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May powder days at Breck, A-Basin and killer mud-season lunch specials

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May 16, 2019, 10:18 am
Nick Williams checks out his line May 9 on the Whale’s Tail cornice at Breckenridge.

Editor’s note: This blog post was update on Sunday, May 19, to reflect the issuing of a Winter Storm Warning by the National Weather Service for the Vail Valley and surrounding areas, with up to 20 inches of snow expected above 9,000 feet and lower amounts down to 7,000 feet from noon Monday to 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 21. Also, Aspen Mountain announced it will re-open for Memorial Day weekend (see press release below).

Typically, May is not a great ski month in Colorado. Most resorts are shut down and even if we’re coming off a good winter season of snowfall, it’s only the hardcore still out there, skiing corn snow inbounds and hiking the good backcountry lines.

The O Zone by David O. Williams
The O. Zone

But I’ve already had a couple good powder days this May, especially last week in Imperial Bowl at Breckenridge – dropping the cornice and arcing big, surfy turns in about 8 inches of creamy new snow on Whale’s Tail at Peak 7.

Of course, I also took my most spectacular digger of the season right under the Imperial Express chairlift – North America’s highest with a top terminal of 12,800 feet. This is a great development having Breck now in the mix as a late-season competitor with Arapahoe Basin.

It used to be that after Loveland closed in early May it was A-Basin or backcountry. Now, Breck is trying to stay open through Memorial Day and even longer if conditions permit.

“Spring is an incredible time to ski Breck’s high alpine and we are thrilled to extend our season this year, and beyond, and offer that terrain as long as the snow lasts,” John Buhler, vice president and chief operating officer at Breckenridge, said in a press release. “With Breck’s notably high elevation and annual snowfall we are well-positioned to provide our passholders and other guests great spring skiing and snowboarding well into May.”

Now one glitch is that due to some wildlife issues in Cucumber Gulch the BreckConnect Gondola is not running up to Peak 7, so you have to park down below and grab a shuttle bus (think Beaver Creek from the lots on Highway 6).

During my mid-May powder day last week, that was actually a plus. I talked to some guys on the lift who said Arapahoe Basin – still on the Epic Pass through the end of this season – has been pretty crowded due to the fact you can park right there on the Beach and grab the lift.

A-Basin is actually touting that quick access in its new-found late-season battle with Breck. The Legend, as A-Basin is known (and for good reason), just announced it’s extending its season at least one more weekend and maybe more.

“Open seven days a week through Sunday, June 2,” A-Basin is reporting on its website. “We will re-open for at least one more long weekend: June 7, 8 and 9. If conditions are still good after that, we may be open for additional weekends.

“With a base-area elevation of 10,780 feet, we have the longest season in Colorado. Park for free, walk to the base area, hop on a lift and start skiing from top to bottom; it’s that simple. (P.S. The header photo above was taken May 11, 2019.) Here’s what to expect until closing day.”

Bear in mind, especially on weekends, A-Basin has a bit of parking problem – likely one of the reasons it’s jumping off the Epic Pass for next season, and so next season if we’re blessed with these same great conditions, it will likely be a lot less crowded.

And that’s also likely one of the reasons Breck is staying open longer now and into the future – to give its Epic Pass holders a late-season option in 2020. I’m loving it. A choice of ski mountains still in the mix this late in the season is good thing for the industry, and Breck has some choice apres dining options still open.

I hit Blue Fish for sushi last week, and they’re offering some killer lunch specials because it’s, you know, off-season. Powder turns and spider rolls in mid-May. Can’t beat that action.

If you’re planning to hit the backcountry, remember, our awesome snowpack, which in some places continues to build (with more wet weather in the forecast), is a lot more unstable this time of year than it’s been in year’s past. Check out this video of a recent avalanche near Booth Falls Trail in East Vail.

We’re supposed to get rain down low and snow up high starting Friday and lasting through the middle of next week, with high temps in Breck down into the low 40s and upper 30s. As always, check with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center if you’re planning backcountry trips.

And on Thursday, Aspen Skiing Company announced it’s reopening Aspen Mountain for Memorial Day Weekend. Here’s the press release:

Aspen Mountain to Open with Skiing and Riding Memorial Day Weekend

ASPEN SNOWMASS, Colo.—May 16, 2019— Aspen Mountain will open for summer operations Memorial Day Weekend May 25-27 with skiing and riding. In addition to opening 130 acres of skiable terrain, Memorial Day Weekend marks the start of Aspen Mountain’s summer operations with access to sightseeing and food/beverage options at the Sundeck restaurant. There will be a live DJ outside on the deck Saturday and Sunday.

The Silver Queen Gondola will operate from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. for sightseeing and the Ajax Express chairlift will run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for laps on Aspen Mountain’s upper blue runs as well as black runs such as Summit and Blondie’s. Everyone will be required to download on the gondola.

“With a pleasant dropping of additional snow in the last couple weeks, we are excited to kick-off Memorial Day weekend and the start of summer operations with skiing/riding on Aspen Mountain,” says Katie Ertl, senior vice president of mountain operations, Aspen Skiing Company. “The weekend will offer classic conditions for a Colorado multi-sport weekend with town green and the mountain painted white.”

For those skiing and riding, lift tickets are $54 a day. Sightseers pay $27 for a 1-ride ticket, or $32 for a weekend ticket providing unlimited rides Saturday through Monday. Children under three are free. Aspen Snowmass Premier passes as well as six and under passes provide free access for both skiing/riding and sightseeing.  Discounted pricing for Flex, Double Flex, Classic, Club Escape, School, AVSC, Ikon and Mountain Collective passholders is $27 for skiing/riding, $13 for a 1-ride sightseeing ticket and $16 for a weekend sightseeing ticket. Four Mountain Sports will be open for rental and retail. For more information please call 970-923-1227 or visit https://www.aspensnowmass.com/our-mountains/aspen-mountain/summer.

The Limelight Aspen will offer a Colorado resident rate of $199 based on availability. For more information visit https://www.limelighthotels.com/aspen.

For more information about Aspen Snowmass, visit www.aspensnowmass.com or call (800) 525-6200.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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