There are plenty of good reasons to ski Aspen Highlands. It’s in Aspen. It’s not Buttermilk. There are more nice cruiser runs than you might imagine would fit on just over 1,000 acres. Most of the rest of the tourists are on Snowmass.
But there’s only one, okay, maybe two reasons I’m interested in skiing Highlands. Highlands Bowl. The steep terrain running down to the Deep Temerity lift is nice too and it’s really nice they put that lift in two years ago so you don’t have to make a loooong traverse back to the front side when you hike and ski the bowl. But it’s the bowl itself that’s worth the price of admission.
Alright, I’ll admit I’m partial to any steep terrain you have to hike to ski. The punishment of hiking in ski boots, skis balanced on your shoulder, lungs searing from the extra 700 vertical feet you have to sweat to ski, topping out at just under 12,400, face abraded by the constant wind rushing uphill… hey, what’s not to like? Besides, if you’re patient, you can snowcat the first 15 minutes for free leaving you just… half an hour or more to the top. You won’t be alone but you won’t be crowded.
The hike’s more than worth it. Sure, you can ski great runs under the lift. Runs off Temerity and Steeplechase — I can never figure out what, if any, named run I’m on — offer sustained, steep tree skiing. But the Bowl offers the only alpine skiing on Highlands and there’s something heartstopping about dropping into a 48° pitch you can’t really see because of the fog. Rule of Thumb: What you can’t see can’t hurt you.
The path of least resistance from Peak Gate is called Ozone. Commander Cody’s Lost in the Ozone Again — one drink of wine, two drinks of gin — plays in the subconscious jukebox as the slightly off-camber bowl begins to funnel down to a natural gully that leads into scattered trees and then, having lost its pitch, meanders back around to the bottom of Deep Temerity. The ride, like all good rides, is over too soon.
Repeat as necessary.
There’s the usual gaggle of greens, blues, blacks and glades on Highlands. They make the most out of their limited terrain. And there is a very weird collection of retail at the bottom of the mountain, the overall impression of which is an outlet mall of stores you’ve never heard of. But if time’s limited, and it always is, grab a couple of bowlfuls of thrills and don’t fret about the paths not skied.
Check it out:
Stay : Still at the Stonebridge Inn at Snowmass.
Eat : Frosted Flakes in the bowl, silly. But if you must, Cloud Nine Bistro at the top of Cloud Nine lift — clever — dishes up the usual suspects.
Après : I wouldn’t. Highlands Village weirds me out.
Dine : The Crystal Palace in Aspen. Story coming.
Just through the freakin' ball.
Climbin' into the bowl.