Patience is truly a virtue. That was never more evident than last Thursday’s powder day, when lots of us bowlers waited till about 1:00 for Highland Bowl to open.
After a reported 7 inches of new snow & a major wind event, it took our hearty Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol (AHSP) a while to do the necessary avalanche control work. And once again, when the rope dropped at Loge Peak, it was game on; a full on race for the goods! Only two guys in front of me at the Main Gate. I’m going anaerobic. I’m OK with that. There are fresh turns at stake!
Racing and going anaerobic on the hike to get first tracks? Some may wonder about this. A picture is worth a thousand words.
In the run out zone, I look up to see these two guys just schralping the pow on the lower pitch! Much of the bowl had been wind scoured and appeared hard & funky. But the G Zones were wind loaded; big difference. There was 9-12 in. of the nice lighty light stuff. I hit the harder snow underneath a few times, but no worries. I wore a smile from ear to ear!
Does this guy look worried? I think the rooster tail behind him speaks for itself. Last Thursday was a day when “playing the wind” was key in determining the skiing & riding experience. Many of the regular “bowlers” made the right call and headed for the trees on the far side. The lines from G8 to G2 were skiing beautifully! The middle of the bowl; not so much.
Once again, patience came into play yesterday, as the bowl was delayed in opening till after 11:00. See the heli? Unfortunately, it was the closest I’m getting to heli-skiing this year. I had my skis and was within 100 yds. of a helicopter; quite the tease! The helicopter was there for AHSP, including their avalanche rescue dogs, for training drills. Regardless, it was cool to watch them work, lifting off & landing repeatedly. Highland Bowl is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. But, it’s usually sweet!
When the heli’s dust cleared, the bowl opened. This time I took the bit between my teeth and lead the charge (apparently, I can’t help myself). The only tracks I noticed on the boot track, at the Rooster’s Roost, were from a human & a canine, from the AHSP that had been up earlier in the morning. We hadn’t had any snow for several days, but it sure looked tasty in the bowl. Only one way to find out if it was deeeeee-lish or a bitter dish.
The view from Highland Peak (12,392 ft.) is one of the many rewards of the Highland Bowl hike and adventure. Over the ridge top, above Five Fingers, Pyramid Peak was slightly obscured by wispy clouds, clinging to the peak like a stubborn cotton ball. Even after 30 years of living in Aspen, I remain in complete awe of the Elk Mountain Range; simply majestic mountains!
Don’t you just love it when snow conditions exceed expectations? Between the exceptional elevation and ideal northeast exposure, the G Zones were holding the freezer fresh snow; nice and dry & a bit grippy. From my “ski cam” you can get a good idea of the chalky consistency. Without missing a beat, I heartily took on my role as carvin’ Skarvan, cutting up the snow; dry as the driest Chardonnay (but, not as light as Champagne powder) & hopped over the small bumps that had formed during the recent snow less days.
Yesterday’s snow was fun to slide on; no doubt. We all love Highland Bowl on powder days; right? These nondescript weekdays are often some of the most fun days; great snow & hardly a soul. These kind of days are not only great for working a nice carved turn, but to carve out peace & solitude in one’s life.
The parting shot is always a beauty! For me, it’s like seeing a gorgeous woman. I always have to take one more look over my shoulder before leaving her. I have to take in all the beauty, savor it & lock into my memory. Those memories spur me on, for more of the same sometime soon!