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NEMS Article - Aspen Highlands, CO - A Pictorial

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Aspen Highlands, CO - A Pictorial

By: Jamesj
Posted 9/23/14  Last updated 8/29/15  1,419 views  4 comments

Aspen Highlands, CO - A Pictorial


By Jim Kenney, aka JamesJ

EpicSki Travel Correspondent


My 23 year old son Vince and I skied Aspen Highlands, CO last season on a beautiful, partly sunny, 30 degree (F) day. It was New Year's Eve 2013. We carved-up long groomers (lightly trafficked even during the Holidays), tackled challenging glades and bump runs, and rode a free snowcat to Highland Bowl for one of the most spectacular off-piste experiences in US recreational skiing. Did we have a good time? It's hard to speak in absolutes, but from a guy who has skied ~85 ski areas in North America and Europe over a span of nearly 50 years Aspen Highlands is one of my very favorites of the bunch. Vince was smitten too.

Here is the happy enigma of the place; after you climb about 1000 vertical feet above the compact, modern base area (and still have ~2500-3000' to rise) you feel as though you are entering an exceptionally beautiful rocky mountain wilderness filled with largely unpopulated scenic vistas, steep slopes, and epic bowls. A backside peep at the magnificent Maroon Bells (elevation 14,000'+) is a must! Yet the town of Aspen awaits just a snowball's throw down the road with all the sophistication and resortsy stuff you'd ever want. I first skied Aspen Highlands on a trip to Colorado in 1976. It was the highlight of my very first ski foray outside the East Coast. I returned for a week in 1991 including two ski days when the area received 30" of snow in 30 hours. This time Vince and I got to sample the incomparable Highland Bowl. My impressions of Aspen Highlands only get more favorable upon each visit. 

Aspen Highlands is a great and humbling mountain with a 3,635' vertical drop or ~4,350' if you include climbing The Bowl. A good bit of the terrain is beyond my ability to ski with much aplomb and I respect that. It's undoubtedly one of the great proving grounds in America, right up there with some other challenging ski areas I've made tracks at such as Taos, Squaw Valley, Snowbird, Arapaho Basin, MRG, etc. It blows my mind that Highland Bowl (~2400' vertical from its summit to the base of the Deep Temerity chairlift) is now a common achievement for strong recreational snowriders. In my earlier trips to the area 20 and 40 years ago it is was considered the domain of elite extreme skiers only and I hold the Aspen Highlands ski patrol in high esteem for the critical work they do to ensure The Bowl is a safe place for so many to enjoy.


Please click on the photos for expanded views.  All photos are by Jim Kenney.


The Aspen Highlands base area is located about three miles from the town of Aspen at an elevation of approximately 8040'.



The middle and lower portions of the mountain feature long, entertaining intermediate level groomers.  This photo is representative of trail traffic at mid-day on New Year's Eve 2013.



 There is big vertical on almost every run at Aspen Highlands, this is somewhere under the Loge Peak Chair (1800' vertical), maybe Hayden.



Entering Hyde Park Glade not far from the upper terminus of the Loge Peak chair, the highest lift served point on the mountain at 11,675'.



This photo does not do the terrain of the Deep Temerity Chair justice.  It serves about 1700 vertical feet of nothing, but double black diamond bumps and glades.



This is Why Not slope in Lower Olympic Bowl.  A low cloud ceiling obscures a sublime view of the Maroon Bells.



This is the view of Highland Bowl from the deck of the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol Building at the summit of the lift served ski layout.  The free snowcat service starts at the left and follows the ridge dropping skiers at about the point where the line of trees branch off to the right.



After the short snowcat ride Vince gets an unforgettable first close-up view of Highland Bowl before climbing about 600 more vertical feet to the 12,392' summit at the upper right.  



The scope of Highland Bowl will impress even the most jaded recreational skiers/snowboarders.  This is the view of Peak Gate from the summit of The Bowl.



As shadows lengthened on the afternoon of New Year's Eve 2013 the party had already started for a lively little crowd at the mid-mountain Cloud 9 Restaurant/Bistro (elevation 10,825').  



Aspen Highlands website:  http://www.aspensnowmass.com/aspen-highlands

Aspen Highlands trail map:  http://www.aspensnowmass.com/-/media/031850C676CE4CE3B560AA95FE89E4FC.ashx


About the Author

  • Husband, father and civilian employee of the Department of Navy, Jim Kenney is a Washington D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim’s ski reporting garnered the 2009 West Virginia Division of Tourism’s Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article. To read other articles by Jim, click here
  • LL




Comments (4)

Schwing!!! Boom
Great pics, makes me wanna go!
"Deep Temerity Chair justice.  It serves 939 vertical feet"  The chair is actually about 1700 vertical feet.
Thanks Nathanvg!  You are correct and I made the change to the vertical rise of the Deep Temerity triple chair in my article.  Data below from skilifts,org indicates the vertical is 1708'.  The wikipedia entry on Deep Temerity cites the vertical at 1690'.  So your "about 1700 vertical feet" is a good way to describe it.  The length/vert numbers from skilifts.org (3683'/1708') represent one of the steepest ratios around for a chairlift and further substantiating the bada$$ness of the terrain it serves.   BTW, you've also caused me to correct my estimate of the total vertical from the summit of Highland Bowl to the base of the Deep Temerity to about 2400'.
ResortNameTypeManufacturerHPLengthVert.Cap.SpeedCOLORADO        Aspen HighlandsDeep Temerity3CLeitner-Poma300368317081085500 

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