Aspen Snowmass – Tamara Susa
By R. Scott Rappold and Alec Stowell and Andy Stein
It’s hard to believe now, but there was a time when everyone didn’t have a camera and phone in their pocket to show how good a skier or snowboarder they were and the technology to show it to the world on social media.
In the old days, if you wanted an audience, you rode the lift line. It’s where local heroes were cheered and local zeroes, well, they were cheered too. Who doesn’t like to watch a good yard sale while waiting for their turn on the snow? Every Colorado ski area has steep runs off the lift where you can prove yourself or prove it’s time for another lesson.
These runs have become known as “Hollywood Lines,” spots on the mountain where you better go big or go home because there’s a captive audience on the chairlift above. Whether you nail your turns or land that jump so perfectly you belong in a ski movie, or you fail so spectacularly you belong in the blooper reel, the cheers or jeers from the lift will make it all worth it.
Here are the Hollywood Lines at Colorado Ski Country USA resorts. Bring your A-game and your sense of humor.
Roller Coaster: Pallavacini chair is legendary at A-Basin. You can walk from the parking lot and ride to high above timberline, past some of the steepest terrains in Summit County. Want to prove to the locals that you can hang here? Hop off the chair and jump Pali Cornice and head right down Roller Coaster. This insanely long and steep bump run might chew you up and spit you out, but you’ll go back for more.
1A Lift Line: Before Aspen Highlands, before Aspen Mountain expanded to its current size, everyone skied right into town. The Shadow Mountain Chair accesses this classic terrain, and if you want an audience, ski the lift line. It’s narrow, steeper than it looks, with lots of trees on either side to punish a mistake. As the Aspen Times once said, “If it’s a nice day and the lift is full of skiers watching you, this can become the most difficult (trail) in the valley.”
Deep Temerity lift line: Aspen Highlands is not a mountain for greenhorns. It’s steep, scary and deadly. It’s also where some of the best skiers in the world mingle with celebrities and the super-rich. But the mountain is the great equalizer, and all the money in the world won’t help you if you try to ski the double-diamonds here without the right skills. Highland Bowl is the legendary terrain here, but no chairlift goes that high, so ski the tight trees and steep pitches of the Deep Temerity lift line for an audience.
Timber Doodle Glade: Outside of hosting the X-games annually, Buttermilk gets a reputation for being the beginner’s mountain of the Aspen mountains. However, the Tiehack express still offers some legendary lines for those searching for some thrill. Stay to your right off the lift and find yourself starting your descent down Timber Doodle Glade where you can crush the steep tree run.
Maverick: Cooper isn’t known for its steep terrain, at least it wasn’t until Tennessee Creek Basin opened this winter, the first double-diamond runs here ever. Most of it is heavily forested so nobody can see your exploits, so showboats should head for the T-bar line and ski Maverick, being careful to dodge anyone riding up the T-bar, of course.
Revenge: Skiers who love steep drops and open bowl skiing know on a powder day to head directly for the Sierra lift (take American Flyer lift then scoot to the right.) This terrain usually opens early while ski patrol is still conducting avalanche mitigation in the back bowls. The terrain on either side of the chair holds great snow and you can usually get two or three runs of deep freshies. Those who slept in will be jealous when they see your tracks.
The Glades: Come on the right day and The Glades will give you the tree skiing experience you’ve been looking for all year. Follow the popular path or carve a line of your own and make your name known here.
The Chutes: Take the Corona lift to the top and just a short hike to the right you’ll find yourself heading down Westridge but if you keep to the left you can hit one of the three Chutes. Take your pick and you’ll find yourself on a playground of difficult terrain. Steep moguls and navigating trees are the names of the game here, and once you find your line you’ll keep coming back for more.
Bounty Hunter: This is another mountain that gets the rep that you can’t find some intense terrain for those looking for it, but that’s just not the case. Hit the West Mountain and ride Conquest up and you’ll find yourself in an abyss of more extreme terrain. Hang a right off the lift and hit Bounty Hunter and you’ll get thrusted into a gateway of steep terrain. From there, take your pick on how you’ll make the best line of the day.
Upper Face: This small ski area has only one lift, and you can see pretty much the whole mountain from the chair, but to really show off your stuff power down the Upper Face. They’re also one of the few Colorado ski areas to offer night skiing and when it’s snowing in the evening Durango locals know to flock here for fresh turns.
Jump Complex: Generations of Olympic skiers and jumpers have trained at this small ski area in downtown Steamboat Springs, which just happens to have the largest ski jumping facility in North America. Come out in the evening to watch local athletes soar through the air at dizzying heights.
Sunnyside: Tiny Kendall Mountain, located right in the town of Silverton, has one chairlift. Sunnyside, which runs directly under the lift, offers 240 vertical feet of skiing. See how many times you can lap it in a day to impress your friends.
Patrol Bowl: Located high on the Continental Divide above the Eisenhower Tunnel, Loveland has some of the best skiing in Colorado for those who like big lines high above timberline. Chair 9 takes skiers all the way to 12,700 feet. This terrain is so steep it often takes a day or even several days after a big storm for it to open, but patience pays off. If you’re lucky to be there right when it opens, go directly left off the chair and drop into Patrol Bowl, a double-diamond cirque with amazing potential for deep powder turns that will make you feel like you’re in a ski movie. Remember, though, people are watching.
Sheer Rocks: The name says it all. This narrow, steep trail runs below Panorama lift. Generations of Salida hotshots have been skiing it just for the 10-foot jump directly below the chair. Hit it in early season and you’re bound to scrape a ski, but by mid-winter it’s the perfect pillow drop for those who want to catch some air and impress those older skiers whose jumping days are long past.
Blackburn’s Bash: It takes some work to reach the Legends Express Lift, but it’s worth it for expert skiers, as this part of the mountain has the best black diamond skiing on the mountain. Get there early on a powder day and you’ll be rewarded with a long, sweet line directly under the chair. When it hasn’t snowed in a while show them what a good (or not-so-good) mogul skier you are.
Mudslide: Take the West-End lift up and follow Tenderfoot to your left until you reach Mudslide. The rare double-black at this mountain is short but sweet and is sure to get your heart pumping. Veer left at the end and find yourself finishing off the run through the Thunder Mountain Glade’s.
Mandatory Air: Silverton isn’t like other ski areas. It has only one chair but offers the steepest and deepest terrain in Colorado – 100 percent of it is expert-level terrain. You are required to have an avalanche beacon and for most of the winter, they only allow guided skiing, meaning you’ll be doing a lot of uphill skiing or hiking or paying extra for a helicopter drop. They only offer unguided skiing for a short time in spring, when the avalanche danger tends to be lower. See how big you can send it on Mandatory Air while skiers at the top wonder if they feel like risking their lives following you.
Grinder: Take the High Alpine chair all the way up to 11,852 feet, get off of the lift and go left and look in amazement as you set your sights on this hardcore double black diamond. Not for the faint of heart, this trail is one that will leave your legs burning and the people on the chair lift watching in amazement. If you want to watch people turn down this double black, expert-only terrain but don’t necessarily want to ski or ride down it yourself, no worries, just take a right off of the lift and stroll down and intermediate blue run.
Storm Peak North: If you’re wondering where everyone is rushing to on a powder day, it’s the Storm Peak Express chair. That’s because the terrain just off the lift is some of the most exciting on the mountain, steep and free of trees, where you can make hero lines just feet from the chair – that is, if it’s not snowing too hard for anyone to see you.
Alligator Alleys: Home of some of the steepest runs served by lift access in the state. Currently served by the Primo chairlift, take a left once you get off and follow Grizzly until you find yourself at the peak of the alley. Drop in where you please and experience an intense rush of expert terrain.
Dynamo: Skiable cliffs right off the lift? Ride up Gold Hill Express chair, head skier’s right a big, summon your courage and drop in. Whether you nail the jump or it nails you, you’ll probably get a big cheer from the chair. Honorable mention goes to Kant-Mak-M off the Plunge lift, which was the original showboating spot before the resort expanded to its current, massive size.
Freeriders: Winter Park is actually two mountains – the Winter Park side, with its family-friendly groomed terrain; and Mary Jane, a completely different animal, with long, steep mogul runs and huge bowls above timberline. Skiing the Mary Jane side will either make you a better bump skier or send you home to mother crying. Want to see what good mogul skiers look like? Ride the Challenger chair and look down on the Freeriders run.
Alberta Face: Wolf Creek gets the most snow in Colorado, 430 inches a year, and when it’s been dumping, skiers in the know go straight to Treasure Stoke Chair for one of the steepest pitches on the mountain. The wide-open expanse of Alberta Face is the first terrain ski patrol blasts, so it’s the first steep terrain typically open, with no trees to hide your exploits if you drop right in. Look up and you might notice later arrivals drooling as you kick up cold smoke in your face.
Don’t forget that these are the “Hollywood Lines” so if people are taking photos and videos of you, just realize that you’ve made it and hopefully are being shared across social media for your amazing turns rather than how good you can yardsale down a mountain in front of everyone.