WORD & PHOTOS: Ben Moscona

I awoke from a nightmare, skiing over grassy hills and stumps mid-winter, but when I saw the snow piling up outside, I knew I had walked into a dream.

Aspen Highlands is legendary among die-hard skiers in the Roaring Fork Valley. Highland Bowl offers a steep 2,500-foot-vertical descent right back to the Deep Temerity lift and that day it just happened to be bottomless. Austin, Andy, and I took a few laps before patrol dropped the rope for the bowl and we raced into the mad scramble up the boot-pack.

From the transition zone at the bottom of the hike, skiers worked their way up the peak like ants. We wallowed through deep snow, passing on the left. Suddenly, we found the summit: boots clicked into ski mode, clacked hard into the bindings and we were off.

Austin led and I could hardly make him out through the blizzard and the face shots I was being served with every turn. We dipped into the trees and the pitch steepened. My beard and goggles were plastered with the driest powder as the snow billowed over my head.

Austin and I rode up Deep Temerity (we call it "DT”) and a contented silence filled the air as memories of last year's nonexistent snowpack floated through my consciousness. I broke the silence, "Way better than last year, huh?" Austin agreed.

"That was the deepest bowl lap I can remember." And that was Highlands opening day.

Skiers hiking up the famous Highland Bowl’s “stairway to heaven” or “Heart-attack hill,” on opening day.

Andy Conarroe. PHOTO: Ben Moscona

Andy Conarroe. PHOTO: Ben Moscona

Austin Johnson. PHOTO: Ben Moscona

Victor Major. PHOTO: Ben Moscona

PHOTO: Ben Moscona

Baker Boyd. PHOTO: Ben Moscona