Author Archives: Erik Skarvan

About Erik Skarvan

After vacationing in Aspen with my family in the 70s, I made one of my best life decisions and moved here in 1982 on my 21st birthday. As a hotel/restaurant major, I worked local hotels, including the famous Sardy House (4 star Victorian B & B hotel) for over 12 years. I took time off to bike race full time, then embarked on a career in health and fitness, which I've been able to enjoy for over 18 years now with locals and guests from around the world. I founded Sun Dog Athletics "Aspen's Adventure Sports School" in '96 & innovated numerous adventure sports programs, including Fat Biking this past year. More at www.sundogathletics.com. I'm not that guy who skis 3 hrs. a day every day. But, I am that guy who gets in Highland Bowl 3 days a week, hiking and skiing it till my legs fall off! I love the incredible skiing, solitude, escape and spectacular beauty. It's a great pleasure and honor to share that through The Bowl Blog each week!

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I was glommin’ onto the groomers first thing this morning. The corduroy just after 9:00 this morning was skiing great; especially considering this late season date! It was helpful to have waxed the fat sticks, to help slide on the stickier stuff & prevent the “Velcro effect”. Honestly, I just used Pam (with canola oil) spray & it worked like a charm! It was “healthier” for the snow vs. wax too; bonus.

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Pass the gravy! After 3-4 in. of new snow overnight, runs like Buckhorn were a lot of fun. Pushing around the “mashers” put a big springtime smile on my face. Hey, it’s May 25th and I’m skiing on Aspen Mt. And it’s a ton of fun. What a treat!

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Thundersnow is something one can only experience in springtime. The snow conditions & weather ran the full spring gamut. It just made the morning adventure that much more wintry and cool! Can you tell?

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Due to low snow conditions on the lower mountain, everyone needed to download to wrap up their day. The ride down the Silver Queen Gondola was an opportunity to check out the stark contrast of snow on the hill & a fast greening town below. Today was a unique opportunity. Tomorrow on Aspen Mt. will be the last chance to ride the lifts. It’s (finally) the final day of this unbelievable ski season, which has been one of our best in decades!

 

 

 

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The last official day of winter (on the calendar) offered signs of prime spring skiing conditions to come. The past Wednesday was one of those sneaky “benign” powder days, with 3-4 in. reported. As I huffed and puffed my way across the fabled boot track, I wondered how the snow conditions would be leading into Spring. Deep thoughts. Breathe.

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I took a moment at the peak to kick back, take in the view and soak up the warmth, as the mid-morning sun warmed my mug. There weren’t many folks around. No rush.  Oh, do you like my new Rush A. T. boots by Scarpa? I know. You were checking out the Maroon Bells off in the distance; not the stinkin’ boots!

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The newly fallen fluff was nice and light and just enough to cover up the scratchy crust underneath. G3 was skiing great, with just enough coverage for flight & soft landings in the bumps.

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There was just enough snow to feel the float and shoot a little rooster tail off your boards; a fun mini-pow day. Thanks Winter! You were most exceptional; well above average. We’ll miss you, but Spring may be even better!

How would Spring skiing be in the days to come? Only one way to find out!

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Heading up the Exhibition lift this morning; shortly after Aspen Highlands opened, I noted soft groomers galore and stashes of of new powder off to the sides of the main runs. It was a snowy, blowy day yesterday & there may not have been too many folks exploring the exposed Highland Bowl. 5-6 inches of new snow was reported in the past 24 hrs. Time to do some re-con.

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I love the 9:00-10:00 hour as it’s usually peaceful & serene; even on this powdery Sunday. Apparently a lot of locals have moved on to other spring activities like road biking or mountain biking in the desert. Personally, I’ll take the sweet spring skiing days while we got ‘em. When in Rome baby! Those who got the bowl today were like the cat who got the mouse. Meow! Speaking of cats, there was no noisy bowlcat running this early in the morning either; ahhhh. Catch it at 10:30 each day, if you need a short lift to the Main Gate.

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Watching this skier rip down Full Curl from HIghland Peak was more than enough to get my juices flowing as I made my way across the knife edge. Big sweeping turns indicated a nice new layer of the white stuff. That will be me in minutes!

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I was perhaps the 8th skier to drop from the peak & headed to G8, which I had scoped out on my half hour trek. So, there were a few other tracks on it. I wasn’t complaining! A half a foot of gorgeous powder had covered the remnants of the freeze/thaw cycle over the previous days. I enjoyed fabulous freshies all the way down the pitch. This guy (above) was comin’ in hot behind me & so was his buddy, who may have been racing in the Battle of the Bowls.  They slashed the face in a handful of turns!

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Slash, boom, bam! This boarder slashes the stash and flashes a smile! It’s amazing how 6 inches of fresh snow can change one’s attitude; completely! The aerobic dues are paid on the hike. The adrenalin reward is almost always there on the ride down. It’s quite a fair system if you think about it! Are you in?

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Keep this one under your helmet. The lower Gs; G1-G4 usually get less traffic in general. They are often a fantastic call for your 2nd or 3rd lap when the rest of the bowl is getting hammered. Here I am, looking up upper G2 at about noon today. It was deeper; 6-8 in. in spots and flat enough to fly through. It was fun enough to laugh out loud!

Today was a small, but stellar powder day, on the first official Sunday of Spring. More snow is in the forecast for later this week. Deja vu; wooo hooooooo!

 

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Since I usually work weekends, Mondays are often days to explore Highland Bowl for the goods. Sometimes I get the weekend warriors’ leftovers & sometime I get to indulge in a freshly prepared entree. Fortunately, today was the latter; a delicious new layer of snow to indulge in and not too many others to share it with throughout the morning.

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Completely awesome views of Pyramid Peak (left) & the Maroon Bells never cease to amaze me! At over 14,000 ft high, they are sensational sentinels, perpetually watching over the valley.

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Another view from Highland Peak revealed the bad; a massive avalanche path in the Five Fingers area. The avalanche rating has been “Considerable” to “Extreme” in the backcountry since the last storm system passed through the area. That’s just another great reason to stay inbounds, where the terrain is controlled like Highland Bowl. One can get the steep, riding 40-50 degree slopes from 12,400 ft. over 2500 vertical feet and the deep; made possible by the bowl’s lofty heights & east facing exposure. That’s plenty of goods for this dude!

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There was a beautiful top layer of 1-2 inches of nice dry chalky snow in the entrance to G3 & into the evergreens that dot the run. I shot a few happy campers swooshing by. Shhhhh, shhhh, shhhhhhh was the sound of the softness coming from their skis.

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This is some really nice skiing; softness on a Monday with not too many folks around. Time to drop in and enjoy the goodness; gorgeous mid-season snow!

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I took one last glance over my shoulder after my second lap. G2 was skiing sweet, with fresh pow almost filling in the troughs between bumps. I hadn’t seen a soul in over ten minutes; just what I needed to start my week. Just what I need all the time.

I’m one grateful guy & looking forward to some more R & D (researching snow & developing a great attitude) later this week! Stay tuned for more fresh images & the real deal low down in the next edition of The Bowl Blog!

The Bowl Blog: Super Bowl!

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Early on Thursday morning it began; the beginning of what’s to become the 2nd largest 24 hr. snow accumulation in at least 18 years! Thursday’s “upside down powder day” started with a tough post-holing hike at the rope drop at 9:30 (this was the only guy in front of me) to discover about half a foot of the freshness in Highland Bowl. By afternoon, on my 3rd lap, it had plumped up to over a foot of light pow; just getting better and deeper as the snow storm named Maximus intensified.

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Dropping into Child’s Play, I knew it would be worth the “power trudge” across the ridge top. It was. As you can see, the Northwoods was buttery and loading with more sweet cream by the minute. After laps 2 and 3 without crossing a track, I called it a sweet sleeper Thursday, with great skiing and only a few other locals in sight. Snowy, blowy weekdays are some of my favorite.

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Friday would be a day of LEGEND. 21-24 inches was reported at Aspen Highlands in 24 hours. But, it had been snowing steadily since the 5:30 AM report. This was going to be EPIC. No, BIBLICAL! It would be like the parting of the red sea; except it would be the cutting of a massive snowy bowl instead!

After a (seemingly forever) delayed and much anticipated opening, the rope dropped around noon at Loge Peak and the charge began for some of the deepest powder skiing and riding of our lives! After some initial scrambling through dozens of frothing skiers & boarders, I’m in the front group for the second day in a row. This is awesome; I’m amped! But, this hiking shaped up to be much more brutal; deep snow to boot track and rabid powder hound paced; as fast as deep conditions allowed. And they didn’t allow much.

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 The hike across the knife edge ridge was one for the ages; up to my chest in spots, while hanging in the front group; about a dozen of us. My ridiculous run in virgin snow on G6 was more than worth it though; just surreal. Feeling the float and face shots forced my facial into an ear to ear smile followed by uncontrollable laughter.

At the bottom of the main face, in the runout, I turned to click this pic of friend Felicia, in motion and in full flotation!

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 Our buddy Scotty was next. I think. He’s in there somewhere, immersed in lower G6.  Luckily, he popped back out with a heavily frosted beard and a seemingly frozen perma-grin. It’s a good look Scotty; a very good look this season!

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Roostin’ it, a snowboarder surfs the deep pow on the edge of the run. I don’t know how many times I heard the ecstatic exclamation “Oh my God!”, but it may have been a record. I mean, I don’t think anyone could believe how deep it was; especially after our two and a half week mid-Jan. drought. This huge powder day was in our face; literally and figuratively!

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Here’s another partial skier slicing through the light thickness, Or is it the thick lightness? Well, you catch my drift. The Runout Zone was even fun, with deep powder awaiting on the nice casual pitch.

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“Riders on the Storm” is one of my favorite Doors tunes. Here’s a guy, riding the storm to lookers left of my tracks; some of the best turns I can ever remember feeling. That’s just it. The feeling a big powder day brings. It’s a type of euphoria that’s almost indescribable and highly addictive. Every turn serves up a kind of endorphin adrenalin cocktail of sorts that leaves us wanting; no needing more; more of this incredible floaty fluff that is nothing short of pure ecstasy.

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Skiing down through the trees on my second lap (fifth in two days), there weren’t many people left to cut up the remaining lines. Apparently, there was a lot of “one and done”, between the demanding leg trashing hike & leg burning descent. But, I had to get at least one more run in; it’s frickin’ epic! Lap 2 offered super solitude and super nice knee deep powder in the thick fir and spruce of the Northwoods and down into G2; a perfect peaceful farewell to an amazing mind blowing day, from the crazy anticipation in the morning to complete fulfillment and exhaustion in the mid-afternoon. This was one of the those super special days in Highland Bowl; the Super Bowl before the Super Bowl!

On that note, Go Broncos! Make this weekend perfect boys!

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On the way up the first chair; the Exhibition Lift, it’s cool to study the Highland Bowl map mounted on the crossbar. There will be a test later. Sunny skies & temps in the high 30′s greeted me at the crack of 11:00 AM this morning. Since we haven’t had snow for a week and a half, I think I’ll head for the G Zones (left on map). Maybe I’ll get lucky and find some nice chalky snow. Continue reading

Photo by Jordan Manley.

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After a very blustery Sunday, the cloud cover began to break mid-day today on “the stairway to heaven” with blue skies & winds to our west & a cloud clinging to Highland Bowl like a glorious cotton ball below us to the east. With 9 in. of new snow reported, this promised to be a sweet Monday adventure. Continue reading

The Highland Bowl. Photo by Jordan Manley.

It couldn’t have been a happier new year, as I hit Highland Bowl first thing on 1/1 to ring in 2014. The trudge up the steep pitch was still as steep as last year for some reason (pant, pant, pant). Cheers to better cardio fitness in ’14!