On the hill: Hitting the powder lottery
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – A powder day is always a treat, but even more so when you don’t expect it.
On both Saturday and Sunday of last weekend, I showed up at Aspen Highlands knowing there were a few inches of fresh snow on the ground, but “pleasantly surprised” doesn’t even begin to describe what I found.
On Saturday, a set of four or five friends took the morning kind of easy, starting with a few runs on Cloud Nine to warm up and test the snow. We carefully avoided the wind-affected Oly side of the mountain, but found nice, late-morning pockets of powder in Steeplechase. The wind was howling across the ridge above Highland Bowl, but two powder-hungry buddies and I eventually donned some facial protection and took the hike.
It was a punishing gale, and at least one “Bowl tattoo” was left on a hiker’s exposed cheek, but the fluff was unforgettable in the North Woods. We picked our way through the trees, occasionally losing each other and then hooting to reconnect, all the way down to a grinning reunion in front of the water cooler at the Deep Temerity chair. The wind practically knocked us over on the hike, but the descent was worth every arduous step.
On Sunday morning, I had just dropped off kids at both Buttermilk and the AVSC clubhouse when I bumped into a long-lost friend at the Highlands Lodge. We decided to take a run or two together, but based on the ski report we had no idea what awaited us up above. As the Loge chair crossed over Soddbuster in a thick quilt of white, we both commented that “it looks pretty good down there.” At that point we could still hear bombs detonating in the Bowl, so we helped ourselves to three creamy shots down to the old Steeplechase catwalk, where we then turned left and sought the best untracked lines down to the Temerity catwalk.
It was deep and delicious, but things only got better when the Bowl opened. We took two “short hikes,” jumping in partway up the ridge, and whooped as we bounced our way through shin-deep to knee-deep powder. It was ridiculous. We couldn’t stop grinning, especially because we’d expected a dust-on-crust kind of morning.
It’s easy to criticize the Skico for occasionally over-reporting snowfall (all depends on where their stake is planted, doesn’t it?), but when they under-report, it’s like winning the lottery.
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