Aspen resuscitates skiing just in time for summer festival season

If you’re headed to the Food & Wine Magazine Classic this weekend in Aspen, be sure to pack all the accoutrements of the culinary festival connoisseur: Antacid, AmEx Card, spit bucket … fat skis.

Aspen Skiing Company Monday announced it’s opening up the upper half of Aspen Mountain for three hours of skiing a day Friday-Monday, June 13-15, to coincide with the annual food festival, which is actually sold out.

But for the low-low price of $29 for an adult "day" pass, diehard skiers can ride the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of the mountain and carve turns in a three-foot base of near-summer slush. "It’s your typical early summer conditions," vice president of mountain operations Rich Burkley said in a release. "Better than a glacier, but not as good as a powder day."

If any more evidence was needed, this is further proof that skiing, like shuffleboard on a cruise ship, has become just one more amenity for the main engines of economic growth in the mountain resorts: real estate development, constant construction and wine festivals.

As The Aspen Daily News reported Monday, a new study a new study by Boulder-based RRC Associates found "notable shifts in the Aspen economy include maturation of the ski industry and its participants, greater reliance on real estate activity, construction and a growing retired or semi-retired community."

Which is likely why the SkiCo is holding it to a three-hour ski "day" this weekend, so everyone can be back to their starter castle in time to rub on some Bengay and take a quick nap before the first tasting.

Arapahoe Basin honchos, who shut down its lifts Sunday apparently thinking they had a lock on last resort to close for the season status, can take solace in the knowledge they were definitely first, cranking up the lifts Oct. 10 of last year (that’s almost an eight-month ski season, if anyone’s counting).

And A-Basin had two inches of new snow for closing day Sunday. Seriously, make it stop.

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail and Real Aspen.