Going deeper in Temerity
November 22, 2006
Tim Grogan, an Aspen Highlands patroller, took a few turns on a recent morning and earned eternal bragging rights as the first person to ski the lower part of newly cut Mushroom, in the Deep Temerity area. It’s part of nearly 100 new skiable acres at Highlands this year.
He hit some logs on the way down, and there were some heavy patches but, for the most part, the coverage was good. Over the summer, Grogan and other patrollers went in with saws and chain saws to cut several new shots in the Deep Temerity and Highland Bowl.Mushroom, an existing run that’s now longer by about 800 vertical feet, is where the most work was done. It’s a roller coaster, a big trough that seems to deepen as it descends. The run, bound to be pocked with moguls after a few days with few escape routes, will probably be a tourist trap (in the best sense of the word).”There are going to be some people who whine because we cut a swath through here,” said Grogan. “But this is the only thing we’ll do like this in here, and we couldn’t really ‘glade’ it.”Because of the sheer volume of timber, much of lower Mushroom was cut by a professional logger. But chunks of Hyde Park, the runout at the bottom of the Highland Bowl and smaller sections in Steeplechase were strategically thinned by ski patrollers working in the summer.
Locals who are not pro mogul skiers will want to hit Mushroom early before it’s thoroughly bumped-out, and then cruise over to explore Hyde Park. Where previously there were many unlinked powder stashes, selective cutting has opened up connecting trails and little glades. “There’s a lot that got done this summer that people won’t realize,” said Highlands Patrol Director Mac Smith. “There are things people will want to explore. Go find your new favorite run.”When Smith started working at Highlands in 1978, the entire ski area was 390 acres. Since then, there has been a new run every year, he said. Last season, the area went from 720 acres to 970 and this year Highlands tops 1,000 acres. Much of the new acreage this year is going to be out on Child’s Play, on the far side of the bowl. It’s an area that had previously been backcountry, but this year the patrol will maintain the area and supervise a gate.
The other major change in Highland Bowl is the runout. Smith explained that patrollers thinned three swaths that will be known as the South Fork, Middle Fork and North Fork. The runout has a solid amount of snow with good shade, enough that Smith said the shady G-zones can open even if it doesn’t snow by opening day, Dec. 9. It wasn’t simple to thin the runs and get logs out. Patrollers began by walking a specific area and marking trees that were dead or in a spot that would connect openings. Afterward, Forest Service officials came through and approved which trees could be cut and which ones could not.Next the patrollers came through with wedges, saws and chain saws. Late in the summer, a helicopter worked for three days to remove trees and place them either up on top near the snowcat pickup area, or down below near the runout of the bowl. A local logger came and picked up many of the trees as well. “All of my trail workers are patrollers so they have great ski goggles,” Smith said. “All these years I’ve done this I don’t need to supervise. They go out and get to sculpt their own run.”
One of the big ideas behind clearing Hyde Park was to clear the awkward traverse from the snowcat pickup into the Y-zones and Hyde Park, to make it more easily navigable. Known to patrollers as the Dork Sacker, the “trail” has traditionally fanned out into multiple traverses because trees block the various paths. Grogan hopes the new, improved Dork Sacker will be a single trail. “It often worked out so Mushroom was great on top and then you were, like, wham, hit about five different traverses,” Grogan said. “It was just a matter of clearing out trees and marking the Dork Sacker work really well.”The rationale behind much of this past summer’s work was to work out the kinks and bottlenecks in the still-evolving Deep Temerity area. Previously Highlands was more of a locals scene, but the new lift put Highlands on the map nationally, said Smith. “We’re getting a reputation that this is where you want to ski if you want some big-line skiing,” Smith said, adding that new runs serve to make the mountain less crowded. “Even though we did more skier days last year, the mountain is starting to spread them out.”
Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org