Tackling the Highland Bowl thrice at the ripe old age of 8
Considering what 8-year-old Dalton Handy is up to on skis now, lord only knows what the lad will be capable of when he’s 18.
Dalton has made three trips into Highland Bowl this season. While the terrain is steep and deep enough to make many adults’ knees buckle and stomachs ache, the second-grader from Carbondale conquered his fears on his first trip.
Dalton acknowledged he was a little scared of venturing into Aspen’s most celebrated expert terrain. “I didn’t want to fall,” he said.
But curiosity got the best of him. Dalton has been on skis since age 2 and regularly skis Aspen Highlands with his parents, Dru and Tracy Handy, and his 6-year-old sister, Madison.
Dalton said he dove into Steeplechase when he was just 6. Since then he’s worked his way into Temerity and other terrain leading into the bowl.
Dru Handy said he lets Dalton tackle new terrain at his own pace. He doesn’t push him.
“At the beginning of the year, I wasn’t thinking he was going to make it up there,” said Dru. “I was kind of worried about the mental aspect of it more than the physical part.”
Dalton was skiing at Highlands on the day of the Inferno race, where participants hiked or skinned into the bowl, then skied down. He found it so intriguing that he told his dad at bedtime that he was ready for the bowl.
They went up the next day, a Sunday, during picture-perfect conditions – blue sky, a packed trail and lots of happy people.
Dalton said the half-hour hike from where the Snowcat drops off passengers wasn’t so bad because his dad carried his skis.
On that first trip in, they went to the top of the bowl, to the trail named Ozone.
“I remember it was a great day for skiing,” said Dalton.
“He was surprisingly into it,” said Dru. “I’m sure he had butterflies, but he didn’t show it.”
Since the Handys are regulars at Highlands, word spread fast among their friends about Dalton’s feat.
“Oh man, he was such a hero,” said the proud papa. “People were high-fiving him all day.”
Dalton took the trail map of Highlands’ extreme terrain to his class at the Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork and shared the information with his teacher and classmates. They were intrigued since most kids his age are sharpening their skills on the tamer terrain of Snowmass and Buttermilk.
Since that first trip into the bowl, Dalton has returned to tackle Steep ‘n’ Deep and Boxcar. He and his dad plan to add the White Kitchen trail to their belt before Highlands closes April 1.
His sister isn’t far behind. Madison tackled Steeplechase for the first time earlier this month.
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