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SCSA @ Aspen Highlands and Highland Bowl

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
First, we (HeelPusher, who is the best heel pusher I’ve ever seen) hit Aspen Highlands on the Epic day of the year – Saturday, March 9. In Aspen, they have what’s called “Epic flags”. I guess, from what the locals say, the flag only goes up on truly epic days. It hadn’t gone up once yet, this year. So, we really had it going, from the start.

The lift ticket was 65 smackers. Ouch. No discount tickets in Aspen.
We got our tickets and headed right up to Loge Peak lift which serves the best terrain at Highlands.

We started off with a few runs down Steeplechase.

First of all folks, lemme tell you something. At Highlands, black really is black and double black, well, they’re challenging runs – very challenging; steep, bumpy, and funky snow. They mean it when they say, “Experts only”.

I’ll add this here. Skiing Aspen Highlands was the most challenging skiing I’d ever done. I’ve never hiked the East Wall at A-Basin. But for lift served terrain, Highlands is the toughest, no doubt. But is it the “best” you ask? No way (more on that in a minute).

We got our first break of the day when we met Jim Veshancey, a local. Not just a local, but a local who likes to rip. We met Jim in the lift line.

When we got on the chair with him, we’re like, “So. We hear this mountain is pretty tough and that there are a few good skiers here. Thought we’d come up and see for ourselves”.

Well, that’s all Jim needed to hear. He’s like, “Okay, boys. Follow me”.

The first run he took us down wasn’t even on the map – it’s called Thermal. Well, it was steep and deep. When I say steep, there were lots of places where I could touch the hill - I stopped to see for myself. Standing on the downhill ski, I could reach out and touch the snow with my glove! Now that’s steep. How steep? I don’t know. Jim says it’s probably 48 degrees. Now keep in mind. We’re inbounds. I don’t ski out of bounds.

So we’re ripping down Thermal and Jim keeps looking back to see if we’re still there. “Uh, Jim. We’re right behind you”. So we stop and we could see the look on his face. “Damn. These boys can rip”. Jim skied with us the rest of the day and the next day too. I think he likes skiing with me.

Next up we’re in the lift line and we see another one of Jim’s buddies, Scott Strickland. All I can say is about Scott is he’s Mr. Aspen. This guy is good, real good.

So Scott takes us down Deception in Olympic Bowl. Just so you know, Scott is HH like. His bump skiing wasn’t quite as good, but this guy could rip the fall line. Not sure I’ve ever seen a better fall line skier than Scott. He was at least as good as HH in the fall line. The guy is well known too – I asked around. People were like, “You skied with Scott, huh”? Scott is either in a very small class or at the top of the class of Aspen skiers.

On the way down Deception, we run into a buddy of Scott’s – Chris Davenport, the extreme skier. Chris was on Deception, doing some filming. Chris took off in front of us when he got the thumbs up from the camera. As soon as he was done, Scott took off and I was right on his tail. Nothing against Chris, he’s great. But I thought Scott’s turns were better. And my turns were...I was happy about them.

At this point, I’m high as a kite. I’m skiing with maybe the best guy in the valley, in his house, and I’m right behind him – I even pulled in front of him once. Then, we’re on film, ripping it with Chris Davenport! It was a great feeling, a real sense of accomplishment.

We skied two more runs with Scott, down Temerity. I’m saying to myself, “I can’t believe how steep and tough Highlands is”. The mountain was definitely handing it to me, but I was starting to feel it. Just so you know, we didn’t ski the Cloud Nine chair much or the stuff on the lower mountain. The lower mountain was still too boney. Scott didn’t even want to go there. At Highlands, there are basically three little bowls on top and one big bowl. Temerity, Steeplechase and Olympic are the three little bowls. The big one is Highland Bowl. Just so you know, the average pitch in the three little bowls is 38 degrees and the steepest pitch is 49 degrees. The average pitch in Highland Bowl is 40 degrees and the steepest is 48 degrees. They say there’s one 50 degree pitch there, the Nose. I skied it and it’s friggin steep folks (more on that coming).

Now is where I’ll add my first complaint about Highlands. If you look at the map, you’ll see that every run on top dumps down onto a catwalk – The Grand Traverse. I called it a cat track. At Highlands, you end up spending a lot of time on the cat track – there’s no other way. And this just isn’t your father’s cat track. You have to have good skills on the cat track or you’ll end up falling or getting run over. If you fall on the cat track you could fall off the side of the mountain. I guess someone was killed this year doing the exact same thing. They fell on the cat track and fell off the side. They suffocated in the snow before they could be rescued. Put it this way. Highland is so tough the cat track is a black.

Highlands is a great mountain, no doubt. But you end up spending a lot of time on the traverse and it’s dangerous on busy days. I saw two people get hauled off and two more real bad wrecks – just on the traverse! The key is you have to stay in front of people and you have to understand the skiers responsibility code, which most skiers STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND! Folks, it’s so simple. The skier in front of you has the right of way. No ifs ands or buts about it. What is it about this that skiers don’t understand?

Anyway, now it was time to do Highland Bowl. To get to Highland Bowl, you take the Loge Peak lift. You can either wait for the cat, or walk up. The cat, they say, saves about 15 minutes of walking.

The first thing I noticed was the number of skiers heading up Highland Bowl. It was like a freaking congo line! Yes, folks. There’s some good/great skiers at Highlands. I also think the epic flag had something to do with it.

There isn’t a map of Highland Bowl on the Aspen internet site (www.aspensnowmass.com). To get a trail map, you have to hike for it. I now have two – and a t-shirt, thank you.

It’s about a 45 minute hike to get to the top of Highland Bowl. I don’t like to hike – I’ve never seen the point of it. But, I’d hike Highland Bowl again in a heart beat. First, you have to do it, just to say you did. Then, the skiing is really great. Thick, funky snow, and lots of it! Talking about the heart, if you’re not in fairly good shape, you may have trouble. You may be able to make the hike, but you’ll be spent. And, you still have to ski down 45 plus degree pitches!

We didn’t hike all the way to the top. We dropped in at Fundeck Gate, about 2/3’s of the way up. My buddy Jim says that hiking to the top is not needed because you get just as much vertical (okay, 100 feet less) by dropping in where we did. Next time though, I’m hiking to the top.

Where we dropped in there were a few others. I clicked into my bindings, looked at them and said, “Lots of standing around going on here”. And off I went

There I was on my descent, skiing Grahamster’s and ripping it. Three or four turns into it, I got my balance and I started to point ‘em down hill. I skied the whole bowl and only stopped once – just to see how far they were behind me.

I received two, really great compliments that day. First, Scott told me, “Nice turns”. Second, a fellow pulled up to me in Highland Bowl and asked me about my Super Cross Ti’s - he couldn’t believe I was skiing them in this type of terrain. “Aren’t those bump skis”, he asked. One thing I noticed. Most up there ski on fatter skis. The Atomic 10 Ex is a very popular ski there. Scott and Jim both skied the 10 Ex.

So I had done it! I had skied Highland Bowl. Not only skied it, but ripped it. I was thrilled as all get out. I just skied some of the toughest stuff anywhere and nailed it. Man. What a feeling! And, I skied with a “dysfunctional stance” (had to throw that in here).

After Highland Bowl it was time for SCSA’s bowl, if you know what I mean.

HeelPusher and Jim were tired so they took a break – I kept skiing and hooked up with two local kids. These two kids took me to yet another place on the mountain that wasn’t on the map called the Nose. To get to the Nose, you take the Loge Peak lift. Get off to the left, then go right just a little. The Nose is so steep that you can stand three feet back from the edge and not see down. It’s steep folks. Steeper than what I skied in Highland Bowl.

So I start down in front of these two nice kids, and then boom! I hit something. One ski came off, then the other. I grabbed one, but there I was, tumbling down the nose. No way could I stop and I was lucky I didn’t get hurt. Even luckier was that this kid was still above me. Had it not been for him, my ski would have been toast. No way could I have hiked back up to get it. I was so thankful and these two kids were as nice as they come. “Here’s to you, boy’s. I’ll be thinking about you”. They even asked me to join them for more skiing! I hope my kids grow up like them. No, I’ll make sure my kids grow up like them.

Now here’s where I learned something. “Never underestimate the terrain. Never overestimate your ability”. It’s so true. I even bought a shirt to remind me.

So that was pretty much it for Highlands. Skied a few more runs then called it quits. I was bushed, but a good bushed.

At the bottom of the mountain, everyone was gathered for some après ski. Kinda like the Beach scene at A-Basin, but the crowd was better looking and better dressed. I knocked down 4 or 6 beers pretty fast. Jim, HeelPusher and I had a great day – an “Epic flag” day. No doubt about it, we caught Highlands on the very best day of the 2001/02 season.

So. Would I go back? Of course I will. But two or three times a year there is plenty. You see, there’s a few gotchas. First, Highlands is not an everyday mountain. As Jim said, “There’s beginner terrain and expert terrain – nothing else”. It’s also very small. I did one day there and could do two. But three would be boring. And I didn’t like the cat track. Sure, you get in lots of great skiing at Highlands, but you also spend a lot of time on that damn cat track. No one can ski all day everyday at Highlands – it’s just too damn hard.

There’s also the heaviest “Dork factor” I’ve encountered in all my 3 years of skiing. Until the last few years, Highlands was pretty much a local’s only place. But big money has found its way there. Lots of development going on there, which means lots of dorks. Not just regular dorks folks, these are first class dorks. Some of the rudest and snobbiest people on earth hang out in Aspen. It’s a real turn off, I gotta tell ya.

But for those who’ve never skied there and are looking for a challenge, it’s great and you must go. I wouldn’t stay in Aspen though, too many dorks. Stay down valley in Carbondale. It’s only 30 minutes away. I stayed at the Comfort Inn in Carbondale - really nice folks and inexpensive too.

So there you have it. Go if you’re looking for a challenge, and, “Never underestimate the terrain. Never overestimate your ability”.


The next day, Jim talked me into skiing Aspen Mountain, otherwise known as Ajax. I had never skied Aspen and wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I went.

Well, first of all, what’s the big deal? Aspen, in my not so humble opinion, is an average mountain at best. All Aspen is are a bunch of little pitches that feed into either, yes, a cat walk, or flat green runs. Then, to get to anything decent, you ski flat green runs to get there. I’ve never skied on so much flat terrain!

Folks, Jim took me to everything that’s supposed to be great about Aspen Mountain; Belle’s Face, Back of Belle, the Dumps, Walsh’s, International, a few others. All I can say is, “what’s the big deal”?

The pitches are all so short that by the time you get into a rhythm, they’re over. Like, if you do laps on the Silver Queen gondola, half of the run to get to the bottom is flat and green/blue – dork zone with a capitol D. There’s on chair there that’s only like 1 minute long! What a lousy mountain!

I got on the chair with this one group of dorks and they asked me what I thought. “This place sucks”, I told them. I felt like one lady was going to suit me for hurting her feelings. “But your honor. I bought this kazillion dollar house in Aspen and I thought the skiing was great. Now he says it sucks”.

Aspen, is the biggest waste of a ski hill I’ve ever seen. Then, on top of it all, they think they have a great product there. They’re snobby, rude, and the worst people I’ve ever seen. Even the lifties have attitudes! Why anyone goes there I have no idea. Aspen needs to take lessons from ski areas that know how to treat customers. My bet is that Intrawest will clean their clocks if they’re not already. Because, those people up there have no idea what the skiing product is all about. You see, in Aspen, the mountain is an after thought and you can really tell. I don’t see how they make any money there and I have no idea what they’re really selling. It can’t be the skiing. I guess it’s the glamour. Just goes to show you. Money does not equate to smarts.

I’d never go back. There are no discounts and there’s zero sense of any skiing community there. I felt like such an outsider. I really don’t think Aspen cares about customers like me – skiers. I don’t see how they can compete. They don’t have real estate to sell, just lift tickets. Why they treat people like kaka is beyond me. I guess losing money is popular in Aspen.

I’d say hello and good day to people on the chair and no one would say anything back. What a bunch of Dorks!

From what I could tell, Aspen is not about skiing. What it’s about are Dorks who think they’re cool. What’s so funny is that they can’t ski to save their lives.

Aspen? You can have it. I can think of lots better places to ski then there.

Didn't get to Snowmass. I understand it's not bad.


<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 11, 2002 05:28 PM: Message edited 2 times, by SCSA ]</font>
post #2 of 20
WOW! What a day! Sometimes the journey becomes an epic day in your life! Savor it and thanks for sharing it with us.
post #3 of 20
That is the funniest thing I have read in days.
thanks. glad you enjoyed Highlands.

"And I didn’t like the cat track. Sure, you get in lots of great skiing at Highlands, but you also spend a lot of time on that damn cat track. No one can ski all day everyday at Highlands – it’s just too damn hard. "
funny stuff.
dont come to alta. you would not like it.
not cat tracks at the bottom but traverses @ the top.
I think you have found a perfect home in vail.
different strokes for different folks
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 

Oh, I'll be at Alta.

And I'll be looking for you when I get there.
post #5 of 20

Hey great report and man I am I jealous. You get to ski the coolest stuff right in your back yard. So did you give Davenport a few pointers on those weak turns of his?

How small is the area? Is it smaller than Fernie?

Glad you had fun SCSA style. A bunch of Aspen Dorks! Uh, who woulda" thunk it.

post #6 of 20
SCSA Sounds like fun. Thanks for the report and glad you found something to challange you.

For those of you that have skied Highland bowl and Diamond bowl off spanky's ladder (around to the left?) or Alta's High traverse and hourglass chute/regal chute, besides being more of a bowl, How does it compare? Just trying to get a feel since I have skied the whistler and Alta locations I mentioned.

I should have brought an incline meter. I thought what we had off spanky's ladder was steep. Standing straight up, my left leg was fully extended, right ski was about at the top of my left boot and if I extended my arm right arm straight out, I would have pushed myself off the mountain. I Probably could have almost put my elbow on the wall. Maybe it's the thigh deep that makes it seem steeper because you are not on the snow but pretty deep in the snow?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 11, 2002 06:58 PM: Message edited 2 times, by dchan ]</font>
post #7 of 20
Thread Starter 

Yes, it's smaller than Fernie but skis bigger than it is.

Two days there would be just right.

It was really neato to catch up with Chris Davenport. Fer cryin out loud - we're talking skiing icon here! Nice guy too and really friendly. He was like, "Hi guys, how ya doing? Great day, huh!" He wasn't like, "Get out of the way, we're filming here"!
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 

The guy I skied with, Jim, he said that Jackson Hole has some steeper stuff than Highlands. He kept telling me, "SCSA, you'd love Jackson Hole".

Man. I just couldn't imagine anything steeper.

But you have to remember. You don't have to hike to the steep stuff there sans Highland Bowl (as I understand it, most, if not all the steep stuff in Jackson Hole you have to hike to).

I found that amazing - that from the chair, there was that kind of terrain.
post #9 of 20
I've done both and if you liked Highlands you'll love Jackson.
post #10 of 20
sounds fantastic SCSA!. . . congrats on your epic day!
post #11 of 20
Ya been smoking that weed stuff again Paul?
post #12 of 20
Highlands is a fun place. And so is Snowmass. But...

Gotta concur with the whole Aspen "snob" thing. As some of you know I worked and lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for about six months.

One of the most ridiculous experiences of my life. Summed up best by a bumper sticker I saw on one of those Caddilac SUV's:

"For a small town, there sure are a lot of A**holes around here".

It's ALL about the money. Real Estate Mining. Not about skiing. Not about being into the mountains as much. It really shows. I am SO relieved to be back in Summit County. Sure, there are some of the same issues here too, but it's not nearly so bad and ridiculous.

However, ski instructors do tend to make more money there. Lots of privates. Good thing because it's so incredibly expensive to live there.

Glad you hooked up with some decent locals SCSA, it's always the "ticket to ride".
post #13 of 20
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by SCSA:

most, if not all the steep stuff in Jackson Hole you have to hike to.



<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 12, 2002 03:31 AM: Message edited 1 time, by jamesdeluxe ]</font>
post #14 of 20
Awesome story! Glad you did'bt get hurt when you fell, but that shows what good skills will do for ya'.
And i freakin hate cat tracks too!!!!
post #15 of 20
Great story, SCSA! Humorous too.

I think you'd like Snowmass. Did you know that Snowmass has the most vert of any resort/area in the lower 48? Yep, more than Jackson. But really that only counts if the Cirque is open at Snowmass.
post #16 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks folks. Just trying to contribute to the cause here.

Yeah, I heard about the Cirque - I was kinda jonezin to go.

In fairness to Aspen lovers, Snowmass is in my radar. Turns out none of the locals ever bother with Ajax and now I know why. They all hang out at Highlands and Snowmass.

The best call would have been to go to Snowmass and blow off Ajax. But Jim said that all we'd be doing is waiting in line since it was a Sunday.

And, I'll have to say. It was fun to see the "show" at Aspen. It's unique, no doubt about it. But once was enough.

Sorry you weren't there. But there's always next year, and the year after that, and the year after that...


When I fell, guess what was going through my mind? The Vermont Skier Safety video! I just kept thinking about keeping my legs flexed and keeping them underneath my hips.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 12, 2002 06:54 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #17 of 20
Way to go!
post #18 of 20
You da MAN, SCSA! Cool story. I love bowl skiing.

SCSA's a quick learner, ripping the steeps after a measly three years! Maybe he's got something with that HH guy . . .

Jackson rocks, and hiking is optional. There are plenty of steeps from lift served terrain like Cheyenne Bowl, the Alta chutes, Tower 3 Chute, and Paintbrush to name a few.
post #19 of 20
SCSA - Sounds like an incredible day, One to remember on those long warm summer nights.

This past Sunday was like that for me, A big late season storm skiing hard with a couple of great friends. You sound like you'd have fitted right in.
post #20 of 20
Thread Starter 
Oh yeah, man. Days like that you never forget.

Man. It's what makes this sport so great.

I saved my lift ticket and the trail map.

Someday, when I'm old, standing around handing out grooming reports, I'll look up at the mountain. The mountain will look back at me and smile - "Nice job, SCSA. We loved having you around....

"Now go tell your &&*@ kids to quit peeing on me".
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