Snowmass closes, Aspen re-opening, Mongolia Utah has its say

Under beautiful blue skies, Snowmass officially called it a season Sunday, but thanks to the dumper the week before, Aspen Mountain is re-opening for the next two weekends, with antiquated lift ticket prices of $39 ($29 if you have a pass to any other Colorado resort), and all sorts of other deals.

I had a great time skiing both mountains over the weekend, but the snow went from pavement in the morning to mashed potatoes in the afternoon. In between, there was a three-hour midday sweet spot that Goldilocks would probably label "just right" -- at least in comparison with its early- and late-day incarnations.

Massive dust storms in Mongolia haven't helped things much.

UPDATE: Despite some initial reports blaming Mongolia, the Aspen Times is now reporting Utah as the source of the dust.

There is a "Dust Bowl"-like phenomenon in Mongolia and northwestern China where battered cropland gives way to the spring winds and sprays dust from Beijing to Tokyo to Snowmass. The last few weeks have been especially bad, with Phoenix, Denver, and elsewhere getting a layer of Mongolian powder.

At Snowmass, the runs down to Two Creeks were hit particularly hard:

And as I blogged last week, dirty snow melts much faster and in an entirely different fashion than clean snow.

On Sunday, Aspen Mountain was in better shape, thanks to the resort's impeccable grooming and its relatively small acreage. Luckily, fresh snow should shroud the Mongolian dust by midweek, and with $29 lift tickets and all sorts of lodging deals (Viceroy Snowmass is offering studios for $95 through mid-June), skiing Aspen on the cheap is a reality -- for at least two weekends.

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Eric Peterson