Aspen, Colorado is blessed to have four ski mountains to choose from for locals and guests, each offers its own unique experience and Aspen Highlands is one of “Extreme” in bounds terrain. No ski resort in Colorado comes close to offering as much steep skiing as Aspen Highlands, and not just steep but long consistently steep from the top of the mountain all the way down to the base, so if you are ready for a challenge then this is the mountain for you.
Highlands is known as the “Locals” mountain in Aspen due to the abundance of challenging terrain. On any given day the majority of skiers you see on this ski hill live in Aspen or the Roaring Fork Valley. This also lends itself to the fact that Highlands is home to one of the most legendary closing day parties of any ski area in the country. Combined with the fact that it often still has amazing snow if not powder on closing day skiing Highlands on closing day and catching the party after can be something you will never forget.
A quick two chair rides gets you to the top in no time and from here you ski down a ridge with Temerity and Steeplchase dropping off to your right and Olympic Bowl dropping off to your left, either way you go it is steep double black skiing. Take your pick, wide open powder fields or head into the trees either way it is incredible skiing. The Temerity side provides even longer runs now with the addition of the Deep Temerity chairlift which has cut off the need to traverse back to the Lodge Peak lift and nearly doubled the length of the runs on this side of the mountain.
The real gem of Aspen Highlands is the legendary Highlands Bowl. The terrain here is so steep for so long that it is prone to avalanche, so the Highlands Ski Patrol works with a team of about forty locals every year to “boot pack” the entire bowl. The locals who put in 15 days of packing get a full ski pass, get in shape, get to know the mountain and get to know the patrol, all of which have perks. Boot packing literally involves walking over every square inch of terrain on hundreds of acres. To do this safely the workers wear harnesses and are secured to ropes that are rigged to a cable on the ridge of the bowl. Workers walk up a previously packed down track, this becomes the uptrack, then they walk across the ridge to wear the last person has gone down, they clip into the rope with a Shunt, which is a type of belay device, then they stomp each foot down to the ground as they walk down the mountain. As you can imagine this is grueling work but it bonds the base of the snowpack to the ground and allows the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol to open the longest, steepest skiing in Colorado! To ski The Bowl you have to either take a snowcat for about 10 minutes, the hike up the ridge for another half hour or just hike the whole thing as most locals do, it a pride thing. Once on top you can ski famous lines like Steep and Deep or O Zone rolling over so steep you can not see what you are skiing until you are on it. Or head north to the North Woods for amazing tree skiing. The Bowl faces North East which is the ideal direction for maintaining good snow quality, this combined with the only way ski here it to hike here keeps the snow in great condition and you can often find untracked lines for days after a storm.
Lower mountain has it share of steep terrain as well but also hosts some great blue cruisers. One of the distinguishable features of the mountain as you approach it is the steep wide open Thunderbowl, this is a perfectly groomed consistently steep wide open run that allows you to go as fast as you dare. Dropping you right into the base at mock speed.
Highlands has a great lodge on mountain with the Merry Go Round, but if you are up for something truly unique have lunch at Cloud 9 Bistro. The old world cabin has great food, great views and has been known to get more than a little wild. Make sure to get plenty of turns in early as you may end up partying all afternoon here with forty of your new best friends.
Aspen Highlands offers a unique and imitate ski experience for the intermediate to expert skier, if you are here visiting our lovely town make sure to ski here for at least a day.