The Bowl lap that saved Christmas |

The Bowl lap that saved Christmas

My 2017-18 ski season didn’t really start until Friday morning when a skier wearing a wide smile and a snow-crusted beard slid next to me at the foot of Highland Bowl and marveled to himself, “Man, that was nice.”

It was the small sort of powder day moment that we can usually take for granted around here.

This guy was on his way back up for his second lap of the day. I was about to go for my first of the year.

The Bowl always has the best snow on any of the local mountains, but on this day — after the first legitimate snowfall of this dry, desperate young winter of discontent — its deep and fluffy descent felt downright miraculous. This, finally, felt like winter in Aspen.

Until then I’d spent the season scraping and rock-dodging my way down Aspen Mountain, not making any trips to my beloved Highlands in the weird early days after its delayed opening.

I was dubious that this one storm would save us. Even by the time that guy slid up to me and raved about the conditions, I had little faith. The hike up was odd and windy — with the usual footholds and the familiar shape of the ridge altered by the lack of snow. On the peak, things still looked foreboding — there were piles of rocks I’d never seen before, a minefield of debris on the upper reaches of Ozone and the B’s.

But then I hopped in, cut far right, and soon found myself making honest-to-goodness powder turns at the top of G-3. I took it slow, expecting to start smashing rocks and stumps. But I hit none, then cut left into the trees and bombed down the steep final pitch of G-4.

At the bottom, I rejoiced. All the Bowl Rats rejoiced. At one point, a girl skiing above me through the G zones was literally singing showtunes while bopping up and down in this soft new snow.

We may still need a lot of snowpack to get the ski hills humming., but, yes, winter is here. And, man, that was nice.

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