Tim Mutrie: Ants march on at Highlands
They looked like ants from Loge Peak, way up in Highland Bowl, and I can tell you they were marching all day.
The Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol and its hearty band of “pro-packers” spent yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that …) stomping up and down tennis court-sized swaths of steeps, beneath the top shelf of the 12,282-foot bowl, as part of the mountain’s now routine and forever lung-busting snow-safety program.
And today, three-weeks-and-a-day away from opening day at Highlands (Dec. 13), they will be doing the same.
Meanwhile, a decidedly less hardcore group of locals, a so-called “Powder Posse,” was summoned to the base at 8 a.m. yesterday to help boot-pack some of Highlands’ lesser features ” like Steeplechase.
Waivers signed and duct tape applied to ankle cuffs, three groups of skiers and boarders, guided by the few patrollers not on bowl patrol, took turns stomping down the ‘Chase (leaving it looking like a tractor-tilled pasture) with skiing runs on the Oly Bowl side. Pack a run, ski a run, that’s the deal.
The first “run” of the day for unlucky “group three” actually began with a side-hilling trudge down Snyder’s Ridge. Up to his armpits in the run’s north-facing roll, loaded with 4-plus-feet of snow in places, one snowboard pro from Snowmass was moved to make this remark:
“I feel very sinful,” he said, gazing down the untracked slope with his snowboard under one armpit.
“We should be riding this.”
Indeed. However, looks were deceiving yesterday, and specimens of wind slab, sun crust and just plain clunky, weird snow abounded. In other places, though, it was cold, dry, deep (enough) and delightful.
“Best run of the year,” said one skier. “Let’s do it again.”
“But we’re on a pack lap,” a patrol replied.
Come tomorrow, though, there’s no packing required to get your swerve on, only a pass.
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