It must’ve been the PR department at Aspen Skiing Co. that rightfully gave Aspen Highlands the distinction of being the “local’s mountain.” If you’re looking for that old-Aspen spirit of skiing, funkiness and messy vitality, Highlands is where you’ll find it.
Highlands does a good job of trying to preserve that renegade ski spirit it’s famous for. Look no further than the Merry Go Round Restaurant where you’ll find a duct tape dispenser. That’s right; they are actually encouraging their customers to ski around looking like dirt bags. Bravo!
There are more bearded skiers per capita at Highlands than any other mountain. I know this because like many men, I have an acute case of beard envy. Another interesting phenomenon is that a very high percentage of the Highlands skiers wear backpacks. I’m not sure what they are carrying around, for all I know they are stuffed with crumpled up newspaper or dirty laundry. Last time I was wearing a backpack with skis on, it was during a hut trip, or going through that gate with the skull and crossbones on it. Out of all the skiers with backpacks on, I’ve yet to see a single track in Maroon Bowl or the Five Fingers. Go figure.
Another suspicious thing I notice while skiing at Highlands is the amount of lightweight mountaineering gear people are using as their everyday ski set-up. Boots, skis, bindings, all made from the most technologically advanced materials and concepts. I’ve been told that there’s a lightweight gear “revolution” happening right now. If by “revolution” you mean that the balls of the sport of skiing are being slowly hacked off with a flimsy dull knife, then yes, we are indeed witnessing a revolution.
I’ve tried being a ski revolutionary, and it’s not for me. It reminds me of being a kid floundering around on cross country skis pretending like they were downhill skis. Skiing used to be a sport where you adjusted your gear to accommodate your style of skiing, but the new lightweight gear makes it a sport where you have to adjust your style of skiing to compensate for your gear. What’s next — twin-tip mountaineering race skis and backcountry mogul clinics?
It’s the old “tastes like chicken” argument and I hear it just about every day. I overhear people say things like “It skis just like an alpine boot” or boasting about how stiff it is. Or my favorite — “the bindings don’t release.” Don’t worry; I’ll wait for you at the bottom of the lift while you go through your midlife crisis experimental stage.
You can’t talk about Highlands without talking about “the bowl.” The bowl is over exposed literally and figuratively. The right side of my face has taken a wicked beating from hiking up that thing over the years. Some call it the Bowl Tattoo, or the Bowl Star, but it just looks like liver spots to me. Skiing Aspen Highlands and hiking the bowl is a lot like homosexuality in the sense that it’s harmless and it’s not for everyone, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.
You know what drives me really crazy though? I’ll tell you. It’s when I see or hear the Highlands Bowl called or referred to as the “Highland” bowl. For the record, it’s “Highlands” Bowl. Now, please hand me my hair splitter.
Aspen “Highlands” is a place. It’s plural. The bowl is an individual location at the entity known as the Highlands. Therefore, the bowl is singular and the Highlands are plural. You don’t call the restaurant at the bottom the “Highland” pizza company, or the free bus that goes to Highlands the “Highland” bus. The people responsible for the propagation of this egregious grammatical misrepresentation of the bowl must be stopped in their ski tracks. I’m anxiously waiting a response from the ski bum English department on this one.
The grammar police have been busy correcting words and phrases printed on T-shirts and bowl straps, and now it’s high time for them to grab the bull by the horns and put an end to this nomenclatural tomfoolery regarding “Highlands” Bowl once and for all. Calling Highlands Bowl the “Highland” bowl sounds snooty and elitist. We’ve had just about enough with the Aspen Mountain-ization of Highlands already.
Highlands’ renegade image is ironic because it actually used to be the mountain frequented by celebrities. There are some amazing archival shots of various movie stars and musicians hung strategically around the Merry Go Round Restaurant. My favorite is the one of Cher smokin’ hot in the boy’s room. If you haven’t had a chance to peruse those pictures, it’s well worth the 15 minutes spent wandering the perimeter.
Now Highlands is the safe haven for the “crustier than thou” local skier. Don’t forget to stop by the duct tape dispenser on your way out the door. Even if you don’t have a hole or a tear in anything, a strategically placed piece of duct tape adds significant local slope “cred” and is a signature Highlands badge of honor.
Email Lorenzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.