Sunday, January 9, 2011
With the requisite craziness of the holiday season now officially behind us, a sense of calm has again returned to town, if only for a little while. The holidays were a huge success for us at the Little Nell but naturally left most of us a little wound up and sleep deprived. I hadn’t had the luxury of a true day off in a while so when one finally arose this past Friday, I had the itch to do something epic.
Those who know me know that I struggle with moderation. Most of my free time is spent either obsessing over the preparation for or execution of my next adventure. On Friday, the object of my obsession was the majestic Highlands Bowl. My goal for the day was quite simple – hike and ski the bowl as many times as possible in one day.
I woke up leisurely around 8:30am, and slowly motivated myself for the day’s big effort. I already had a late start so as soon as I was filled up on coffee and pastries I boarded the very busy bus up to Aspen Highlands. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for such an undertaking. The sun was shining brightly and there was zero wind to speak of, even at the higher elevations.
I began my first hike at 10 o’clock with only a handful of other skiers. As is always the case, the first hike was a serious labor. In fact, I felt so flat on the first ascent that I started to second guess my ambitious plans for the day. Soon enough though I was completely alone on the top contemplating what line I was going to ski. It’s rare to have the whole bowl to oneself so I decided to go for my favorite line, G-8, just slightly skiers right from the top.
The skiing was great and I immediately regained enthusiasm for my project as I reached the Deep Temerity lift for my second trip. The second lap is always much easier than the first and the hike went by in a jiff. I chose to ski Ozone for the second lap which is essentially straight down the middle of the bowl’s enormous face.
On the way back up the chair, I happened to see my good friend and Aspen Highlands Ski Patroller Spencer Allen, ski right underneath me. I got his attention, told him about my plan for the day, and asked when they would close the gate in the afternoon. His response was 2:30pm. I did some rudimentary math in my head and realized that I had to hurry up if I was going to get my planned six laps in that day.
Laps three and four were more of the same. Very enjoyable, albeit crowded hikes to the top followed by fast, straight line down hills to the lift. After my fourth lap I started to feel a bit fatigued though enthused that I had given myself some breathing room on my 2:30 deadline.
My fifth lap was marked by heavy legs and a slower than normal ski. I was happy to run into my father at the base of the lift who was out enjoying the sun as well. We had a nice chat on the way back up which helped to lift my energy levels enough to tackle the last climb of the day. Since I had made the 2:30 deadline, I was content to just mosey to the top at a very lackluster pace and not think about timing or speed. This plan worked for a short time until another skier started breathing down my neck on the steepest portion of the climb. As soon as I realized I was about to get passed, I again entered aggressive climber mode and left him in my dust. Sometimes that is all the motivation I need. Anyway, I enjoyed a little break at the top for the first time and talked with ski patrol about the day’s ideal conditions before pushing off for my final descent.
I met my old man at the Cloud 9 Bistro for a glorious hot chocolate before finally heading down to the base for a quick ride back to town. All in all it was a highly rewarding day that left me feeling exhausted and accomplished with a sweet goggle tan. Next time I’ll have to get up earlier and go for 8.