Lifts & Terrain

Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
  • Vertical (ft)
    8,040– 11,675 (3,635)
  • Average Snow Fall
    300 inches 
  • Lifts (5)
    3 high speed quads
    2 triples
  • Ski Season
    mid Dec - mid April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 144
    Longest run – 3.5mi 
    Beginner - 18%
    Intermediate - 30%
    Advanced - 16%
    Expert - 36%

Aspen Highlands Ski and Snowboard Terrain & Highland Bowl

Aspen Highlands has lots of vertical and is a long skinny ski resort, so it has some similarities to Aspen Mountain. One difference is that the mellow runs tend to run along the ridges rather than the valleys. The upper area of the main part of the mountain has an intermediate groomed trail that heads along the top of the ridge, with double black diamond runs that drop off the ridge. Further down the mountain becomes a maze of green and blue runs, with smatterings of black and double black terrain.

Aspen Highlands has 118 trails packed into 416 hectares (1,028 acres) of skiable terrain, so there is a little bit of tree skiing in the main part of the resort, but not an abundance of space for off-piste exploring. Conversely up on the Highland Bowl, in addition to the marked runs on the trail map (which you could sort of describe as piste runs!) there are an endless number of sweet off-piste lines. However when the Highland Bowl is closed due to inadequate snow or for avalanche control, the size of the ski resort feels very small.

The small size of the resort makes it pretty easy to navigate, and snowboarders tend to love the lack of flat spots. The only limitation of getting around is that the signage consists of tiny little wooden signs, so it’s very easy to miss turn-offs.

Highland Bowl

The Highland Bowl (aka Highlands Bowl) is the crown jewel of the ski resort. This alpine bowl is largely hike-to-terrain so pack a spare pair of lungs if you normally reside at sea level. A snowcat often runs about a third of the way up the ridge, but sometimes it’s not running or there’s a decent wait for a ride. Some hard core skiers just choose to hike the full distance anyway to earn their turns, rather than cheating with the snowcat. The hike to the top takes about 45 minutes depending on whether you’re in shape and acclimatized to the altitude.

It’s possible to drop in via gates before getting to the top, although this part of the bowl is largely south or southeast facing. The upside is that these slopes are rather steep. Those prepared to travel further up and around will be rewarded with the best snow on the north and northeast facing slopes on the G zone (which aligns with green ski wax for cold snow).

The skiing and snowboarding in the bowl can be epic. It’s definitely steep with most lines having an average pitch of about 35 to 40 degrees, and a maximum gradient of 38 to 48 degrees. It’s sometimes also deep, and it doesn’t get a huge amount of traffic so freshies last for a while.

The alpine area fans into trees, and some of the tree skiing is awesome. The addition of the Deep Temerity lift has made the egress from the bowl a little easier by cutting down the gnarly traverse out, although round trips may still take as long as 90 minutes.

The Aspen Highland Bowl has an unfortunate history of a propensity for avalanches. In an effort to enhance snowpack stability, the tireless patrollers and locals stomp down the bowl early in the season to enhance snowpack stability. Their butts must be super hard from all that walking up and down the mountain! Throughout the season the patrollers keep a pretty close eye on it and conduct a lot of avalanche control work. Nevertheless the Colorado snowpack is fickle and I’d personally treat this in-bounds area as the backcountry. Take appropriate precautions such as skiing with a buddy and donning a beacon, shovel and probe.

Aspen Highlands Lifts

Aspen Highlands only has 5 lifts, 3 of which are high speed quads that cover a large proportion of the terrain. Aspen Highlands also has a snowcat, if you count that as a lift!

Unfortunately the Deep Temerity lift, which services lots of double black runs and is reasonably new, is a fixed grip triple chair. This must be part of their strategy to ensure all the freshies don’t disappear by 10am!

Lift lines are rarely a problem, even on the weekends. Aspen Highlands isn’t deserted, but thankfully it doesn’t score the weekend day trippers from Denver and Boulder.

Lift Tickets

The lift passes are valid at any of the four Aspen Snowmass ski resorts. The RFID lift tickets attract a refundable deposit, and the lift tickets themselves are rather expensive, like everything else in Aspen Snowmass (so you reckon they could have put in a fast quad on Deep Temerity!).

Aspen Snowmass is part of the Ikon Pass family.

Aspen Highlands Snow Conditions

Like Snowmass and Aspen Mountain, the snow quality varies somewhat across the big vertical. The lower mountain is commonly either icy or slushy, whilst it’s much better further up the hill. The quality of the powder is pretty typical for Colorado; sometimes a little heavy and other times light and fluffy.

Up on the Highlands Bowl the snow can get wind affected or sun baked on the south facing slopes, but considering the high elevation (up to 3,777 metres/12,392 feet) the snow quality can be pretty good.

Aspen Highlands receives an average of 7.6 metres of snow per season (300 inches). This is quite respectable but a far cry from the likes of Utah or skiing in Japan, so it’s pretty rare at Aspen Highlands that you’d need to fasten up the powder skirt on your jacket.

Aspen Highlands has snow making capability on 110 acres (44 hectares); 20% of the ski area.

Ski Terrain for the Beginner

Absolute first-timers will probably be better placed at Buttermilk Mountain. Even though Aspen Highlands has lots of beginner trails off the Exhibition lift (18% of trails), they are not super super mellow and are more suited to green runners with a little bit of experience.

Aspen Highlands Skiing for the Intermediate

Aspen Mountain tends to cater well to high end intermediates, Buttermilk Mountain to low end intermediates, whilst Aspen Highlands provides well for middle of the road intermediates. Aspen Highlands doesn’t have the diversity of intermediate terrain compared with Snowmass, but with 30% of trails being rated as blue, there are still enough slopes to keep intermediates entertained.

There are some super long groomed trails where you can really put the gas on, or the Cloud Nine lift has a large concentration of blue runs that are short and sweet. This area above the Merry Go Round cafeteria also has some tremendous bumps where intermediates can work on technique.

Terrain Parks & Pipes

Aspen Highlands is not a ski resort for terrain park shredders. Head to Buttermilk Mountain or Snowmass instead.

Advanced Skiing Aspen Highlands

Only 16% of terrain is rated as single black, although many of the double black diamond runs could also be tackled by advanced riders. This will depend on the snow conditions and whether the moguls are small or nipple high.

Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Aspen Highlands has a large number of double black diamond trails. With the exception of the Highland Bowl, these are largely targeted to mogul-lovers rather than powderhounds. The Steeplechase area is often challenging, largely because of the size of the Volkswagon bumps. Olympic Bowl also has some fabulous bumps runs.

Aspen Highlands has tree skiing, but with so many trails packed into a small ski resort, the patches of trees are generally rather small. One exception is the lovely zone near the Deep Temerity chair lift where you can play in the trees, or head back out onto a cut trail and go Mushroom picking. The Deep Temerity chair lift is a fabulous spot for experts, but the real highlight for experts and powderhounds is the alpine bowl.