Resort Report: Season re-start, ski team, Spokane & beetle thinning

Did the ski season just start again? It may say it's almost June on the calendar, but from California to Colorado, ski resorts have so much snow that they're starting the lifts up again. SNEWS takes a look at who's hitting the reset button, as well as Spokane's expansion and some major beetle kill thinning.

Just as ski areas in Australia and New Zealand are reporting early returns on the start of their 2011 ski season, here in the U.S. it almost seems as if the ski season is starting again. Alpine meadows recently reported plans to turn the chairs back on for Independence Day weekend, fresh powder continues to fall from California to Colorado, and the Aspen Skiing Company announced plans to reopen Aspen Mountain for Memorial day weekend.

With a base depth of 71 inches up top, Aspen Mountain will open with 25 runs and 136 acres of mostly intermediate terrain, served by the Ajax Express chairlift. In addition, the mountain will open on weekends after Memorial Day as conditions allow. Aspen Powder Tours will also be open offering powder and corn skiing tours on the back of Aspen Mountain. SkiCo Director of Public Relations Jeff Hanle told SNEWS® that Aspen last reopened for Memorial Weekend in 1995, and in 2008 ran the chairs June 13-15 during the Food and Wine Fest weekend. But, he added, “I don’t ever remember this much snow so late in the season.” 

In other snow news, SNEWS Editor-in-Chief Therese Iknoian said contacts at Columbia Sportswear told her many folks on the team have been making turns at Mt. Bachelor in between sales meetings. And The North Face staff has been repeatedly snowed in during their Squaw Mountain-based sales meetings. At Snowbird, very dense heavy snow the evening of May 19, 2011 was met with warm conditions in the morning, causing the area to temporary close on the 20th. And Perisher Mountain in Australia opened three weeks ahead of schedule as the Snowy Mountains have been beset by early storms.

U.S. Teams take advantage of late season snow

Bachelor has been hosting training for the men of the U.S. Ski Team. Gold medalist Ted Ligety and teammates have been bashing a variety of course settings off the Pine Marten Express lift. In the meantime, the women have been hitting the slopes in California at Mammoth Mountain, conducting a “back-to-basics annual spring training camp” with the help of Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) Team Captain Michael Rogan.

“It was an extremely successful partnership,” said speed Head Coach Chip White. “I met with Mike ahead of the camp and spent a whole day doing drills with him. As a staff, we're demanding perfection, so bringing Mike in was a good way to get closer to that. He saw what we needed and then took the ball and ran with it.”

Parks commission approves Mt. Spokane expansion

A controversial expansion plan for Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park was approved by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on May 19, 2011. The decision allows for the nonprofit ski area to add 279 acres, including a new chairlift and seven new ski runs on the northwest face of the mountain. Opponents had protested that the expansion will destroy old growth forest, meadows and wetlands. Ski area General Manager Brad McQuarrie said he will immediately begin working to acquire permits for the expansion.

Get a PhD in powder at CMH Heli

CMH Heli-Skiing plans to take skiers “back to school” with the launch of Powder U @ CMH for the 2011-2012 ski season. Led by “Dean” Roko Koell, UIAGM and Professor of Powder, the curriculum at Powder U will include: Powder 101 - The Intro; Powder 505 - The Steeps (for skiers looking for seriously steep terrain); Powder 707 - The Masters Class (where the prerequisite is, “a willing mind, even if the body is less so”); and Med School, open to all health-care providers and other professionals with an interest in health-related issues.

Beetle kill hazard tree removal projects to begin

Ski areas such as Keystone Resort in Colorado and Lost Trail in Montana are hoping to spend the summer removing hundreds of acres of damaged or infected trees from the Rocky Mountains’ pine beetle infestation. Keystone’s plan includes some 1,650 acres of lodgepole pine within the Dillon Ranger District, and would remove potentially hazardous trees while also promoting regeneration. The Lost Trail plan includes the removal of infected trees on about 170 acres of Bitterroot National Forest land, and would new glades with between 10 and 30 feet of spacing.

-- Peter Kray

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