Saturday might be the official opening of Aspen Highlands but a lucky group of us got a sneak peek yesterday. It looks good.
How did we get the preview? Well, the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol have a somewhat novel approach to manage terrain that can pose significant challenges to keep safe and open to the public. With the arrival of the first snows in late fall, they exhaustively ‘boot pack’ or walk up and down over this early season snow layer. By boot packing the snow into a more solid base, skiers and boarders have a better foundation to ride on but more importantly– that layer of snow, which when buried later in the season can pose a significant avalanche hazard (as it does in the backcountry), gets all broken up.
Because there is so much terrain at Highlands that benefits from packing, way more than the patrol staff could handle themselves, sometime around November 1st a call goes out to recruit potential boot packers, whose efforts earn them ski passes or credit towards one. And how much do you need to do? Fifteen days of service will get you a full season pass. For more info, check out the website and its photogallery, at bootpacker.com.
For the less masochistic, or those who get a ski pass by other means, you can do your part to contribute by being part of a powder posse, which is another aspect of the snow compaction process deemed necessary by the AHSP. A good deal less punishing than boot packing, the job of the powder posse is to ski the terrain that has already been bootpacked, but only after it’s had a good amount of new snow fall on top. It sounds like a tough job, to go and ski powder for the cause of ski compaction, right? Lucky for us, this is a job we get called for a couple of times a year. For a writeup from an earlier call to duty, check out this post from last April. Thursday was the most recent Powder Posse day, and as always was a really good time. We skied the G-Zones from G-8 to G-2 in the morning, and Temerity and parts of Steeplechase in the afternoon (if you stuck around). So as for the opening tomorrow, most of that terrain should be good to go, though without any sizeable new snow, it might be pretty tracked up in parts. In our defense, we were just doing our job. Thank us later if you like, it was a tough– in a fun way.
And with that, the Highlands Bowl season has officially begun. It should be a good one. Here are a few pics from yesterday: