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Aspen Highlands a.k.a. stop #3. 

With a little bit of planning, it doesn’t seem too hard to ski Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass in a day. After all, there’s an annual race in which skiers both climb up and ski down all four. At least that’s the way it seemed when the topic came up one evening last March during the nightly neighborhood dog wrangle/beer crawl. A plan was made to attempt skiing the foursome the next day, aided by the announcement that Aspen Mountain would stay open for skiing until 6 p.m.

When the appointed time to start arrived the next morning, attrition had already claimed one of our gang, so just my friend Joel and I sluggishly put our plan in motion. We gathered our gear, headed into Aspen, booted up, and, still a bit bleary-eyed, snagged the 10:40 a.m. bus to Snowmass. Already at least an hour behind schedule, we were still hopeful of success.

Originally, we had intended to make it to the highest lift-served point of each ski area, but the line for the Cirque poma at Snowmass seemed excessive, so instead we skied KT Gully to the High Alpine lift and settled for a Mach 2 cruise down Green Cabin. One quick bus ride to Buttermilk later, and we were already on our way to hitting the halfway point of our goal. Bonus: we got off the Buttermilk Express lift to find that the ski patrol was grilling that day—cheeseburgers in paradise!

We skied runs on West Buttermilk and Tiehack, then caught the shuttle to Aspen Highlands. Before we knew it, we were almost to the top of the Loge lift—and that’s when Joel got creative. “Let’s hike the bowl?” he suggested. I couldn’t think of any good reason not to, so we caught the last snowcat of the day at 2:30 p.m.—thereby shaving some time off our ridgeline hike to the top—with the ski patrollers making their daily sweep in tow.

Despite the bluebird weather, the air was brisk, and the breeze gusting along the ridge during our hike up motivated us to move at a good pace. Our reward was the snow—wintry, chalky, and fantastic, in spite of the spring conditions settling all around us on our other runs. We caught one of the last chairs of the day on the Deep Temerity lift and skied down the front face of Highlands, eventually hitting Golden Horn/Thunderbowl toward the bottom, where we were able to arc large radius turns, apparently the only skiers still left on the mountain.

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The leisure tour ends on Aspen Mountain. 

We arrived at the Silver Queen Gondola after Aspen Mountain normally closes, but thanks to the Aspen Skiing Company’s gift of extra hours, things were still cranking on the slopes. After riding the gondola to the summit, we skied straight down to a large party taking place on the deck of Bonnie’s restaurant and downed a well-earned beer. Surprisingly, we still had enough juice left to ski more; we rode the Ajax Express lift back to the top, then chased the sun down the Face of Bell and skied to the bottom.

By then, we had not only successfully skied all four mountains but also decided that hiking Highland Bowl counted as extra credit. What had started out as a fun idea casually tossed off the evening before had morphed into something even bigger—the four-and-a-half-mountain challenge. Try ticking it off your own bucket list this spring.

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