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Winter arrives early in Aspen, giving opening World Cup weekend a big boost

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November 17, 2014, 11:09 am

Winter is still officially a month away, but winter-like weather showed up with a vengeance in Aspen last week, allowing resort officials to no longer just dream of a white Thanksgiving. It’s a reality after a series of storms dropped more than 3 feet of new snow.

Now mountain ops  crews are assured of adequate natural snow and much lower temperatures for making snow as Aspen heads into its final week of preparation for opening day at both Aspen and Snowmass on Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 27, and the Aspen Winternational World Cup races on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 29-30.

snow whales at aspen

Whales of snow at Aspen on Monday (Aspen Skiing Company photo).

According to the On the Snow report, Aspen now has a 27-inch settled base up top, after an additional 8 inches of new snow on Saturday. That’s after virtually no snow on the ground in October and early November.

Weather forecasters are calling for mostly sunny and dry weather the first half of this week in Colorado, with snow returning later in the week and in time for a possible powder day over the coming weekend. After unseasonably warm, dry weather in October and early November, Colorado is now on track for above-average early season precipitation.

“The punchline for the next 7-10 days is that I think we’ll see multiple additional storms and most of the state has a good chance to be at or above average snowfall by the time we hit Thanksgiving,” writes meteorologist Joel Gratz of Opensnow.com. “I still can’t believe I’m writing that as the statistics were not on our side after a mostly dry first 9 days of the month.”

Aspen Skiing Company officials had to be sweating – along with the rest of Colorado’s ski industry – as balmy fall weather prompted several ski areas to postpone opening days. Now, when Vail and Eldora open on Friday, Nov. 21, the state will have nine operating ski areas.

U.S. Ski Team members are either back in Colorado or heading here after slalom races in Levi, Finland, over the weekend. They’ll train at Copper Mountain and Vail ahead of Aspen’s women’s World Cup Thanksgiving weekend.

Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin won’t be on a two-race winning streak heading into Aspen. The heavy favorite in Levi turned in an uncharacteristically conservative performance and wound 11th in a race won by Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Shiffrin said she’ll change her approach at Aspen.

“Something that always worked for me was to feel like the underdog and come from behind,” the 2014 Olympic gold medalist said. “Even if I was the favorite to win, I’d always come into races and do my best to ski my very fastest – not ski for the win – ski for my fastest skiing and ski because I like to ski fast. That’s why I’m doing the sport. I have no excuses, no one to blame. My skiing just wasn’t fast.”

Looking to become the first American woman to win at Aspen since that season’s overall World Cup champions Tamara McKinney won the GS here in 1981, Shiffrin praised the race leaders in Levi.

“I think Tina Maze, Frida Hansdotter, Kathrin Zettel and Maria Pietilae-Holmner did a really great job today and I’m going to go back and study their skiing and see what they did and I didn’t do,” Shiffrin said in Levi on Saturday. “I have to stay positive. I’m looking forward to the next races — I think they’re doing a good job to try to get Aspen ready.”

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