possible and all roads in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District are open except Hagerman Pass, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The snow level is generally around 10,800 to 11,200 feet, depending on the aspect of the slopes. “It’s melting fast, that’s good, said Martha Moran, recreation staff supervisor for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

She said some intrepid hikers have taken a stab at hiking the Four Pass Loop, a famed route in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. All four passes crossed — West Maroon, Frigid Air, Trail Rider and Buckskin — still have snow.

“We tell them, ‘Good luck. You’ll be post-holing,’” Moran said.

Hike Jim Paussa of Snowmass Village said he encountered heavy snow last weekend above timberline at the approach to Midway Pass. He first came to snow drifts, then snow fields and turned around rather than continuously posthole.

A lower elevation hike — the Ruedi and Fryingpan Valley Overlook Trail — was bone dry last weekend.

The Carbondale-based Forest Conservancy has 140 volunteers to help the White River National Forest with trail patrol, staffing at the Maroon Bells facilities and other duties. Reports from its members in the field emphasize high stream crossings and plenty of snow up high.

“Conditions currently, you’re going to find snow generally at 10,800,” said Forest Conservancy Director Marcia Johnson. The snowmelt has created high, swift water in the rivers and streams. “It’s a little dangerous to cross them at this time,” she said.

If the warm weather continues, observers figured that many trails will be clear or mostly clear of snow in 10 days or less, Johnson said.

While it’s natural to find a significant number of trees across trails in the spring and early summer, it appears last winter was particularly windy. Moran said there are some parts of the national forest that experienced intense blow downs.

“There were tons of trees on the top of Basalt Mountain,” she said. The Forest Service trails crew worked to clear the road and trails on the mountain earlier this week with the help of the Youth Corp.

The trails crew also got an assist from Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and Aspen Skiing Co. to clean numerous downed trees on the Hobbit Trail and other routes around Four Corners.

Moran said gates have been opened throughout the forest. The exception is the Hagerman Pass Road that crosses the Continental Divide. It’s not unusual for that route to open in early July.

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