Paul E. Anna: High Points
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
While a dusting is little more than a tease, it is better than nothing.
And there is good news in that we seem to have broken down the high-pressure system that has been the bane of our existence these past few weeks. Hopefully that Pineapple Express that has been barreling off the Pacific and bringing big bouts of rain to the West Coast keeps on trucking and delivers storm after storm to our thirsty slopes.
Still, the word this week that Highlands was delaying its opening came as a blow. Especially since I have been salivating for the last few days in anticipation of a climb up the hill after reading two terrific articles on the Highlands Bowl in the current Aspen Peak and Sojourner magazines.
Peak editor, writer and skier Erin Lentz wrote a very comprehensive piece built around a Mac Smith interview that will be a piece for the history books as it catalogs and defines the history of skiing in the Bowl. From the tragic triggered avalanche in 1984 that took with it three beloved patrollers, to the advent of the “packers” (that would be boot packers for you cheese heads), to the inclusion of the Temerity lift, Lentz covers the Bowl from G-2 to Whip’s Veneration.
I particularly liked how she captured the nerves and excitement felt by first timers as they take the ride in the snowcat, preparing for their first climb up the trail. I know the feeling.
That same anticipation was touched on by Sojourner editor Michael Miracle in his editor’s letter leading off the winter edition of the magazine. The story in his magazine, by Tim Mutrie, a terrific skier, leads with a timeline of the Bowl and breaks the area down by Zones to give readers a look at how to “Pick your Line.” There is also a first-hand account of an even earlier avalanche; this in 1968, in which Bill Flanagan recounts his terrifying experience.
To this day, and I believe rightly so, I worry about the integrity of the snow in the Bowl. When I stand atop Aspen Mountain and gaze back at the summit, rising some 12,392 feet and see the 48-degree pitches, I wonder how it holds the snow. Obviously, as the Lentz interview with Smith points out, boot-packing has made a significant difference in providing a stable base layer. And the men and women of the Highlands Patrol are impeccable when it comes to making decisions on when to open or close the Bowl. But still, I pause when considering the climb out of concerns for my well-being.
That said, I can’t wait until we get the needed snow to open, not just the Highlands and the Bowl, but the whole bloody complex. From Lud’s Lane to Powderhorn, let’s get this thing started.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
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Vagneur: Today’s the big local’s day, even though the celebrating may need to be a bit different this year.