Aspen Highlands is the mountain of choice for locals and visitors longing for the best in-bounds, big-mountain experience in North America. The incomparable Highland Bowl, which the Highlands Ski Patrol keeps a close eye on for safe skiing conditions, is atop most serious skiers’ bucket list. Steep pitches and deep snow can be had in “the Bowl” days after a storm, and the awe-inspiring views of the Maroon Bells from the summit are worth the hike alone.
For the serious skier that isn’t too stoked on the semi-strenuous hike up Highland Bowl, there are snowcat rides that transport skiers up the Bowl’s ridge. You’ll be able to access some amazing terrain without ever boot packing. (However, you won’t find many locals in the snowcat if Highland Bowl’s summit is the ultimate goal. The “earn your turns” ethic runs deep in Aspen.)
If you still have some runs left in your legs after hiking the Bowl, check out the Steeplechase and Temerity areas on the east side of the mountain. And, you’ll be able to find untouched snow on the Olympic Bowl side late into the afternoon.
Don’t be deterred by all of this double black diamond talk, though. The entire mid-mountain area is perfect for intermediate skiers. Rolling blue square runs surround the Cloud Nine chairlift, and there are a lot of beginner trails off of the high-speed Exhibition chair.
Cloud Nine Bistro is a delicious on-mountain dining option with a European list. The raclette, pheasant, strudel, and Gluehwein are memorable—unless you get carried away with the German/Austrian winter-holiday drink (tourists tend to forget that since you drink this wine warm the alcohol goes to your head quick.) Also, ZG Grill and the Merry-Go-Round are quick, fun, and good. ZG (like the original Aspen license plates) has an awesome outdoor patio at the base of the mountain, and the M.G.R. is an affordable, mid-mountain, cafeteria-style spot. Also, Highlands Pizza Company pumps out delicious pies and makes warm breakfast sandwiches that can be eaten on the chairlift.
You can stay slopeside if you’re so inclined. The ski-in, ski-out Ritz-Carlton Club needs no introduction, and, in addition to all that downtown Aspen (just a 5 minute bus ride from Aspen Highlands) has to offer, there are a lot of condominiums for rent nearby.
FYI… Aspen Highlands hosts the Highlands Closing Day Party. This annual tradition is a local favorite during the dreaded transition from winter to spring. You’re missing out if you’ve never experienced Closing Day at Highlands. While the costumes, dancing, and partying are amazing, the exclamation point to every season comes when the well-respected Highlands Ski Patrolers get the season’s final descent of Highlands, tossing avalanche explosives and receiving a standing ovation from the thousands of revelers that celebrate at the ZG Grill.