By Joel Warner
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Dillon is also home to Carson's employer, the Snake River Saloon (23074 U.S. Hwy. 6). "I have to mention that," he says. "But it's really not just because I work there. I wanted to work there because I knew how great it was. And it's really a locals' hangout, 'cause it's pretty reasonable for what you get. They have live bands sometimes, and they do drink specials and cheap appetizers for the apres-ski scene." And Roberto's (269 Summit Place)--a "good Mexican in Silverthorne that's more authentic than Tex-Mex"--is on Carson's list of favorites, along with China Cafe (22954 U.S. Hwy. 6 in Keystone), which he likes for a quick, cheap lunch.
In the morning, though, he suggests the Alpenglow Lodge, up on A-Basin. "That's a very cheap skier's breakfast," he says. "Hash browns, eggs, toast and bacon, and decent coffee."
"There's going to be an espresso cart on A-Basin this year," he adds. "That'll be a good bonus for us diehards."
General Information: 1-970-468-0718.
Snow Report: 1-970-468-0718.
Location: 90 miles west of Denver via I-70 to exit 250 at Dillon, 12 miles east on U.S. Hwy. 6 through Keystone.
Opening and Closing Dates: Mid-November to early July.
Hours: 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Terrain: 15% beginner, 40% intermediate, 25% advanced, 20% expert. 490 skiable acres with a 2,250' vertical drop. Base: 10,800'; top: 13,050'; longest run: 1.5 miles.
Lifts: 1 triple chair, 4 double chairs
Lift Rates: Adult full-day $39; adult half-day $30; child 6-14 full-day $12; child under 5 full-day free.
Rentals: Recreational package: Adult full-day $17; child up to 14 full-day $11.
Snowboarding/Cross-Country: Snowboarding welcome. Cross-country call Keystone Nordic Center at 1-800-258-9553.
Special Events: KBCO Cardboard Box Derby, Jan. 31; Rocky Mountain Freestyle Competition, Feb. 13-14; Coca-Cola Cup Race, March 14; Running of the Green, March 17; Figure 8 Contest, April 12; Enduro, April 22; Mogul Masters, April 25; Telebump & GS, May 3; Bikes & Bumps, May 9; Memorial Day Celebration, May 23.
Not only is Ron Rash in love with Aspen Highlands, but he fell in love at Aspen Highlands. "I liked her turns," Rash says of the woman who is now his wife. "She was teaching skiing there, and it was kind of love at first sight." And the two are so enamored of the mountain, they were married on it in 1994.
And the tradition has continued with their sixteen-month-old daughter, Megan, who skied for the first time at Aspen Highlands last year--on their backs. "We think we'll probably get her on her own skis this season," says Rash, who is originally from Iowa and moved to Steamboat Springs in 1977. The 43-year-old is pretty experienced at dealing with kids and snow, since he works for the National Outdoor Leadership School, an organization that teaches youth wilderness survival skills such as constructing igloos, pulling sleds, camping and, of course, skiing, especially skiing to get out of difficult terrain.
But it's Aspen Highland's accessibility that makes it so appealing to Rash and his family. "Even though I know how to deal with adverse conditions, I don't like to have to do that to ski," the Aspen resident explains. "Aspen Highlands is so easy to get to, and it has so much varied terrain, that anyone I take can find something for their abilities to ski."
Rash moved to Aspen in 1985--his family had recently relocated to Glenwood Springs, and he wanted to be "close, but not too close" to them, he says, laughing--and soon started teaching skiing at Highlands. "You know, Aspen Mountain is a great mountain, but it has no beginner stuff, and Buttermilk doesn't have any super-expert runs, so Highlands is so perfect," he says. "Even if I didn't teach there, that's the mountain I would ski."
Rash averages 135 days of skiing per season, and he spends most of it in the double blacks. "Everything's a little harder at Highlands," Rash explains. "So the double blacks are pretty extreme, and the singles are more like doubles. If you haven't been here before, you definitely want to assume that the runs are underestimated as far as their difficulty."
For a comfortable cruiser, though, Rash suggests Golden Horn as a solid blue. "It's wide open, faces the front of the mountain looking down into the valley," Rash says. "It's got a consistent pitch, and they groom it well--never any bumps. It's a great run to learn on." For those who are looking for bumps, Rash names the Sodbuster run in Steeplechase area. Full of double blacks, Steeplechase "starts out rather steep at the top and then mellows out a little in the middle," Rash explains. "Then the bottom section is a good section of consistently round, large bumps, not those really pointy bumps, which makes them nice to turn around on the tops or in the troughs."
Rougher bumps can be found at Scarlett's Run, Rash says, on the front of the mountain. "It's a blue," Rash says, "but at most ski areas, it would be a black. It's always bumped out, but it's popular." For untracked snow, Rash proposes the Temerity area, between Steeplechase and Highlands Bowl. "Temerity is my favorite double black overall," he says. "Any of the runs there are great, with lots of trees, very steep. You'd better be able to turn very well to go in there. But you're bound to find untracked stuff." He adds that if the sun is setting up on that side of the mountain, Olympic Bowl is another likely spot for fresh stashes. That's also the area he says has the best view. "When you're skiing down there, you're skiing into the Maroon Creek Valley, looking at Pyramid and the Maroon Bells, and you can see the Fourteeners, too."