Fitting way to spend last day of lift-served skiing

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Snowy Mount Sopris provides a splendid backdrop to the pastures and fields of Missouri Heights.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times |

I’ve been whining with the best of ’em about the crummy weather so far this spring, but Sunday was one of those special days that make a person particularly thankful for our neck of the woods.

The forecast called for another day of rain and snow mix but conditions miraculously improved during the night. Like a lot of other people, I was overjoyed to see clear skies at dawn. I wanted to catch Aspen Highlands for the final day but also wanted to get some miles in on the bike. Why not do both?

I pulled into Highlands shortly before 8 a.m. as the lifties, ski patrollers, groomers and guest services folks were getting ready to work their magic one last time for the season. The slopes of the lower fifth of the mountain were like a glacier but the surface abruptly turned to butter as I kept working my way up. I called it quits at Merry-Go-Round Restaurant to save some legs for a road ride ascent of Missouri Heights.

The portion of the Rio Grande Trail between Rock Bottom Ranch and Catherine Bridge opened at 5 p.m. Saturday after a winter closure. I hate to admit it, but I usually take the Rio Grande for granted as a way to get from home to a trailhead or launching point for a road ride. However, riding it past the wetlands abutting Rock Bottom and gazing on the Roaring Fork River and cow pastures while zooming by on Sunday at noon was a treat.

Before long I was climbing into Missouri Heights on Catherine Road, soaking in the views of the Milagro and Strang and Hunt ranches that make Missouri Heights so special. Mount Sopris, Capitol Peak and Mount Daly exuded particular grandeur after a fresh coating of snow Saturday.

It was a great conclusion to the ski season.

Now that May has arrived, more trails will be opening. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails sent several reminders about trails Monday. The Ski Mountain Park network of trails will reopen May 16. Meanwhile, they will be repaving between Hunter Creek and Stein Park as weather permits. Expect closures. In addition, crews will be “buffing up” the soft surface components of the Rio Grande Trail next week between Stein Park and Woody Creek. The trail will remain open, but be aware of equipment.