Tag Archives: Aspen Highlands

Merry Go Round at Aspen Highlands

If you live in the Roaring Fork Valley, you have good reason to consider Wednesday your favorite day of the week. Starting tomorrow (January 14), Aspen Snowmass will once again be having a local’s appreciation day every Wednesday at Aspen Highlands, which includes such Hump Day bennies as free parking at the base, and lunch and beer specials at the Merry-Go-Round.

But here’s the best part: even if you aren’t a local, no one cares. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the perks of “the local’s mountain” on Hump Day (local’s can simply enjoy it every week because, well, they live here).

Last week was a dry run for the festivities at Merry-Go-Round, and being the resident foodie, I felt it was my obligation to head up the Exhibition Lift shortly after 9am, burn through as many groomers as I could (you know: to work up an appetite), and offer a taste test of the Hump Day Grill which they set up on the patio.

Here’s what my investigation turned up:

Golden Horn and Thunderbowl: Still Untouched at 10am

Gunbarrel run at Aspen Highlands

At 9:40am, there were only two sets of tracks on Gunbarrel below the Cloud Nine lift.

I was celebrating Hump Day by taking it easy a bit, so groomers were the order of the day. After a few warm-up runs off of Cloud Nine, I worked my way over to Golden Horn and Thunderbowl. It had been two days since the last snow, and I was still finding fresh places to turn at the top of Golden Horn Woods and even when I cut over to Limelight near the base. Look: free parking is nice, but finding stashes days after a storm is the really reason to hit up Aspen Highlands.

Brats + Sunshine & Beer = Appreciation

Tommy Knocker Brat at Merry-Go-Round, Aspen Highlands

The Tommy Knocker Ale Bratwurst at Merry-Go-Round. Not pictured: beer to wash it down.

At lunch, I went over to the Merry-Go-Round where they had set up an outdoor grilling station for the day’s Hump Day special.

Each week they will be changing up the special, but you can always expect that (a) it’ll be grilled, (b) it’ll be $8 for a main and two sides, and (c) there will be $4 beers to wash it all down.

Last Wednesday, they were offering a choice between Kielbasa, a Tommy Knocker Ale Bratwurst, or a more traditional Pork Bratwurst, each served on a pretzel bun. And of course — this being Aspen Snowmass — there was even a mustard menu. I went half-and-half: whole grain on one side, truffle mustard on the other.

The Merry-Go-Round terrace is perfectly positioned to absorb the sun rays at that hour. A catnap just about happened.

A Glass of Red at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

There isn’t really a lunch hour at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro; it stretches from noon until the lifts close. This Swiss-inspired restaurant — which doles out pots of fondue and raclette — has long been a hot spot for locals and out-of-towners alike, who often order bottles of Veuve Clicquot and by 2pm, start dancing on the tables.

Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands

The place to be in the afternoon on Hump Day (or any day for that matter).

I was more interested in a glass of wine and the lounge chairs on the deck, which takes in a stellar view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells.

Wine at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

Opening a bottle of Beaujolais Cru at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, because, why not?

As an avid wine drinker, one thing I appreciate about the on-mountain restaurants here is the well-curated wine lists, even by the glass. As I bellied up to the ice bar, I expected to find the usual suspects: a Napa Cab, a Sonoma Chard, maybe a Super Tuscan if I was lucky.

But instead, they were offering a handful of under-the-radar gems: an Oregon Pinot Noir from Domaine Serene, a Nebbiolo Langhe from Barbaresco producer De Forville, and even a Morgon, one of the top Crus of Beaujolais. It was like hearing a bunch of B-sides on the stereo instead of the greatest hits.

I noticed the Morgon was unopened. “No one is drinking the Beaujolais Cru yet?” I asked.

“Nope,” the bartender noted. Then he smiled: “Let’s open it.”

Such is the spirit of afternoons at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro.

Pizza at Elk Camp, Snowmass

panini at elk campSome days, an hour-long lunch just doesn’t feel right. All morning long you’ve been skiing in choice conditions, and despite your grumbling stomach, you just want to keep going. Continue reading

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The second weekend of Bud Light Spring Jam kicked off Friday with the Banked Slalom event on Sandy Park in Snowmass. The weekend continued Friday evening at the Bud Light Hi-Fi Core Party with a highly energetic and dynamic performance by Beats Antique in downtown Aspen. The spring fun carried on at Aspen Highlands today with the Helly Hansen Battle in the Bowls race under sunny spring skies. Continue reading

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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!

Photo by Jeremy Swanson

The first Colorado Junior Freeride competition at Aspen/Snowmass went down yesterday in the Y Zones of the Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands.

The competition was scheduled to happen Saturday, February 8 but due to snow and low visibility, the event was rescheduled for Sunday, February 9.  Yesterday’s conditions were snowy yet visibility was good. Due to ample snowfall, the course couldn’t have been better for a freeride competition. Continue reading

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!