This autumn's aspen display in Colorado promises to be top-notch, as ample precipitation has the groves in healthy shape, especially around the ski and snowboard resorts of the Western Slope.
The leaves of aspen trees change color as the sun gets lower in the sky, and the process of photosynthesis -- turning sunlight into food -- shuts down. During the fall, that begins in the northern climes and heads southward. The period of September and early October are prime viewing times, be it for hikers, bikers, and lift-riders.
So a fall "leaf-peeping" tour should begin at the state's northernmost resort at Steamboat. The main gondola runs Friday-Sunday and gets visitors up Mt. Werner to 9,000 feet elevation.
From the deck of the Thunderhead Lodge, the Yampa Valley is framed by slopes and hillocks of aspens, oaks and maples -- a veritable palate of all a Colorado autumn has to offer. Nearby Buffalo Pass is a favorite for catching the colors.
Next stop is the Roaring Fork Valley, home of Aspen Mountain and Snowmass. Climate and elevation have produced some of the thickest aspen groves in the state -- hence, the eponymous name of the resort. Both mountains run gondolas Friday-Sunday through September.
A drive up the valley often means a dozen pullovers to marvel at the huge clusters of color on the mountain slopes above. The gondola ride at either mountain unveils the autumn's gallery of colors. And, it's a short ride up to the Maroon Bells, one of the most photographed locales in all of Colorado.
Next on the tour is the Animas River Valley that flows out of the San Juan Mountains and its plentiful aspen groves. The town of Silverton sits in a caldera ringed by aspens and oaks, and is served by the Durango-Silverton tourist train.
From there, take a ride south on U.S. 550 through steep slopes and high-valley aspen groves over Molas and Coal Bank passes to Purgatory. There, the main chairlift rises out of the base village on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through September. The front side of "Purg" is coated with aspen groves and, from the 10,200-foot summit, the whole splendor of autumn's mountain complexion is on display.
Better late than never, right? Most of New England’s resorts got a traditional, purely-magical Nor’easter March 13-15. Granted snow has been decent in northern New England so far this winter, it was just what we needed to extend our skiing and riding to the late part of the year.
In fact, both coasts have been getting clobbered. Yet another atmospheric river slammed California and at least one more is on its way.
This is a fun time of the year, when pond skimming is followed up by Gaper Days. Head to the hill and enjoy the extra daylight, warmer temperatures, and those party-like environments for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend! Let’s dive into the details in this week’s SnoCast for March 16-22, 2023.
EAST & MIDWEST
Well, that storm performed! The Nor’easter hit in true fashion, dumping on the mountains while leaving the valleys accessible (when it comes to travel). Several mountains got 3 feet of snow, with top amounts up to 40 inches. Check out the latest snow reports at your favorite mountain, here on SnoCountry.com
Looking ahead, the next big storm will hit the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest Thursday, lingering into Friday. Four to eight inches of snow will fall, with locally higher amounts closer to Canada. For the Appalachians and New England, this will bring primarily light rain showers (green on the maps below). There will be some snow, however, in far northern New England.
Friday, St. Patrick’s Day, will be windy and mild, the weekend then turning colder (especially on Sunday). Lake-enhanced snow showers will provide some freshies this weekend. Monday-Wednesday will be sunny and comfortable. Best bets: Lutsen Mountains, Granite Peak, Gore Mountain, Magic Mountain, and Gunstock.
We can officially say this has been California’s snowiest winter in decades, maybe even in a generation! The University of California Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab (UCB-CSSL) has surpassed 650 inches of snow so far this season, putting the lab in the top 3 for snowiest winters. With another storm this week, the second-snowiest winter season looks unavoidable!
On Thursday, snow showers will continue in the Rockies from an event that began on Tuesday. Greatest additional snow will be in the southern Rockies with 6-12” to finalize a 1-2 foot snowstorm for many in the West. Generally quieter weather can be expected through St. Patrick’s Day on Friday and through the weekend. There will be some light snow showers from New Mexico and Arizona northwestward to CA/OR/WA this weekend. Generally, 4-8” of snow is predicted.
Here we go again! Yet another atmospheric river is forecast to arrive at the California coast Monday-Tuesday, March 20-21. This could be another doozy above 7,500 feet elevation with measurements in feet once again. Snow won’t stay in Cali, though. Much of the West will get wind and snow showers through Tuesday, March 22 with frequent totals of 15-20 inches. Best bets: Purgatory, Park City, Taos, and any operable California resort you can get to!
With so much snow, avalanche warnings have been issued. Check the latest hazard level at www.avalanche.org. We'll see you next week with the latest SnoCast! Have a fun weekend and don't forget to wear green!
At 673 acres and narrow, Aspen Mountain lacks heft, but it makes up for that shortcoming with 3,200-ft. vertical, nary a green run or terrain park, knock-out scenics, and some of the longest, sustained steeps in the country.
On the Ikon Pass seven-day ledger, Aspen Mountain stands tall at 11,212 feet. Half the trail map is blue, clustered on the upper slopes with snowfield blacks out back. The rest of map marks persistent blacks, more on the lower portion of the mountain, that produce renowned moguls, high-speed groomers and, on powder days, ample trees lines.
Despite Aspen's smaller size, it's best to ski it in pods. Some 76 named runs form up in groups, like Bell Mountain, Ruthie's or Gents Ridge. Each is challenging in its own way, like the endless lines down Mine Dumps. Bulk of the runs bear names of silver claims, and they tend toward the short but sweet (like their run of fortune), as found in the glades off Raynor Ridge.
Aspen sits amidst a massif of some of the highest peaks in the nation. Total snowfall is moderate, in the 200- to 300-inch range. Most storms course into the central Rockies from the west, meaning they pass over miles of high ground building up famous Rocky Mountain dry powder and cold winds. Playing the sun, especially in the spring, is a daily habit.
The Aspen Mountain trail map hasn't changed much in 77 years, but there's plenty for everyone -- except novices. The mountain's leg-frying bump runs are among the longest around: Catch Ruthie's Run after a week's without grooming, and the moguls can easily be head-high. In pitch and length, Aspen's middle ground blues take full advantage of the 3,000 feet of drop.
In 1968, the Silver Queen Gondola went in to take the heat off four workhorse fixed-grips. A couple are now detachable, but enough stayed as fixed-grips to retain a bit of Aspen's place in American history -- and give visitors a chance to soak in the peak views.
Next season, Aspen's first boundary expansion, up the Pandora snowfields off the summit, will add 153 acres and a new high-speed quad.
As does all of the others in the Aspen Snowmass complex (Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass), Aspen honors the Ikon Pass for seven days. For most, there's easily a week's worth of skiing and riding on the mountain.
Winter has come to Aspen Snowmass and, as the resort's quartet of mountains head into the 2022-2023 season, much of buzz is about a transformation at easy-going Buttermilk.
Construction this summer brought an aging, clunky base area into the 21st century. A new 9,300-square-foot building consolidates tickets, rentals, ski school and bathrooms into a single skier services center. The former Bumps lodge restaurant got a makeover -- including locker room update -- and a new name (Buttermilk Mountain Lodge), and an expanded outdoor patio called The Backyard.
Mountain officials say the work aims to simplify the area and make the slopes for approachable and inclusive for all guests. However, the finishing touches of the $26 million Buttermilk makeover will bleed past the opening of the season, so skiers and riders should expect temporary facilities for a month or two.
Opened in 1958, Buttermilk has long lived up to its name as the smooth, gentle, non-competitive place to ski and ride in the Aspen complex. Its ski school and learning terrain is renowned. Resort publicists called it "the home of non-stop recess" and the trail map reflects that: Nearly 75% of the runs are green- or blue-rated.
Over at iconic Aspen Mountain, the World Cup returns to the famous America's Downhill course in March, after a six-year hiatus. Two downhills and a super-G are scheduled for the first weekend in March.
The resort's first major expansion in 40 years -- Pandora -- won't be open this season. Located to skier's right off the summit of Ajax Mountain, the new area will add 160 acres to the mountain's existing 673 skiable acres. A high-speed chairlift will service the new area, which will open expert glades and a couple of blue groomers.
Both Snowmass and Aspen Highlands will stand pat this season, as far as on-mountain additions. Both received high ratings for their wine dinners, and Snowmass has added a bear-and-pretzel option to its apres-ski menu. The Ikon Pass works at all four mountains.
The weather won't be too scary this Halloween weekend. Tricky weather for the East, while the West eagerly awaits it's next fluffy, white treat. Let's dive into this week's SnoCast forecast.
The west side of the Continental Divide in the Colorado Rockies is home to about half of the ski and snowboard mountains in the state, and a half-dozen of them have built up summer activity infrastructures to lure flat-landers into the mountains.
If you're looking for a full-on summer menu, check out Telluride. On and off the mountain, there's plenty to keep young and old busy -- from via ferrata to bike parks to kids camps to rafting and Jeep tours. Highlight on the hill is Canopy Adventure, a tree-top complex of zipline, aerial bridges and rappels that begins with ride up the Village Express chair.
At Purgatory, MTB-focused lift access, trail prep and downhill challenges are the norm. The first U.S. resort to host a MBT world championship (1995), "Purg" sells single-ride, day, and season passes-- the latter includes massive Spider Mountain bike park in Austin, Texas.
Another mountain bike mecca is Crested Butte. Its Mountain Bike Park opened in 2009, and its more than 30 miles of single track downhill and X-C runs have been improved ever since. The bike-friendly Red Lady Express does the heavy-lifting to get riders onto the mountain.
Steamboat hosts a ton of attractions around its under-construction base area. Featured is the Outlaw Mountain Coaster with a descent of more than a mile long. With that length, there's plenty of track for loops, turns and twists.
Aspen Mountain and Snowmass crank up their gondolas for summer visitors. A ride up the Silver Queen gondola reaches the11,212-foot summit of Aspen Mountain. The summit area has been developed as the main magnet for the resort, with hiking trails, wildflowers, live music, good food and 360-degree views of Maroon Bells and Roaring Fork Valley.
Across the way, Snowmass turns on a gondola of its own -- the Elk Camp Gondola -- to get folks to the trails, vistas and food in and around mid-mountain Elk Camp. New this summer is the Lost Forest Adventure Center at Elk Camp, with ziplines, bike trails, climbing wall and mountain coaster.
Winter Park is playing off on the popularity of e-bikes this summer with 90-minute tours for pedal-assist mountain bicycles. Three tours run daily from the top of the Explorer Express chair at Sunsport Lodge (also headquarters for renowned Trestle Bike Park). E-bikers head up another 600 feet of vertical to Lunch Rock. No charge for views of Continental Divide.
With prices for 2022-23 comparable to recent seasons, the two-days-each Mountain Collective ski and snowboard pass returns with a shuffled resort lineup that includes two big mountains in the West coming back to the fold.
Following big snow in the Southwest and Four Corners, a storm will work across the country and deliver fresh snow to many Northeast ski areas to finish the week. With new powder all around, let’s dig into this week’s SnoCast forecast.
From Vermont's classic glades to the powder-choked bowls of the West, the destinations on this list will delight skiers of all stripes.
With snowmaking temps more favorable, more and more Colorado ski and snowboard resorts are opening, and Ikon Pass holders can try out as much variety in Colorado as in any other state in the Union.
Last season, Covid gave a jolt to the time-honored habits of skiers and riders, but the 2021-2022 season promises to be a bit less restrictive -- with exceptions.
In Colorado, the most definitive way to know that summer is over and winter is not long off comes when the high-country aspen groves put on their brilliant yellow coats.
The 2021-20 Colorado ski and snowboard season is just around the corner. See a full list below of when you can hit the slopes.
Despite Covid restrictions, the ski and snowboard resorts of Colorado had a hot summer season last year with hiking, biking, scenic lift rides, and other social-distanced activities. But one key attraction was missing: Music.
Aspen Snowmass will open for the summer season Memorial Day Weekend, May 29-31, at Buttermilk. This marks the first time Buttermilk will be open to the public in the summer. Guests can sightsee, hike, play disc golf and enjoy food and beverage options from the Cliffhouse restaurant, all accessed by the Summit Express chairlift. Summer operations at Buttermilk will continue weekends, Friday through Sunday, until June 20.
Thanks to a snowy March and persistent pent-up desire to hit the slopes, a slew of Colorado ski and snowboard resorts will keep their lifts spinning beyond original closing dates.
Now more than ever, people will require a real sense of seclusion while on their ski vacations. Gone for the time being are the après ski parties, the socializing in the lodge during a quick break for lunch and eight-passenger gondola rides. These have been temporarily replaced with such wellness guidelines as chair lift rides consisting of family members only, food trucks as opposed to eating in the lodge and private ski instruction instead of group lessons.
Whether it be Covid-distance crowds, the high price of lift tickets, or simply a need to breathe the Great Outdoors, the participation in uphill skiing has exploded in Colorado this season.
After the majority of the 470 ski areas in the United States closed in mid-March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Ski Areas Association reported skier visitor numbers dropped 14% compared to the 2018-19 season. It was a blow to the resorts, the towns they call home and a multitude of businesses that serve the industry with everything from gear and accessories to hotels, shuttle companies and more.
Health officials in eight counties have not traced positive tests back to lift lines, chairlifts or ski slopes.