Toughest runs in Aspen
Are you ready to ski? OK then, today I’m giving you the 10 most difficult in-bounds ski runs in the Aspen/Snowmass area. To come up with this list, I interviewed a wide range of skiers, from ex-national team members all the way down to ski instructors. The only requirements I asked my panel to consider is that you must access the run from the top and you have to ski it nonstop to the bottom. After all, any run can be tamed if you cut in below the rocks, rest several times between side slips, and dump your speed before tip-toeing through the dicey parts. That said, here are the toughest to descend, in ascending order:10. Gowdy’s, Snowmass – This run is steep and narrow on top. Sometimes there is a small rock sticking up near the skier’s right side just after you drop in. The smallish, faux cornice at the top adds an element that we don’t see much here. This run is relegated to 10th place because it quickly opens up and the pitch decreases dramatically after the first couple of turns. If you get in trouble, you can run it out on either side for about as far you need to. 9. Silver Rush, Aspen Mountain – It used to be tougher but they let saplings grow at the top so that you can only access the run from either side. By the time you traverse to the center, you are past the steepest part. It has a funky eastern exposure so it can get crusty even in the heart of winter, which adds a degree of difficulty.If you access this run via Piss Gulley just below where the old, toiletless ski patrol shack used to be at the top of Lift 1A, this run easily jumps into the top three. Words of advice: Avoid the yellow snow, and don’t add another primary color to it.8. Deception Glades, Highlands – Here you have to survive the mammoth bumps on the first part of Deception and then dart quickly to your right into the woods about a quarter of the way down. Your legs burn as you jam quick turns through the tight trees. There is mercy, though. The aspect is slightly more north than the rest of Oly Bowl and the trees protect the snow from the sun’s direct rays so it’s usually soft. 7. Lower Lift Line, Aspen Mountain – It’s steeper than it looks. It’s also narrow with a natural crown that wants to chuck you into the trees on either side. If you hold the center line, there are lift towers to contend with and it reaches its steepest pitch two turns from the bottom, if you don’t bail out into Corkscrew first. If it’s a nice day and the lift is full of skiers watching you, this can become the most difficult in the valley.6. Elevator Shaft, Aspen Mountain – Before the last pitch on Silver Queen, head left toward Silver Rush. Between a short, flat section on top and the main tunnel of the Compromise Mine at the end is one of the steepest pitches anywhere. Hug the tree line on the right side and I guarantee you will be tested. Right before it begins to flatten out there are some nasty little rocks, so watch it.For bonus points, access the top of Silver Queen by skiing the old power line running down from Reardon’s Run. It’s electrifying! 5. Kristi, Aspen Mountain – If you do this from the very top, it’s tough. Most of the time there are large dirt patches created by Level 9s cutting in from the sides right where you’d like to make your first turn. The big moguls make it difficult to get it under control after you point ’em straight through that mess.I once saw a man click out of both bindings on his first turn and cartwheel all the way down to the road like a rag doll. It was the scariest crash I have ever seen. I hiked back up to the patrol phone while others attended to him. I’m not certain that he is still alive.4. Trainor Chutes, Aspen Mountain – Hardly ever open, but when they are, get psyched for adrenaline. As you traverse the narrow catwalk from the top of Aztec, take the first opportunity to drop in on your right. There are a couple of small cliffs in the dense woods that you have to negotiate. If you make it through this section without having to stop, you are way cool. If you mess up, you might be cold as a stone.3. No Name Bowl, Highlands – Enjoy the gentle cruise down the wide catwalk above Steeplechase. Stop right after Five Towers knoll and pick a line down through the gladed area on your left. This one is steep with incredibly tight trees. It gets side-slipped more often than the employee housing rules so it’s usually smooth and tough to get a good edge in. You can forget about carving GS turns here.2. Little Geronimo, Highlands – Reflect at the memorial in honor of the ski patrol members who lost their lives in a huge avalanche on Highland Bowl back in 1984. Look out at the mountains with newfound respect before heading onto the ridge in front of you. It starts out relatively tame with meandering bumps on the gently sloping crest. Once you pass through the trees though, the bottom drops out. Suddenly your edges are gripping into the steep, smooth face as you get glimpses of the trees far below. Moguls don’t grow on anything this steep. One slip and you’re trunk junk.Continue on down Soddbuster through the trees and into the Volkswagen bumps to the Grand Traverse and weak legs will make you look and feel like a gaper. 1. S1, Aspen Mountain – This is the hottest dog in the picnic basket. The first four turns are as difficult as it gets. If you miss one, you’ll ruin your skis, or worse. Even if you make it through this section, you have to remain steady or get diced by a stand of aspens directly below in the fall-line.Don’t wuss out and head to the right after that. Steer left into the big bumps. There are only three lines here until you hit an old mining road. Get air and make a few big turns in the open area to rest your legs. Now you have to tighten it up one last time to get through a narrow, bumped-out section before Spar Gulch. If you can accomplish this from top dead center down to Spar in under a minute, there’s nothing you can’t handle.So, that’s it. Go for it! Next week we’ll talk about the top cruising runs in the area … .Hah! Actually not. We’ll let The Daily News cover that stuff. Roger Marolt has been doing research on this story for about 35 years. It’s your turn at firstname.lastname@example.org
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