The Snow Report
With a perfect view of the Maroon Bells, this smallish resort (five lifts move a maximum of 6,500 people per hour up 3,635 vertical feet) is one of Skico’s four Aspen resorts (Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, and Snowmass round out the portfolio). Its 118 ski runs get 300 inches of snow per year, though only five percent of its winter can be labeled powder days.
The ski-and-board school here is shared with Skico’s other hills, and offers risk-free lessons (really, you get your money back if you’re not happy) taught by a staff of 1,200 that hails from 22 countries, including Olympians from the U.S.A., Austria, Argentina, and Brazil.
When you’re not skiing or riding, try snowshoeing, go for a snowcat dinner ride (a snowcat trucks you to a cabin, where an expertly prepared four-course meal is served while musicians play), or take a mountain-photography class. You can also throw back a drink during the casual Red Onion bar’s excellent happy hour or have an organic meal at the mid-mountain Merry-Go-Round restaurant and coffee bar, which had a $6-million facelift to arrive at a design concept its publicists call “duct-tape chic.”
When it’s time to turn in for the night, the ski-in/ski-out Ritz-Carlton Club is right there but if that’s too rich for your blood, there are plenty of other options nearby, including condo and house rentals—note, though, that winter camping isn’t allowed.
Which isn’t to say that Highlands management doesn’t care about nature. Employees are encouraged to volunteer with the Roaring Fork Conservancy to help monitor local waters, and the resort’s parent company, Skico, holds the distinction of having made the U.S. ski industry’s first wind-power purchase. The conglomerate still spends $25,000 per year on wind credits and is working on other renewable-energy initiatives, like solar arrays.
In late January, Highlands hosts the Colorado Freeride Championships, and late March brings the annual Fallen Friends Memorial Event, a lighthearted way to honor mountain athletes who’ve died doing their sport.
CONTACT: (800) 525-6200, aspensnowmass.com
SEASON: Early December to mid-April