SkiCo to open top of Aspen Mountain for this weekend |

SkiCo to open top of Aspen Mountain for this weekend

Charles AgarAspen CorrespondentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – With more than three feet of snow coating the hills, Aspen Skiing Co. officials will open the top of Aspen Mountain to midday skiing and riding this weekend.”We are going skiing,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle, who had hinted at the possible opening in recent months.Skiers and snowboarders can access seven runs and 45 acres of mostly intermediate terrain under the Ajax Express lift from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m Friday, Saturday and Sunday.The Silver Queen Gondola, which recently was repaired, already was scheduled for regular summer opening Friday and will shuttle skiers and spectators to and from the top from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (The base of Aspen is bare and top-to-bottom skiing impossible.)”It’s your typical early summer conditions,” said Rich Burkley, vice president of mountain operations, in a press release. “Better than a glacier, but not as good as a powder day. It will certainly be fun and is the perfect excuse for having a beer or two at the Sundeck. If you’ve got it, ski it.”The announcement comes just one day after Arapahoe Basin closed for the season, and the opening coincides with the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.Premiere pass holders ski for free, and skiers with all other passes will pay $19 for adults, $17 for youth and seniors, and $12 for kids.As the SkiCo recently changed its ticketing system, all 2007-08 passes must be reissued before accessing summer lifts. To avoid lines, the company is recommending that passholders acquire their new pass Thursday.An adult, single-day lift ticket over the weekend will cost $29. Youth and seniors will pay $26 and children will pay $18.The move will require some extra staff, Hanle said, including a few lift operators, a snowcat driver and ski patrollers.Maintenance crews will push snow onto Summer Road to cover three sections that have been plowed for vehicles, and skiers will have to walk the gauntlet of ongoing construction on the steps at Gondola Plaza.The Sundeck restaurant will be open for lunch.Ski rentals are available at Four Mountain Sports/D&E Ski & Snowboard Shop for $25, and lessons also are available through Camp Aspen/Snowmass.

“There’s very little precedent for it,” said Jerry Jones, a former ski industry executive and current consultant based in the Eagle Valley. “This is a heck of a bonus for the skier.”Jones said it’s costly to get a ski area cranked up, but said the opening could draw skiers from around the state.It’s not the first ski area extension this year, as Skico opened Aspen Highlands for two additional weekends in April.And Hanle said the move sprang from Skico higher-ups who love to ski and want to thank the community, but added that good press during the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen doesn’t hurt, either.”We’ll certainly take advantage of the fact that there’s a lot of cameras and media in town,” Hanle said. “We’d be stupid not to.”The three-day opening could gain network news exposure as well as likely video spots featuring Food & Wine chefs on skis, but that’s not why Skico made the call, Hanle said.With or without Food & Wine, Skico executives would have opened the mountain, Hanle said.Hanle expects more curiosity-seekers, locals and second home-owners than folks driving from afar for a few runs.”I have no idea how many people are going to show up,” he said.

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