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Last chance to get high

Joel Stonington

Mr. Basalt was sitting at the top of Highland Bowl on Saturday, enjoying a fresh, cold Gordon’s India Pale and mourning the end of an epic season. Boz was there, too, with American flags sticking out of his helmet, looking out over the peaks.”I just love my country,” he said, “and this bowl.”He talked in dreamy tones about New Year’s Day. “Bowl was completely empty, whiteout, skiing three across with two buddies,” he sighed. “Talk about a good day to bring in the new year.”Yes, tears will be shed today when Highlands closes the lifts on a stunning season – a season that Highlands patrol director Mac Smith said is among the top three of his 34 years on patrol. Yup, pretty damn good.The epic flag never flew, but Smith said there were a number of days when it could have flown on the bowl. The flag, however, is about the whole mountain. And though 6 or 8 inches amounts to a sweet day on the bowl, it doesn’t cut it for the epic flag mountainwide. Regardless, it was an epic year. It’s also the year, Smith says, that Aspen Highlands changed for good.The new Deep Temerity chairlift basically put Highlands on the map nationally. “It’s good to be on the radar screen of the industry,” Smith said.Late in the season Highlands received a postcard from the Aspen Mountain ski patrol.”Deep Temerity is the best thing that ever happened to Aspen Mountain,” it said. Ajax cleared out somewhat this year, as more people headed over to Highlands, especially on powder days.”We have a lot of good skiers here,” Smith said. “I’d say it tripled.”At the beginning of the year, there were assumptions that Deep Temerity was a great place to put a lift for expert skiers but not necessarily economically viable. “The new lift was put in for the sport of skiing,” Smith said. “That’s pretty damn cool. Because of our numbers, though, it could become economically viable.”He said they’ll toss a few charges on the top of the mountain tomorrow just to celebrate the end of a good season. But the party will mostly be down on the deck of Iguana’s and in the mall. “It’s a party like no other in town,” he said. After the party is over, Monday will be staff ski day. Then they’ll clean up and start getting ready for the summer.Smith said Highlands will cut major runs in upper Hyde Park and Mushroom. Smaller cuts include a few lines in GLE, the aspen trees in Bowling Alley, part of Logjam, a north line out of Bacardi, and a large swath of little trees in the runout of Highland Bowl. Expect Boz and Mr. Basalt to be there. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is jstonington@aspentimes.com


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