Temerity rules at Highlands opening
Ian Hardman of South Africa, Bill Osborne of New Zealand and two jokesters who gave their names as Billy Deep Pow and Jethro – just Jethro – were the crazies who got up early enough to be first in line as Aspen Highlands opened Saturday. Billy Deep Pow and Jethro were waiting for the lift at 7 a.m.; Hardman and Osborne got there about 15 minutes later. Hard-core baby, hard-core. They gave the typical hang loose signs and screamed like little children when the lift ops waived them onto the first chair of the season at Highlands. The mountain opened at 8:30 a.m. with a big line at the bottom and the classic apprehension of a powder day: the air of excitement, the murderous looks if someone gets an inch ahead in line, and the desire to move forward even though the lift hasn’t started.
Kevin Frazier, 14, of Aspen, seemed psyched to be up on Highlands for the opening. Usually he goes to Snowmass, Frazier said, but “this is probably the best skiing right now.”For the most part, the crowds headed to the new lift, Deep Temerity, and the 180 acres of new terrain it has opened. The lift promptly broke down. The powder glazed smiles slowly morphed into frowns. And a few serious threats were tossed at a ski school instructor who pushed his way to the front of the line. Evidently, Deep Temerity had gotten swinging a little too much and the automatic emergency brake was activated. So, after roughly a 20 minute wait, it got going again, with only two people per chair instead of three. That lasted until about 11 a.m., by which time the lift was running smoothly at full capacity.
Deep Temerity added about 1,100 vertical feet to Highland Bowl and roughly doubled the vertical of most runs it serves. The chairlift cost $1.7 million and trail clearing was another $1 million. Money well spent. The new terrain was freaking unbelievable. It’s steep, interesting, a bunch of funky glades that seem to appear in the middle of runs. Good jumps. Oh, and it’s steep. The Steeplechase area was extended, and terrain between trails was added, including Fran’s Love (gladed area beside Soddbuster), Logjam Gully (between St. Moritz and Boomerang Woods), and the Greatest Line Ever (between Soddbuster and Garmisch). Continued clearing of trails by crews next summer should add another 270 to 300 skiable acres next winter. There were a lot of roots showing from the new cuts; there were some stumps and a good number of rocks and twigs in the middle of runs. That didn’t really stop most people.
Even with the wait at the bottom, everyone was grinning and laughing about the nice snow, the divots they just took out of their skis, and the steep new pitches. The snow was deep and everyone seemed happy. Except one guy who tore the edge off his snowboard. He didn’t look so happy. And three people were searching for a ski under the chairlift for a few hours. They didn’t look too excited about that. And then there was one person who was halfway down Steeplechase, sitting in the snow, chatting on his cell phone. He looked happy. But even if he was cutting a deal to sell $10 million worth of pork bellies, well, that’s just bad priorities. Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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Colorado’s Western Slope is considered a climate hot spot where temperatures are increasing faster than the global average. This warming has contributed to more than 20 years of dryness, which scientists are calling a megadrought.