The resorts of Aspen Snowmass were in the sweet spot for deep totals during the week of February 11th. Buttermilk received 24 inches, Aspen Mountain (Ajax) 31 inches, Aspen Highlands 39 inches, while Snowmass picked up a total of 49 inches.
On Saturday, February 17th, my girlfriend and I traveled to Aspen Highlands to sample the goods and fire up our legs with multiple laps on Highland Bowl.
Aspen Highlands offers 1,040 acres of skiable terrain, accessed by 5 lifts and 118 trails. The mountain stretches from a base elevation of 8,040 feet to a summit elevation of 11,675 feet.
Our friends at Zrankings.com list Aspen Highland's True Annual Snowfall at 253 inches. 47% of the mountain is considered intermediate terrain, 28% easy, and 25% difficult terrain. 50% of the mountain features a north-facing aspect, 35% east-facing, and 15% west-facing.
The 2017-18 season kicked off on December 16th and is scheduled to end on April 8th. The lift operating hours run from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm (weather and lift depending).
We started our day with a ride up the Exhibition quad and onto Cloud Nine. All of the recent snow made for perfect corduroy so we warmed up our legs with a quick
Ski Patrol was very busy with avalanche control work on Highland Bowl so we had plenty of time to explore the terrain off of the Deep Temerity lift before the bowl opened between 10:30 and 11:00 am. The first run took us down Kessler's.
The bumps were "sun-kissed" from the previous day but still soft. We also dipped into the trees (skiers right) to find a few patches of leftover powder.
We then took St. Moritz for our second run down to Deep Temerity. This run was a bit more protected from the sun so we found plenty of soft turns in the shade, skiers right.
From the bottom, we made our way back up to the summit of
NOTICE: Highland Bowl should only be accessed if you're an expert skier or rider and feel comfortable negotiating steep terrain.
The hike begins with 5-10 minutes along a cat track and there is a cat available to get you to the start of the ridge. The cover photo below was taken from the end of the cat track and at the start of the hike along the ridge.
The hike along the ridge features a great boot pack so there's never a need to break trail. The ridge is also mostly single-file so make sure to let faster hikers pass when there's an opportunity.
Upon closing in on the summit, the prayer flags will come into view and you'll know that you're almost there.
Once on the summit, you're greeted with an incredible 360-degree view of the Maroon Bells Wilderness and the Elk Mountains. The photo below is looking southwest from the summit, with Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells in crystal clear view.
After soaking in the bluebird skies and 14,000-foot peaks, I buckled into my Jones Ultracraft and we dropped into Ozone. This run is directly skiers left off the summit.
We were a day late from grabbing fresh tracks but the snow was still in phenomenal shape. It's rare to find great powder turns on such steep terrain so we took our time and enjoyed every turn.
Once you exit the bowl, you'll encounter a flat area before the run continues down South Fork, Middle Fork, and North Fork until you reach Bear Hollow Road. This will lead you back to the Deep Temerity lift and to the summit of
Highland Bowl was so nice that we did it twice. The second lap was a leg burner but you couldn't complain with bluebird skies and steep powder turns.
After our second lap, we cooled our legs with a cruiser down to Cloud Nine. From here, we took one last look at the Maroon Bells and coasted down to the base area.
With multiple feet over the previous week and storms lining up through early-March, it's safe to say that Colorado is making an ideal comeback for the 2017-18 season.
Visit AspenSnowmass.com for all lodging, event, and other ski-related information.
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