Acres: 1,040 | Vertical: 3,635’ | Snowfall: 300” | aspensnowmass.com
Aspen Mountain (Ajax) is more famous, and Snowmass is bigger, but notoriety and numbers don’t tell the Highlands’ story. Outside of Silverton, Highlands offers the most consistently steep fall line in the state. And its varied terrain and gladed woods hold ample stashes. The vertical drop of 3,635’ is impressive by Colorado standards, but it jumps up to 4,272’ if you hike 30 minutes to the top of Highland Bowl. And hike you will. Or hike you should—the cirque holds the most direct fall line and the best snow in the state. Even when it hasn’t snowed for a week, the worst you’ll typically find is fast and smooth north facing chalk. Later, mingle with the bowl-hike lappers at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, where (thanks to last year’s renovation) a $1.2 million sound system lets champagne-sippers groove against a backdrop of the mesmerizing Maroon Bells.
Can’t-Miss Run: Highland Bowl contains steep, sustained lines (2,000-plus vertical feet). “But my favorite is G5,” says Whit Boucher of Aspen-based Strafe Outerwear. Its north-facing aspect holds snow the longest. “And looking down G5 on a powder day, you feel like you just got dropped off by a helicopter. No joke.”
Resort Bite: The hand-tossed, Dagwood-thick pizzas at Highlands Ale House rank as Aspen’s best.
Stay an Extra Day: Aspen’s terrain doesn’t end at the resort boundaries. To plunder those tantalizing (but avalanche-prone) lines off Highland’s backside, sign on with Aspen Alpine Guides, which offers lift assisted backcountry forays. —Kelly Bastone
From the Early Winter 2016 issue.