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Aspen Conditions???


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By Thomas Watkins/Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

December's dreary weather took its toll on skier visits to Aspen's four mountains, with early-season numbers down about 10 percent compared to the same period for 2003, Aspen Skiing Co. Senior Vice President David Perry said Monday.

Apart from December's drought, which did not yield a decent snowstorm until almost the end of the month, Perry also blamed the calendar positioning of Christmas Day and New Year's Day and the fact there was no early start to the season for the drop in numbers.

"It may sound alarming, but it's not," he said. Perry added that he is confident total skier numbers will be up over last year by the end of the season.

Perry said SkiCo does not disclose actual numbers of skier visits until the end of the season, but put the drop at around the 10 percent mark for all four mountains, with Buttermilk having the smallest drop and Snowmass Ski Area the worst.

Snowmass' drop is mainly due to adverse weather, Perry said, which included high winds last week that forced the closure of certain high-mountain lifts. Aspen Highlands has also been suffering from the less-than-ideal weather, with the Highland Bowl still only partially open.

"It's been a real challenge to get the bowl consistently open," he said. "Without it being fully open hurt (Highlands') numbers."

Because Christmas and New Year's both fell on a Saturday this year, tourists coming to town may have curtailed their trips in order to get their children back home in plenty of time before the start of the new semester.

"We witnessed some shortenings of vacation periods due to the way the holidays fell," said Perry. "When Christmas and New Year's both fall on a (weekend,) that's the least desirable configuration."

Perry said many locals were negative about skiing conditions at the start of the season, which he described as "hard and fast," and this feeling was passed on to visitors.

"The enthusiasm for skiing among locals was at a low level, and that transmits to the guest," he said.

Early-season conditions were far better in the 2003/04 season, Perry noted, as several deep dumps enabled SkiCo to open for business for five days more than was possible at the start of this season.

Even though numbers are down by 10 percent, Perry is optimistic that more skiers will visit Aspen/Snowmass this ski season than they did last year. January will see several large groups coming to the area, and then the month finishes with the ESPN Winter X Games, an event growing in exposure that has shown to be a crowd puller in the past.

"I fully expect to beat last year by the end of the year," he said. "That's a bold statement, as I don't usually predict the future."

At the end of the 2003/04 season, SkiCo reported a modest 1 percent gain over the preceding season.

thomas@aspendailynews.com

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I was out on Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk the last 4 days and things are really good. Prior to last weeks dump it was ok in certain areas but now it's good all over. The snow has been soft (19" powder day last Thursday) but getting firmer with each days skiers traffic and the night grooming so the carving improves each day.

We got through the worse traffic week of the year (xmas and new years) so from here in as long as we get near average snow storms we will be in great shape for SES.

Buttermilks traffic will shoot down to near no one on the hill from now until you SES guys invade us. With the XGames around the corner (no one goes up during the games because of the complicity that the games bring to the hill) and the doldrum traffic of January, Buttermilk will hold its snow very well unless we get near summer weather. Highlands has excellent snow coverage and holds its snow very well...no traffic there on the groomers either. Snowmass gets good traffic so we'll see what happens there. Aspen mtn....I don't go there for carving...to many straight liners skiing fast.

Joel

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You can be there first if you plan ahead . . .

FREE FIRST TRACKS with Ski & Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass pros on Aspen Mountain and Snowmass, offered every day at Aspen Mountain call 970-925-1220 x3543 for reservations. And offered every Wednesday and Friday at Snowmass, 970-925-1220 or 800-525-6200. Valid lift ticket and reservations required.

The way this worked last year was you call in advance of your trip and one could make up to six reservations for a specific day. The group size was limited to 20 skiers/riders + one instructor (guide). First up load at 8:00 a.m. which is one hour before the general public.

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Guest lv2trench

I teach part-time at Snowmass, and I thought the conditions during Christmas were really pretty good. A few thin spots, but didn't hit a single rock with my board all week.

Since Dec 28th, seems like it has been snowing every day. Some great days on the 195 swallow tail, but not much chance for our carving boards. So overall, conditions are fantastic! I shovelled about 10" off my driveway this morning, and as I look outside now it is dumping again!

My brother was the second person into the Hanging Valley Wall at Snowmass on Monday- said it was waist deep face shots all the way down.

The grooming staff at Buttermilk and Snowmass do a fantastic job, so the conditions for the SES should be perfect. Think I will have to take a week of vacation from my real job to attend the SES.

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