Reviewed by Luke Lubchenco
Nov 06, 2008
Trace a line formed by Maine's State Routes 16, 27, 4, and 142 and you will encircle some of the state's highest mountains. In the southern part of the circle you'll find the long, impressive mass of Saddleback Mountain, from whose summit drop the twisty, wooded trails of Saddleback the ski resort.
Sugarloaf boasts 138 trails, 15 lifts, and a bustling village at the base.
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
If the massive 3,635 feet of vertical drop from the top of Highlands Bowl to the bottom of the mountain doesn’t hook you, the diversity of runs will. From the moguls of Gunbarrel to the near-vertical pitch of Steeplechase, Highlands is a must hit resort among the four mountains that comprise Aspen Snowmass. Head straight for the bowl to rip hike-to laps on some of Colorado’s most talked-about terrain, then sit on the deck at the Merry-Go-Round and chow on a finely-grilled cheeseburger. Welcome to Aspen Highlands.
Start Here: Jump on Exhibition to shred a warm up on Prospector to T-Lazy-7 Catwalk. Finish the run on the steep groomer, Golden Horn.
Quick Tip: Arrive at least half an hour early on a powder day to avoid a pileup at the bottom of Exhibition.
Must Hit: Hike the oh-so-famous Highlands Bowl, known for its steeps, powder, and excellent view. With the Maroon Bells behind you, drop into G-4 for stashes of Colorado blower.
The Stash: Head up Cloud Nine lift and ski Upper Robinson’s, which run holds snow well after a storm and offers good late afternoon sun spots high on the ridge. Or drop right for top-to-bottom creaminess.
Powder Day: Big dump? You’ll probably have to wait until patrol opens the bowl, but that’ll give you some time to drop into Kessler’s. Head up Loge Peak and drop left. Ski the fall line down to Grand Reverse and regroup at Deep Temerity.
Three Days Later: Shred your way to The Wall, a short but consistent shot that dumps you onto a fast cruising groomer. To get there, ride Cloud Nine and ski Scarlett’s Run, looking to your right. Watch out for variable slope angles.
Park and Pipe: Not here. Head to Buttermilk or Snowmass if park is your gig.
Backcountry Access: Check avalanche conditions before you pick a gate. The avalanche danger is sketchy at best outside of the gate at the top of the Highlands Bowl, but depending on the safe aspects, head to the gate located on the traverse out of Olympic Bowl near the bottom of Aerobie.
Weather: Aspen sees its coldest weeks in late January and early February with temperatures below zero for a week or two. Highlands sees a temperate climate with regular 20-inch dumps and 20-degree weather with an average of 300 sunny days per year.
Après: Don’t miss out on the Terrace Bar, located inside the Little Nell Hotel. This spot attracts attention, but only to those who know.
Fuel: Hit up Paradise Bakery, in downtown Aspen, for a fresh-baked muffin. Get there early.
Up All Night: Start at Eric’s with a round of pool and a martini. Then check out Belly Up for a nightly concert. The late-night dance scene gets hot and sweaty at Club Chelsea and The Regal.
Digs: If you’re feeling thick in the wallet, check into the Hotel Jerome with a bed and breakfast package starting at $329 per night. [hoteljerome.rockresorts.com]
Elevation: 12,392 feet (Summit of Bowl) Vertical Drop: 3,635 feet Snowfall: 300 inches Acres: 1,028 acres Info: aspensnowmass.com