The 2018/19 ski season was one to remember in Aspen. Steady autumn storms inspired an early opening of the Crown Jewel, Aspen Mountain, on Saturday November 15th. From then on it seemed like it would never stop snowing. By February 27thAspen had received 312 inches of snow and reported over 400 inches since October. In comparison, the average season total is 300 inches. In the first two weeks of March alone the Aspen area saw over 50 inches of snowfall and even our good friend, and legendary big-mountain skier, Chris Davenport was impressed. Chris called this past winter “one of the best seasons he can remember in over 30 years in Colorado.” The snow was graciously greeted by powder hungry locals and visitors alike. Smiles and cheers ran deep in the gondola line every morning. And for good reason, all four mountains were 100% open which equates to 5,303 skiable acres, on 336 trails, accessed by 46 lifts.
Skiers Approaching the Landry Line on Pyramid Peak
Photo: Jesse Hoffman
As the season progressed the large amount of snow opened up opportunities beyond the ski area boundaries for backcountry enthusiasts. Majestic lines throughout the Elk Mountains are being skied with shocking frequency due to the massive amount of snow that has filled in Aspen’s biggest and most storied ski lines. The death-defying Landry line on the East face of Pyramid Peak (14,026 ft) usually sees about 10 descents a year. By mid-April the line had been skied by at least 25 people and continues to see traffic on a weekly basis. The iconic Maroon Bells have also been skied dozens of times including a descent of North Maroon (14,012 ft) by Aztech-supported World Cup racer Wiley Maple.
A Skier Navigates Massive Avalanche Debris in Conundrum Creek Valley
Photo: Riley Soderquist
This intense level of snowfall also brings massive avalanches. In mid-March the Elk Mountains witnessed a natural avalanche cycle bigger than any living Aspen native has ever seen. As temperatures rose the snow started to shed creating a domino effect down ridges that created enormous avalanches throughout Castle, Conundrum, East Snowmass and Maroon Creek Valleys. The destruction of these avalanches splintered 100-year-old pines like toothpicks. These avalanches were so large that in many cases they ran up the opposing side of the valley covering roads and leaving debris piles over 100 feet high and miles wide. Brian Lazar, deputy director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center described one historic avalanche off Highlands Ridge as “a landscape-changing event,” saying “this is as big of an avalanche that this terrain can produce.” Fortunately, these natural avalanches caused no fatalities and leftrelatively little damage to man-made structures. However, the natural landscape has been altered for at least a generation of Aspenites.
This season was surely one to remember. As we look back to remember epic powder days and endless shoveling we also look forward to a glorious spring and summer in Aspen; but of course are already looking forward to next ski season.
See you on the slopes!