On the hill: An epic opening at Aspen Highlands
December 13, 2010
ASPEN – This has been the year for opening days.
First, Ajax and Snowmass cranked up the lifts on Thanksgiving Day with fresh snow and a surplus of skiable terrain, and over the weekend Highlands stoked locals and visitors alike with heaps of newly fallen fluff.
It would have been good enough just to ski the “frontside” of Highlands on the first day of the season, see friends and enjoy a bowl of the beef-and-bean chili at the Merry Go Round, but this homecoming was much, much sweeter. As Exhibition started loading, light snow was falling at the bottom, and up on Loge Peak, it was dumping.
Temerity and Highland Bowl were closed first thing in the morning, so everyone jumped into Steeplechase with abandon, whooping and hollering and sending up big white waves with each joyous turn. Even the groomed runs skied nicely, with a thin layer of soft snow like butter on top of the corduroy.
Sometime in the middle of the morning, Temerity opened. The hikers jumped into the newly opened woods from Mushroom to Hyde Park, relishing the early turns in those narrow troughs before they develop their signature bumps.
Of course, the frosting on this delightful cake was the promised opening of the Bowl around noon. Amazingly, the better part of the great snow temple was ready to go, covered by a 7-inch blanket of fresh fluff and aided by a steady wind sweeping across the ridge and dropping still more.
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As the clouds began to part early in the afternoon, a dense parade of hikers could be seen braving the wind on the ridge for the sweet, white payoff that waited below. And though the ridge was congested, there was no question that the hike was worth the trouble. My own trip down G-5 was memorable, beautiful, even (to use a worn-out cliche) sick.
It was so good that, stopping to catch my breath in a knee-deep drift about halfway down, I breathed in deep and let fly with a full-throated howl. I heard a couple of responses from the trees to my left and right, and laughed as I snaked my way down to the run-out, where a couple of other smiling skiers were praising the snow gods too.
Thanks to the patrol and Old Man Winter for a great opening.