Yesterday, during our meeting‘s afternoon break, I finally hustled up to Aspen Highlands Bowl. This involved taking two lifts, and then a snowcat, and then a 45 minute hike along the ridge, ending at over 12,000 feet elevation. The bowl is steep. Very, very steep. Up to 48 degrees steep (measured down from horizontal). For some perspective, if you were to point your snowboard straight down the mountain for 3 seconds, you’d find yourself going 50 miles per hour [exercise for the reader]. Well, at least that would be true if the mountain was covered in a sheet of (perfectly frictionless) ice. Fortunately, it wasn’t.
When you’re at the top, you need to peer over the edge to see the terrain. For the record, I’m afraid of heights. Standing on a ridge in the freezing cold, with a brisk wind blowing, with a thousand foot steep vertical drop on both sides, should not be a pleasant experience. The whole Freudian death wish thing should kick in pretty hard. But something about all that fluffy powder magically transforms imminent death into the perfect playground. Dropping into the bowl was heavenly. The whole place was virtually deserted. Waist-deep powder in places. With a wonderful runout through the trees.
Two hours later I was back in the conference room, learning more about the latest results on dark matter detection. A good day.
NOTE: Aaron Sheldon brings up a good point in the comments. I’m a big fan of helmets on the slopes. For me it’s a no-brainer, as it were. Plus, helmets keep your ears toasty warm. Also, especially if you’re going out-of-bounds, pack appropriate avalanche gear (a beacon, a probe, a shovel, etc.). It’s dangerous out there.