The Bowl Blog: Grab the chalk

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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.

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Like heaven’s gate; the Main Gate located at the edge of the bowl was glorious, with the sun’s rays guiding me. But, would the lines be heavenly to ski? Only one way to find out; hike, hope and drop in!

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The boot track on the ridge top was super packed & glazed over today. It’s a good call to focus on the steps for thoughtful foot placement; especially while negotiating the Rock Out. It drops a few thousand feet off to the right and that’s exactly why there’s a rope hugging the rocky outcropping. Look where you want to go and use your poles for support. You’ll get around this tricky section no worries!

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After a rather warm, comfortable hike, my curiosity was peaking at the peak. Would the skiing be the reward? What would the snow be like after all these dry sunny days of late? My inner queries were soon answered with a layer of dry “chalky” snow at the entrance of G3. I would discover all the gullies were loaded with it, making for soft turns all the way down the fall line. How nice is this for January skiing?

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I stopped to catch my breath and take in the view about half way down my first run. Looking over at Little Annie basin, on the back of Aspen Mountain, I peered at the top of the Rockies; the Continental Divide, with mountains soaring over 14,000 ft. Mt. Elbert (right of center) is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains and is looming large in the distance, over 40 miles away. I was blown away!

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Now, grab your chalk and write on the chalk board, “I will ski Highland Bowl every chance I get” 100 times. This is our lesson; even when it hasn’t snowed for a while. I found this smooth layer of the light chalk in G5 on my second lap today. It was like a mini-pow day down in this gully with the nicest turns of the day to be had. Wow! How could it be this good? The shady side of the bowl combined with frigid nights have allowed “freezer fresh” snow to survive. Thus, I thrived!

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Not to brag or anything, but this is some the best skiing and riding in the nation; especially this January. The bowl is 40-45 degrees and over 2500 vertical feet of pure bliss. After a super strong snowy start to the season, Aspen has boasted the most snow & some of the deepest base depths in Colorado, which is crushing both coasts and yes, even Utah to date. The snow quality was absolutely amazing today. It even surprised me and I’ve been up there every week since it opened almost a decade ago. And who doesn’t love a good surprise?

This is my X Games; my extreme endeavor. This is my escape and my bliss. Are you ready for heaven on Earth? Are you ready for the ride of your life? Highland Bowl is ready for you.

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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!