Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open this weekend; Sunlight opens TODAY | PostIndependent.com

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open this weekend; Sunlight opens TODAY

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Rail fabricator and attendant for Buttermilk Nicole Kennedy preps terrain equipment on Thursday for opening day on Saturday.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times |

10-day forecast predicts 2 to 4 feet of new snow

The National Weather Service calls for snow in and around Aspen throughout the weekend. A winter weather advisory issued through Friday evening calls for 4 to 7 inches, with locally higher amounts. Southwest winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 35 miles per hour, are expected to produce blowing snow and reduced visibility, according to the National Weather Service.

“Snow will continue for prolonged periods from Friday through the middle of next week, with the northern and central mountains favored,” according to the advisory. “Accumulations of 2 feet or more are possible during this prolonged period of wintry weather.”

The powder forecasting site www.opensnow.com calls for mountain snowpacks to reach average, or potentially above-average, in about 10 days. Forecaster Joel Gratz wrote Thursday that a flow of moisture from the Pacific Ocean will continue through the weekend of Dec. 17-18.

“Big moisture can mean big snow, and it also usually means big surprises in the forecast. Moisture is the fuel for snowfall, so when the amount of moisture is high and the flow is consistent, snow totals can become deep in a hurry,” according to Gratz.

Gratz said the best chances for powder days will be today (Friday), Sunday and Monday. The central mountains, which include Aspen and Snowmass, could see 2 to 4 feet of snow, or more, by Dec. 18, according to Gratz.

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk ski mountains will open Saturday, Aspen Skiing Co. announced Thursday.

Meanwhile, Sunlight Mountain, south of Glenwood Springs, opens Friday for its 50th season.

The Aspen Highlands opening will include a large portion of that mountain, including Highland Bowl, Temerity and most of Olympic Bowl, Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman Jeff Hanle said.

“It’s a good opening for this time of year,” Hanle said.

Skico plans to open about 650 acres at Aspen Highlands and will run every lift on the mountain except the Thunderbowl Lift, he said. Specifically, Skico plans to open G2-through-G8 in Highland Bowl, and will open Steeplechase for a brief period to allow that area to be packed down for the next storm, Hanle said.

Further down the mountain, Moment of Truth and Robinson’s Run will be open, he said.

Aspen Highlands reported a 22-inch base at the top of the mountain as of Thursday morning, with 1 new inch overnight, 9 inches in the last two days and 11 inches in the last three days, according to Skico’s website.

At Buttermilk, mountain managers will open about 250 acres of skiing that includes most of the mountain except the Tiehack area on the mountain’s east side, Hanle said.

Buttermilk reported a 15-inch base at the top, with 1 new inch overnight, 8 inches in the last two days and nine inches in the last three days.

Mountain managers at Snowmass plan to open more terrain as well, including the Alpine Springs lift, Hanle said.

“People will get their first opportunity to see the new Gwen’s High Alpine restaurant,” he said.

Snowmass, which opened Thanksgiving on a limited basis, reported a 29-inch base at the top Thursday with 1 new inch and 9 inches during the last two days. Seven of the resort’s 20 lifts were running, while 12 of 115 trails were open, according to Skico’s website.

Finally, Aspen Mountain’s west side will open Saturday, including the Ruthie’s Run Lift and the F.I.S. Lift, Hanle said. Aspen Mountain, which opened last week on a limited basis, reported a 19-inch base at the top Thursday with 2 new inches overnight and 10 inches in the last two days. Three of the mountain’s eight lifts were running with 30 of 76 trails open.