As you pop out of the congested Aspen Roundabout onto Maroon Creek Road, suddenly you see it—the holy grail. Towering above you at a lofty 12,392’ of elevation stands Highland Peak, the crown jewel of Aspen Highlands. It vanishes as quickly as it appears, yet the reminder of its presence releases some adrenaline on even the groggiest of mornings and your foot can’t help but grow heavy on the accelerator in anticipation.
Depending on your aerobic capacity, you should plan to arrive at Highland Peak sometime in the three hours following the moment of that inspiring sneak peek. First, you’ll have to navigate two lift rides, followed by a one-and-a-half mile, 45-minute ridgeline hike over about 800 feet of elevation gain. It’s a thorough exercise in discipline and perseverance, involving a whole lot of sweat, only after which you’ll earn your photo op under the tattered, Everest-esque flags strung along the peak. Next, throw your skis off your back, crack open your beverage of choice, and plant yourself in the stationary chairlift seat for a breather—you’ve earned it.
After catching your breath and taking in the stunning panoramic view of the Elk Mountains, you’ll get to ski any number of routes down Highland Bowl—some of the steepest, deepest, and all-around most epic terrain you can find within the boundaries of a ski resort. When you finally reach the Deep Temerity lift, a deceivingly slow yet invaluable three-man chair, you are given ample time to reflect on your achievements. You will undoubtedly feel some intense stoke, mixed with the conflicting desires to either turn back at the top for another lap or head to the base village for a well-deserved lunch.
Usually, I satisfy the latter urge at Highlands Alehouse, a great joint at the base of the mountain that often features live music and almost always some great vibes. However, after conquering the mighty Highland Bowl, one would be remiss to call it a day.
Aspen Highlands also has a vast slate of expert terrain beyond the Bowl. From wide-open powder fields to tight tree runs and chutes, Deep Temerity has about everything that someone with a calling to the steeps could ask for. There’s also expert terrain on every aspect of the mountain outside of Temerity which means that if you know where to look, you can almost always find good snow no matter where the sun is.
Highlands also has an awesome collection of some of the widest and fastest groomers you can find anywhere. On days when the off-piste conditions are less-than-ideal, I am more than happy to spend my time ripping lap after lap of top-to-bottom speed runs.
My favorite characteristic of this “locals mountain” is its versatility and efficiency in satisfying the whims of every type of skier on every type of day. On paper, its relatively small 1,010 acres of skiable terrain might diminish its allure when compared to its larger neighbors, Snowmass and Vail, but I believe that Highlands easily competes with these higher-profile mountains. Whether you want to send the steeps, rip groomers, or shower your friends with Veuve Clicquot at one of Cloud Nine’s famous afternoon bashes—or even all three—Aspen Highlands has something for every skier.
Skiable terrain – 1,010 acres (4.1 km2)
Max elevation – 12,392 feet (3,777 m)
Total Vertical – 3,638 feet (1,109 m)
Total Runs – 118
Longest Run – 3.5 miles (5.6 km)
Total Chairs – 5
Avg Snowfall – 300 in/year (7.62 m/year)