At 12,392, Aspen Highlands Bowl, aka the Bowl, may be the most fun you’ll ever have, in-bounds. Locals know it well, and hike and ski it often; regular visitors look forward to their annual hike up the Bowl and bring first-time visitors along, who feel like a zillion bucks upon their first summit. Hiking the Bowl makes any given day that much better; whatever’s ailing, nagging, weighing you down seems to evaporate as you crest Heart Attack Hill (that little steep section) and make your way under the prayer flags onto the lookout bench, to catch your breath and gaze out over the plethora of peaks at the top of the world as most of us know it.
I’m a Bowl junkie. Every time I hop onto the bench, I send a picture message to someone, somewhere (there’s good cell service in the mountains once you get on top of those pesky peaks) and I know it’s a parallel universe situation: I’m certain that the picture in their inbox makes them smile and I’m certain they’re doing something less exciting (oh, I’m certain) – or at least, at a lower elevation.
But as invigorated and capable as I feel at the top of Highlands Bowl, I know that the true hard-core insiders are those who did the legwork, literally, to get the Bowl and many of the more challenging parts of the mountain ready and safe and user-friendly for the rest of us.
These worker bees are called bootpackers.