Don’t let the name fool you. Technically, yes, the shindig at the base of Aspen Highlands on Sunday is going to be a “closing party,” but thanks to this winter’s abundant snow, the closing being celebrated is only going to last about five days.
The Aspen Skiing Co. already decided a month ago to keep Highlands open for an additional two weekends, so the real end of the season won’t come until April 28.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that Sunday’s party will be any less festive. Expect outrageous costumes, pulsing DJ music and revelry that always matches or exceeds that of just about any party in Aspen each year. And expect the deck outside the Highlands Alehouse to start bouncing so much with all the revelers that you’ll swear it’s going to collapse.
That part of the Highlands closing tradition is on the new side, but for the younger set, who probably don’t remember what the ski area was like before its base village was built, they should know that the closing party’s roots go way, way back, and though the music was different, yesterday’s ski bums could throw down every bit as hard as you. In fact, the final closing party at the old bar was the stuff of legend, with people trying to pry away parts of the walls that had been signed over the years by thousands of people with magic markers.
Another closing-day semi-ritual, depending on who you ask, apparently, is the Highland Bowl Gathering, an “informal, super-chill event” that the SkiCo website describes thusly: “The Ski Patrol at Aspen Highlands has a closing-day tradition of hiking up to the top of Highland Bowl and hosting an informal BBQ (weather permitting). It’s the local’s choice for closing-day festivities.”
When asked if ski patrol would, indeed, be dragging a grill to the top of Highland Bowl for a BBQ, a patroller said he was unaware of any plans to do so. When it was pointed out that it was advertised on the SkiCo’s events calendar, he remarked that it might be time for the patrol to make some plans to do so. Will they? You’ll just have to hike to the top of the bowl Sunday to find out.
A would-be tradition that has taken hold in the past half-decade will make a reappearance: the pond skim, in which intrepid skiers and boarders will try to schuss down a slope and across a chilly, snow-lined pond constructed for the occasion at the base. It’ll be great viewing for anyone who enjoys seeing people wipe out and end up freezing cold. It’s important to note, however, that it will not be a Shneetag, so there’s no need to assemble a team and build a craft ahead of time.
The party on the deck and in the Alehouse will rev up over the course of the afternoon and hit its stride right around the time the lifts shut down. But as anyone who has been to Highlands this season can tell you, there’s still great skiing to be had, so the lifts will fire right back up Friday through Sunday, April 19-21, and Friday through Sunday, April 26-28.
“The conditions will be outstanding well into spring,” said Katie Ertl, SkiCo senior vice president of mountain operations, in a press release. “Extending operations at Highlands will be the cherry on top of this incredible season.”
A SkiCo spokesperson said there were no official plans to have three closing parties at Highlands this year, but she didn’t discount it as a possibility.