Er…even more spring skiing?!…in February?

While the rest of the nation is being inundated with the wrath of more wintery weather and frigid temperatures, here in the central Rockies it’s full on spring weather.  And I mean spring!  Endless azure skies, bright sunshine and temps in town hovering in the mid 50’sF by mid afternoon!  If it gets any warmer, palm trees may spontaneously sprout up in Wagner Park.  One thing is for certain, Punxsutawney Phil did not include us in his plans of more winter.  Although we haven’t had the snowfall we normally get for this time of year, all things considered, the skiing is still excellent.  This week my son and I skied Snowmass and Buttermilk but today was my ‘free’ day and I had a few hours to myself to take in the steep and uncrowded black diamond slopes Aspen Mountain is famous for.

DSCN0702I waited until 11am to get to the hill today as I needed the sun to work it’s magic and soften things up a bit.  At night the temps are still getting down into the teens F which means the nice soft snow in the afternoon ends up freezing solid at night.  When the weather gets like this (usually in April), it’s best to wait until the sun has softened everything up again making the ski conditions palatable.  Since Aspen Mountain is typical spine skiing and faces mostly north, there are a fair amount of east and west facing slopes off of the spine in which to ski.  The spring skiing rule is to follow the sun and start skiing the eastern facing slopes first then move to the western facing runs as the sun moves past the yardarm in the afternoon.

DSCN0706As I mentioned earlier, I started my day by testing the eastern facing runs like FIS, Pumphouse and Reds.  These were all skiing well and had softened enough to set an edge and carve nice turns.  As I headed down the mountain on the Ruthies side I noticed the snow getting softer almost to the point of spring corn snow.  I knew if I headed down a bit further I would indeed find that glorious spring snow that’s almost as good to ski as powder.  Most of 1A and the lower mountain had turned to buttery softness and runs like Corkscrew, Super 8 and Slalom Hill were on the top of my mental list.  Yes, there are a few bare spots and twigs poking through here and there, but for the most part, still worth checking out.

DSCN0704This little hit I found today…well, I must have skied by it a thousand times before I saw it today.  I was on the gondola heading up looking over the Dumps trying to find a line to ski.  I saw a couple of tracks leading into some trees that I’ve never noticed before.  Just to the skiers left of Upper Short Snort, there is a goat path that heads into a small stand of Aspens.  Two or three lines in widely spaced trees lead down to Perry’s.  It was so smooth in there I did it again on my next lap.  As I sit here and write this, I’m still dumbfounded I’ve never seen this before.

DSCN0701More eastern facing bumps near Bonnies Restaurant.

DSCN0699That’s Deer Park in the background right and Sunrise, background left.  As I took this photo, it was getting on 2pm.  Time to start testing those western facing slopes now the sun has been on them a while.  First run was down the aforementioned Sunrise.  Great soft sloppy spring corn.  Time for the Face of Bell.

DSCN0713Face of Bell.  The cooking timer went off in my head saying the bumps are well done.  Time for a feast!

DSCN0715Well, you can tell from the photo we’re loosing light.  Even though the mountain is open until 4pm now, that sun sure sets fast this time of year.  This was my last run down the Face of Bell and it was a long one. I started up by Sunset and kept traversing down until I reached the Shoulder of Bell almost to the Nose.

What a great day.  Other than a whiteout powder day that’s coming down so hard you can’t see your tracks where you skied last, spring corn is a close second.  The sunshine, soft snow and hero skiing sure improve the psyche.

We do have a quick moving storm that is supposed to hit the area on Monday bringing some much needed precip to the area.  Other than that, not much in the forecast.  Other than sunshine, soft snow and hero skiing.  I’m out.



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About Bobby Schafer

My first introduction to skiing was at a little mom and pop ski area tucked into a small corner of Rocky Mountain National Park. This was my second year of college. After graduation with a couple of bachelor degrees firmly in hand, I would regularly find myself daydreaming at work of being the next Scot Schmidt or Glen Plake. After a year of working a 'real job', I had had enough and decided to pull the pin and find a ski resort where I could ski every day. I sold everything I owned, loaded my favorite K2 TNC's on the roof rack and started driving my old Cherokee towards the Rockies. I had no idea where I would end up and after a month of driving around, I found Aspen. I've now surpassed my 20th year here in the Roaring Fork Valley and still love this place as much as I did on day 1. I had a good run as I was able to figure out how to ski 5 to 6 days a week by working evenings. I did that for 17 years. Things have changed a bit now as I have a family and priorities change. I'm currently on the mountain a few days a week with one of them dedicated to skiing with my five year old son. With so much time on our four mountains in the last 20 years, I would like to share my knowledge and insight with you as you plan your ski trip to our mountains. I hope you can ski vicariously through my camera lens and enjoy Aspen/Snowmass as much as I do.