Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass Feb 27-29, 2020

Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.

Moderator: Tony Crocker

Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass Feb 27-29, 2020

Postby EMSC » Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:32 pm

One day at each for my annual guys trip. This year with 11 of us on the trip and some doing a different day 3 based on interests and abilities.

The core of my TR will be for the 2/3 of us skiing the good stuff (eg steeps).

Ajax - Day 1
1" of new was reported and conditions were still soft from recent February storms. We started with a top to bottom lap as a group while 2 guys rented gear. and continued blue groomer laps till an early lunch at Bonnies (not owned by Aspen Ski Co). At that point there were only two of us going for the steeper terrain on Ajax. Specifically: Walsh's & Hyrup's (super soft snow with patches of untracked, be aware of the uphill outhike on Walsh's); Jackpot (hardpacked main line, but soft snow in the open trees skiers left); Traynor Ridge (much thinner base, but lots of untracked and soft snow once in off the sketchy/rocky ridge-line). Although we did have a ~3 foot jump out of Traynor's to get back on the trail. At some point I had also done a Zaugg Dump run in partially tracked snow. In general not a bad day, but still far from a favorite ski area. they do have some decent terrain in spots, but the massive amount of vertical that gets wasted on ridge-lines and gully's on the run in or out is just a hassle at best. 700'ish verts of steeps on a >3,200 vertical foot gondola lap. No lift lines though :)

Snowmass - Day 2
Snowmass has the big terrain in the valley and has huge amounts of blue and single diamond areas perfect for the average skiers. One thing I like about the lifts at Snowmass are that most are 'big' lifts. eg high speed most of the time and very long/vertical. Although it also meant 5 stops on the way up Village Express first thing in the morning. We immediately headed up big burn and for three of us to the Cirque Poma. All of those lifts having a couple minute line. First lap was Headwall into the cirque not knowing where to go yet, followed by High Alpine lift up to Hanging Valley which is a short cliff section then for better stuff a hard traverse to skiers right for a
second steep section of 800-1000 verts. The second section (roughly wall one/two area) had lots of patches of untracked about 6-8" deep. Having not been on hill at the buzzer meant another early lunch at Elk Camp followed by more laps on the three chair route of Sheer Bliss, High alpine and Alpine Springs which gets you a double steeps route of Cirque and Hanging Valley. We had bad timing for the end of the day and ended up cruising down to the base for drinks by 3p. Snow was only firm on some groomer and hard bumps bottom of the Cirque. virtually nothing changed over despite warmth and tons of sun. Skiing was so good for much o the group they went back on day 3 as well.

Aspen Highlands - Day 3
Highlands, just like Aspen is tall and narrow. However the layout is so much better for all involved. The blues all come down the main north faces without much in the way of ridges and gully collectors. The steeps on the other hand fall off the upper ever narrower ridge-line to the east and west and pretty much totally separate from the easier terrain. The prime goal for the day was the Highlands bowl hike, but first we tried out some warm-up laps on Deep Temerity since we definitely were lazy enough to take the snowcat up the first stretch and cut 15+ minutes off the hike. I'm actually surprised how many didn't take the cat (though many do). Anyway the snow was firm and clearly the more open or even slightly south of east faces had turned the previous day during the warm temps. We did Kesslers and sticking skiers right in the shade of the trees was firm-ish, but chalky. A second lap down Lucky Find/Mushroom was both better and worse. Again depending on exposure, with softer snow on shady edges and in the trees (also much softer than Kessler's edges had been). With a quick trip down to Merry Go Round to grab snacks and waters before starting the hike. My brother had been sucking wind all week and decided to bail very early on the hike with two of us doing the full lap to the top. Probably ~30 minutes of actual hiking. One section being a brutal, steep and long ascent with the rest of the hike being relatively easy by comparison, even the narrow knife edge part was pretty simple, with only a slight breeze. The choice of the day (after watching while hiking was straight down the middle Full Curl which was soft and chalky in the top and then a bit thicker. The crowds were pretty unprecedented hiking and skiing I do have to say. Of course it was a sunny Saturday after a big February of storms too. All together a spectacular run. Once finished with the big objective we skied one more lap on Deep temerity in the softer snow trees South Castle, and then skied the opposite side on No Name before finally doing a cruiser or two to finish off the day. And Aspen being Aspen we saw not one, but two women in fancy ski outfits with no hat or helmet, no gloves, but they sure were skiing with purses that matched their outfits.

Getting skis out on the way to the bus stop day 1

The classic view into town from Ajax

Joe contemplates some steeps with a nice layer of fluff on top.

Traynor Ridge ~T3

Traynor's on Ajax

View from our rental house in Aspen

Cirque Poma

Cirque Headwall run

Hanging Valley Headwall

Lower Hanging Valley

Gowdy's in the Cirque

Just before the 3-5 minute hike into the Hanging Valley
User avatar
Posts: 2221
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:54 pm
Location: Front Range of Colorado

Re: Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass Feb 27-29, 2020

Postby EMSC » Tue Mar 03, 2020 2:42 pm

Yay, more pics...

Upper Hanging Valley

Wall one or two in Hanging Valley

Kesslers in Deep Temerity at Highlands

Highlands Bowl and Maroon Bells over each shoulder

Maroon in Deep Temerity. Stick to the shade!

Snow Kitty line up

About to start the hike

Snow Kitty drop off

Far left arrow top of lift served, Middle arrow cat pick-up, right arrow, top of cat haul

The insane amount of people hiking Highlands on a sunny Saturday

Best views in the region by far are up top of Highlands Bowl
HighlandRidge.jpg (59.86 KiB) Viewed 3803 times

2/3 of the way down Highlands Bowl
User avatar
Posts: 2221
Joined: Wed Apr 11, 2007 6:54 pm
Location: Front Range of Colorado

Re: Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass Feb 27-29, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Mar 03, 2020 10:39 pm

Fixed your upside down pic
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
Posts: 10683
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

Return to Western North America

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 18 guests

All content herein copyright © 1999-2017 First Tracks!! Online Media

Forums Terms & Conditions of Use