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Colorado mountaintop attracts crowd for tonight's full moon

November 28, 2012|By John M. Glionna
  • The view from Buttermilk Mountain near Aspen, Colo.
The view from Buttermilk Mountain near Aspen, Colo. (Werdna / Wikimedia Commons )

Those Coloradans sure do know how to party come wintertime.

Throw in a full moon (like tonight’s), dust some snow on a mountaintop, preferably the Rocky Mountain type, and you’re sure to have a bona fide outdoor event.

Jeff Hanle calls it full moon fever.

Hanle, spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Co., is putting the word out to the hordes that officials expect to scale nearby Buttermilk Mountain to bask in the moonlight: Be careful; full moon or no, you'll be skiing down in darkness. 

Buttermilk has a hut and a bonfire pit on its western peak where hikers can get warm before heading down the mountain. That area has increased in popularity in the last couple of years with more people opting to make the hike on full-moon winter nights.

“For 25 years or more, people have been hiking up ski mountains during the full moon,” Hanle said. “The whole sport of uphilling – walking up a ski mountain – for exercise  has grown twentyfold in recent years. On any given day, there are 20 people walking up Buttermilk mountain.... The nighttime component has grown as well – the full moon is a reason to celebrate in the mountains.”

Last year, he said, parties involving a total of 100 people led officials to issue a warning about this year’s expected event, which has been trumpeted on Facebook. The Facebook page for a public event called “Full Moon Skin and Ullr Fire” invited 313 locals to climb up Buttermilk around 6 p.m. and “raise the vibration for this winter and celebrate life with all the beautiful souls here in Aspen.”

“When the snow is out and the moonlight shines, it can be a pretty spectacular event,” Hanle said. “What they do up there, I don’t know for sure. Some light a bonfire and drink wine, others come up, look at the moon for a few moments and head down.”

The company isn't concerned about overindulgence, just safety, he said.

“When you come down, you’re basically skiing in the dark,” Hanle said. “And right now, we’ve got snow-making equipment and snowmobiles and hoses and pipes all over. Even with the moonlight, skiiing downhill with a headlamp is a dicey affair. You can’t see the undulations in the runs.”

Hanle is warning regulars to use their better judgment. Last year, the warming hut and surrounding area were trashed and damaged, he said.

“Don’t start a giant bonfire in the middle of a ski run and leave a big gaping hole there,” he said. “A few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch.”

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john.glionna@latimes.com

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