Aspen on the Hill: A Bowl rat returns |

Aspen on the Hill: A Bowl rat returns

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Highland Bowl beckons skiers and snowboarders at Aspen Highlands.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

I never imagined I’d go a winter without hiking Highland Bowl, until it almost happened.

Yes, despite the sublime snow conditions and my junior varsity-level day count somewhere around 80, my first 2018-19 bowl lap didn’t come until Sunday as the final days of the season ticked down.

I can make time to snowboard almost every day, but rarely these days enough time for the Bowl (which, at my pace, is a two-hour round-trip from downtown on the bus to Highlands, up and down the Bowl and back). Nearly all of my weekend ski days this year were on Ajax — where my toddler daughter can play at the Sundeck and my wife and I can trade off skiing — and most weekdays, too, when I can pop out of the newsroom for an hour’s break.

For most of my dozen winters in Aspen, though, Highlands and the Bowl were my go-to. I was fully immersed in the Bowl rat’s routine of recognizing folks at the peak and knowing the intricacies of the conditions from Hyde Park to the North Woods. My wife and I hiked the Bowl on our first date. I’ve dragged many visiting flatlander friends up there, leaving them with scorched lungs and a story they’ve now been telling for years. On Saturdays and Sundays when the snow was fresh and the wind was sub-apocalyptic, it’d be a full day of Bowl laps until my legs turned to quivering mousse.

Even in my first season here, when I could barely link turns and had a total of no more than two dozen lifetime days of snowboarding under my belt, I once wheezed my way up and then tumbled my way down the gut of the Bowl, drawn to my ill-advised first lap by the slobbering tales of the epic Highland Bowl by my far more hardcore co-workers.

But the thing is: I don’t remember the details of the countless routine Bowl laps in the years since. I took them for granted, and lost them to the overabundance of hikes and descents in my memory bank. During Sunday’s lap, on a clear and chilly day with scant crowds and chalky snow, I was grateful for every step up and each turn down as I dropped into the trees between G-4 and G-5. This one I’ll remember.