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Aspen Skiing Company is extending some lift hours to offer more Presidents’ Day powder

But Aspen-area backcountry avalanche danger 'considerable,' according to worried state officials

February 14, 2014, 12:02 pm

Aspen Skiing Company is extending some lift hours starting Saturday to take advantage of longer late-winter and spring days and to allow snow riders more time to track up all the powder that’s fallen in recent weeks.

Aspen powder shot

Powder has been plentiful at Aspen lately (Aspen Skiing Company photo).

On Aspen Mountain the Silver Queen Gondola, Ajax Express and the FIS lift will run until 4 p.m. At Snowmass, the Elk Camp Gondola, Village Express and Big Burn lifts will run later; and the Exhibition lift at Aspen Highlands and Summit Express lift at Buttermilk will also run until 4 p.m.

“Thanks to our collective good karma, we’ve been favored with sublime conditions all season and extended hours will give our guests more time to enjoy them each day,” said Rich Burkley, vice president, mountain operations, Aspen Skiing Company.

More than 200 inches of snow has fallen since Oct. 1, or nearly 17 feet, and Aspen/Snowmass is 100 percent open with 5,547 acres of groomers, steeps, glades and bumps available– plus the award-winning terrain parks at Snowmass and Buttermilk.

Close to five feet of snow has fallen in the last two weeks alone. The settled base in Highlands Bowl is nearing 100 inches, and all four mountains have base depths far above average with more snow on the way this weekend and next week, according to forecasters.

“One more wave of snow for the northern and central mountains from Friday afternoon through Saturday morning, then dry and warmer on Saturday and Sunday,” meteorologist Joel Gratz wrote this morning.

“A quick storm will bring 3-6 inches for the northern and central mountains on Sunday night, then Monday and Tuesday will be dry. A colder and stormy pattern sets up from Wednesday through next weekend.”

Also for the Presidents’ Day weekend, Aspen/Snowmass delivers a Bud Light Hi Fi Concert at Snowmass Base Village with Black Uhuru and opener Matthew Moon, who will take the stage at 3 p.m., Saturday.

Black Uhuru is a Jamaican reggae group formed in the Waterhouse district of Kingston Jamaica in 1972, initially as Uhuru (Swahili for ‘freedom’). Over the years, despite several line-up changes, Black Uhuru has released many successful albums and remained one of the most important reggae artists in the world.

So the inbounds skiing will be excellent, as will the party vibe, but backcountry snow riders should be very cautious this weekend as the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) this morning rated the avalanche danger in the Aspen area as “Considerable.”

“Backcountry travel requires vigilant attention to slope angles, terrain configuration, and safe travel practices,” the CAIC reported Friday morning. “Avoid being on or under slopes 35 degrees or steeper, and avoid the runouts and tracks of avalanches paths with leeward start zones near ridgelines, particularly those where large cornices overhang the slope.”

Four people have died in backcountry or side-country avalanches so far this season in Colorado, including two on Monday, and heavy mountain snowfall continues to create hazardous conditions.

“We understand Coloradans love for the outdoors in all seasons,” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press release earlier this week. “We want to encourage backcountry travelers to pay close attention to warnings from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. Conditions in the backcountry this winter are dangerous and exercising common sense caution can prevent tragedy.”

Hickenlooper was briefed this week on conditions by CAIC Director Ethan Greene and Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike King.

“We want people to enjoy the spectacular recreation Colorado offers, but we also want people to pay close attention to conditions,” Hickenlooper said. “Another day or another route might be a better option.”

Snow riders need to be cognizant of inbounds avalanche danger as well as the Colorado Court of Appeals on Thursday agreed with a Grand County judge that even inbounds avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing under the Colorado Skier Safety Act.

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