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Surfing the bowl

Allyn Harvey

It took some doing, but they finally got it.

The “they,” of course, is the Aspen Highlands ski patrol.

And the “it” is the right mix of explosives, temperature and snow conditions necessary to set off a respectable slide in one of the underskied, overexposed spots on the east face of Highland Bowl.

Highland patrol director Mac Smith said his crews used “a few extra pounds” of explosives to set off a slide yesterday. Their target: a rarely skied section of Mosh Pit, immediately below the rock outcropping that anyone bound for the Fundeck or beyond must pass.

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“That area doesn’t get much compaction,” Smith said.

That the patrollers were able to start a wet-snow slide visible as far away as Aspen Mountain is a sign snow conditions have changed in the last week or so just as radically as the temperature. In fact, the snow is doing what it’s doing because the temps are doing what they’re doing.

“Now we’re starting to see the corn out there ” we’ve got a whole different product now,” Smith said.

So the wise snowboarder picks and chooses her runs on the basis of time and exposure. East-facing slopes are the place to be in the a.m., while west-facing slopes are best late in the day. Unless she’s looking for more winterlike skiing ” then it’s off to the north faces.

“You go into the G Zones, and it’s like it snowed yesterday,” Smith said. The G Zones ” that other place the sun never shines.

Meanwhile, down on Powder Bowl (get out your map), a Highland’s correspondent reports that the snow is “what a frozen ocean looks like.” Frozen, but with enough give to make the skiing a little like surfing.

The warm weather continues to melt away at the bases of the various mountains, about an inch a day. Snowmass and Highlands both are reporting 74 inches on top. Ajax has 56, and Buttermilk 46.


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