Heaven can wait at Highlands | AspenTimes.com

Heaven can wait at Highlands

Allyn Harvey
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Skiers and boarders will have to stay out of Eden for at least one more season.

Mac Smith, director of the Aspen Highlands ski patrol, said this week that the plan to open up a new section of extreme skiing is on hold for at least a year.

“We’re holding back so we can study it another year,” he said Monday.

The decision means that this coming season will be the first in seven years that has not featured the opening of new extreme terrain at Aspen Highlands.

Eden and East of Eden occupy a narrow section of terrain immediately south, on the skiers left, from No Name Bowl. It is on the opposite side of the ridge from Steeplechase and features tight trees, cliffs and what would have been the steepest steep in the expanded boundary.

“That terrain is unique to Highlands,” Smith said. “It’s steep and narrow, as opposed to steep and wide-open like the Bowl and Steeplechase.”

Smith said a big factor in the delay was a wind storm last spring that blew down scores of trees around the mountain. It took a crew of five patrollers two weeks just to clear the Temerity catwalk, Smith said, diverting resources and manpower that might have otherwise been applied to opening the new terrain.

Another factor, Smith said, was safety. He and others at Highlands felt it would serve everyone’s interest to spend another year examining just what needs to be done to make the steepest portion safe for both skiers and patrollers.

One change skiers will notice is in the run G-4 in Highland Bowl, which runs through the middle of the wooded section. The trees that forced skiers to make hard turns or pick a line and ski through have been cleared, allowing for more maneuverability.

Many of the chutes down G-4 have been filled with small trees growing in every direction and shape because they are pummeled by small avalanches throughout the winter. Ski patrollers refer to them as “crack babies,” Smith said.

Now that the Bowl is a controlled area, the larger avalanches that occurred every five to 10 years that would clean the crack babies out of the chutes no longer occur. So the clearing work was necessary to keep some parts of G-4 from being overgrown.

“It’s going to be much easier to get through there and ski some of these lines now,” Smith said.

[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]

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