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Advanced/Expert Skiers: Skiing Aspen Highlands

Todd Hartley's picture

Home to some of the steepest bowl skiing in Colorado, Aspen Highlands has long been a favorite of Roaring Fork Valley locals for a number of reasons. It’s rarely crowded, the lift system is among the most efficient to be found anywhere, and the daunting hike to the top of Highland Bowl tends to weed out subpar skiers, leaving the choice glade skiing of the G Zones to those willing and able to put in the effort.

The main draw of Aspen Highlands is the incredible Highland Bowl, a horseshoe-shaped cirque of long, steep, wide-open runs and generally excellent snow conditions. To reach the bowl, ride the Exhibition and Loge Peak chairs to the summit of Loge Peak, and from there head out along the ridge leading to Highland Peak. A few hundred yards from the top of the Loge lift, you will reach a meadow where you can either start hiking or catch a Sno-Cat up to the edge of the bowl.

Catching the Cat will save you about 15 minutes of hiking, but from the drop-off point you will still have to trek about 30 minutes or more to reach the summit. Your reward will be a spectacular panoramic view and a long run down either the gut of the bowl (also known as the B Zones) or the north-facing woods farther to your right (the aforementioned G Zones).

While many people enjoy hiking to the summit for the exercise as well as the great skiing, you should not overlook the lower runs in the bowl (collectively known as the Y Zones). With their southerly aspect, these runs can become crusty and scraped, but after a big dump, or in the spring, they can offer some of the best turns on the mountain. If you’re unsure of the conditions, ask the ski patrol for advice.

There is also plenty of great skiing at Highlands that doesn’t require any hiking, starting with the Temerity section of the mountain. Accessed from the Sno-Cat pickup area, these long tree runs will test your stamina, particularly after moguls form in Mushroom Chute and Lucky Find. You can almost guarantee yourself fresh tracks, however, by walking part of the way up toward Highland Bowl and dropping off the ridge to your left.

Adjacent to Temerity and accessed directly from the top of the Loge Peak and Deep Temerity lifts, Steeplechase is classic Highlands skiing. Runs such as Kessler’s, Snyder’s Ridge, Soddbuster and Garmisch offer long, steep runs with a variety of different pitches and aspects.

On the opposite side of the mountain, just down Broadway from the top of Loge Peak, you will find the uncrowded slopes of Olympic Bowl. Due to wind loading, this side of the mountain doesn’t get as much snow as the Steeplechase side, but runs such as No Name, Deception and Aces & Eights are still worth checking out.

While most of the expert terrain at Highlands is near the top of the mountain, there are a number of great runs to be had down low as well. For a fun change of pace, ride the Thunderbowl chair and do a few laps in Bob’s Glades, Golden Horn Woods, the P-Chutes and Epicure. These frequently ignored runs can serve up great conditions for days after a storm.