The Gee Zones |

The Gee Zones

Brent Gardner-Smith

It was a winter of exploration.

Yes, a few locals had skied the G Zones in Highland Bowl before. But not many had the opportunity to do extensive research.

The G Zones turned out to be two different places. One part includes G-9, known as Full Curl, and G-8, which could be named “Great.”

These two runs are really the heart of the bowl and offer wide, consistent fall lines and heart-pounding vertical.

Oh, the turns had in there this year … Who didn’t see from the ridge a solitary skier or rider making smooth top-to-bottom untracked turns down G-8, the person too stoked and too proud to stop until the runout?

From G-7 to G-2, the bowl becomes the North Woods, which required lap after lap through the trees to understand. G-5 quickly became a skiers magnet when the ropes were dropped in December and the public had its first open and legal chance to frolic in these north-facing woods.

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As one patroller put it, G-5 quickly had “more bumps on it than the Ridge of Bell” as the terrain seems to naturally lead people down to its broad and steep conclusion.

But skiers and riders eventually shunned their lemming and sheeplike manners and started venturing out, probing the rope line and the inner woods for pockets of resistance.

And a number of local skiers shared their secrets with each other. Some were shown a favorite hidden line, or places such as the Ghetto, where the withered Crack Baby trees stick forlornly out of the deep, cold snow.

Many celebratory moments of personal triumph were had in the bowl this winter.

A woman got over her fear of the rock outcropping and stopped swooning every time she looked down into Maroon Bowl.

A local man plugged into the energy the bowl throws off and found the euphoria that comes midway up the ridge on the third lap of the day.

A visiting skier was convinced he would never make it and finally stopped on the summit, sweating with disbelief and pride.

And then there were those face-shot days, when the small crowd waiting for the rope to drop knew they were in for one great nonstop, untracked series of high-speed turns, several of which would just have to be done blind because of the throwing snow.

The ski patrol at Highlands has noted that over the last three years more and more locals have been stopping to say “thanks for opening the bowl.”

And more and more locals were finding the bowl the center of their waking hours, more important than any other terrain in the valley, more important than their job, their schedule, and their other life down below.

Brent Gardner-Smith can be reached at