With preparation and the right mindset, hiking Highland Bowl isn’t as intimidating as it looks. Take the free snowcat to shorten the hike. Bring a pack or buy a Bowl strap at patrol headquarters to carry your skis. Pack layers and hydrate often. Go to the top: Conditions are more consistent from there and the photo op is a must. Your reward awaits.
If Aspen is the classic skier’s mountain and Snowmass has something for everyone, Aspen Highlands—new to the Top 10—has become like the grand prize-worthy challenge of an Aspen Snowmass ski vacation. Indeed, standing atop 12,392foot Highland Bowl after the 700-vertical-foot hike to the summit, then skiing its nearly endless 40-plus degree slopes make you feel like you deserve some kind of medal—or at least, immense self-satisfaction. “Highland Bowl is the best,” says one reader. “It makes everything all right in the world.” Speaking of challenge (No. 4), Highlands also offers plenty of lift-served steep and deep, including the heart-skipping fall lines of Steeplechase, secret stashes in Oly Bowl, and the snow-magnet glades of Deep Temerity. But “badass” doesn’t paint the full picture. Highlands’ at-times under-appreciated variety (No. 6) includes great learning bumps, long, wide power-turn cruisers, and meticulously groomed beginner runs. A chill local vibe and lack of crowds contribute to its character (No. 6), and while there’s “not much going on at Highlands” compared to other base areas, it does have the Champagne-spraying, dance-in-your-ski-boots scene at Cloud Nine, “one of the most unique on-mountain dining experiences.”