How to Ski Aspen Highlands Bowl
Highlands Bowl is a ski experience unlike anything else you will get in Colorado or in the U.S for that matter. The terrain is steep and technical and with its north and east facing aspects the snow is always in great shape.
“Hiking the Bowl” is a right of passage for new locals, tourists and kids that grow up here. At a lung busting altitude that tops out over 12,000 feet you will definitely feel the lack of oxygen, especially if you are coming from sea level. Once you ski off of the Loge Chair get your speed up and ski straight ahead between the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol shack and the top of the Deep Temerity lift. crest a short hill hang a left and either queue up for the snowcat which will save you about a third of the hike, or bang a right to the staging area where you will drop a layer and get your skis on your back.
The Aspen Highlands makes and sells ski carrying straps that you can buy if you did not bring a pack that are perfect for getting your skis on your back and off your shoulder. You will want this system so you can use your arms to help you ascend, and to keep your balance, at times the ridge line you are hiking is precipitously narrow, especially around the Rock Outcropping where a wrong step could send you sliding a couple thousand feet down the Maroon Bowl side of the mountain.
The hike is demanding and especially continues at the Staircase portion of the hike, a consistently steep section with no break in the pitch for a long way. Fortunately the views during the hike are breathtaking. To your right you have some of the most majestic peaks in the country, with Pyramid Peak and North and South Maroon all reaching to above 14,000 feet and with extremely steep slopes making them impressively majestic. To your left you have Aspen Mountain and the rolling ridge line of Richmond Ridge and off in the distance the massive slopes of Hayden, a mountain that at one time was the first choice for a ski area here. Beyond Aspen you can see the continental divide and even more peaks cresting the “14er” benchmark.
Once you get to the top the real fun begins, many will want to take a break on the ski lift chair that has been mounted at the weather station and soak in the views they may have not been able to appreciate because of the burn in their legs and lungs. You can also scope some aggressive out of bounds ski lines known as Five Fingers. Please do note this terrain should only be skied by competent back country skiers will all the required avalanches safety gear, failure to follow these safety measures could result in injury or death. On the safer side of The Bowl where the terrain has been managed by the Highlands Ski Patrol you have a variety of lines to choose from. Many of the names of the runs come from the appropriate type of wax to be used for the sun orientation, the Y Zones are the first runs you pass and receive the most snow, the O Zones are in the center of the bowl and the G Zones face due north receiving the least sun. All of this terrain is double black expert only and a fall in these areas could hurt. If tree skiing is your thing head into the lower G’s, (G2 though G6) all have a fair amount of trees, also known as the Northwoods. The O Zones and Steep and Deep provide the steepest skiing, you really do not want to fall here. The Y Zones require the least hiking but also the shortest runs. Once out of the initial slopes of The Bowl there is still a lot of skiing, if you are in good shape this is really fun rolling terrain, if you are exhausted by this point the ski out can feel arduous.
Once you get to the bottom you will find a short cat walk leading you to Deep Temerity chair lift. For many it is time to head to the bottom and enjoy a much earned apres ski cocktail, for many die hard locals it is time to do it again. It is not uncommon for your average local to do two or three hikes up Aspen Highlands Bowl on a powder day. For many this is a training ground and a session of 6 or more laps is not uncommon, something you will question your first time up.
When you lay eyes on the bowl you may wonder how the Ski Patrol gets terrain this steep to be safe from avalanche. The monumental effort of Boot Packing every inch of this terrain is tackled every season by the dedicated Patrol and a grouper of die hard locals who do this work to earn their ski pass. Many spend the full 15 days hiking up and down this demanding terrain secured to to ropes in case of an avalanche. This secures the snow to the mountain helping to prevent an avalanche. After each storm bombing from a howitzer canon and by hand from the ridge is done extensively. Once the bombing is complete the Patrol ski cuts the terrain to trigger any looks snow missed by the bombing. Only after all efforts have been made to secure the area are skiers allowed to access this terrain.
If you are in here on a vacation and have chosen Miller Sports for your Aspen ski rentals be sure to stop in before heading over to Highlands so we can discuss conditions and your ability and get you on the right skis to make sure you have the best experience possible while skiing some of the best terrain and snow on the planet.