Imagine one whole week's worth of Spring Break shenanigans, all smushed into one rockin', ravin', monstrosity of a day; because that's the best way I can think to describe Aspen Highlands Closing.
Some of our crew, which included Greg Wright, Nicole Birkhold, and Zach Berman of the Freeskier Sales team, Snowboard Magazine Online Editor Jon Glass, and Freeskier ski tester Scott Kramer, had been to this event the year prior; their detailed accounts of the madness had instilled within us first timers a yearning so deep, that Bruce Willis and his team of Armageddon drillers wouldn't have even made an attempt.
We awoke Sunday morning in our fancy Gant rooms, slightly battered from an eventful Saturday (which included some epic shredding and some late night antics), but eager to get underway. As a gang, we'd purchased hotdog outfits on the Web for the special day. We rolled out of bed straight into our adornments, and headed up to the hill.
Group Shot! P: Jeremy Swanson Aspen/Snowmass
The busy itinerary called for a morning of skiing and a group hike to the top of Highlands Bowl, followed by a party at the mid-mountain Cloud 9 Restaurant. From there, we'd ski down to the base area (pending you didn't drink too much at Cloud 9, in which case they had a snow-cat ready to transport you), to join a throng of Aspenites and visitors alike in what was sure to be, "the best f*#king party ever."
Snow had been falling the day prior, and the forecast called for heavy precip. However, that didn't dampen our spirits; no, we bolstered up, strapped into our boots, plopped ourselves down onto the Exhibition chair, and ascended for our first run of the day. As it turns out, the snow held off, and we enjoyed one of the best mornings of the season. Saturday's snowfall made for epic tree skiing, and something about maneuvering through the forest in a hotdog outfit just made the experience that much more enjoyable.
Eventually, we joined forces with a slew of Aspen locals, including our pals at Aspen Marketing/PR, and trekked together to the top of Highlands Bowl. The hike takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how aggressive you are. We summited in a respectable 45 minutes, and took some time at the top to kick back, enjoy the scenery, and the company of good friends. The weather tower at the peak is dressed with streams of prayer flags; it's a pretty special spot to hang, and you can't help but feel like you're at the top of the world.
The festive gathering gave way to an all-out attack of Highlands Bowl. One brave soul stripped down to his birthday suit and let fly a lofty spread eagle on his way into the steep pitch.
Our team made one brief stop on the way to Cloud 9, and that was, of course, at the Merry-Go-Round lodge for a little pond skimming action. A huge crowd had assembled, and everything from Captain Americas, to Angry Birds, to elephants, to 80's rockstars, to pirates, shot across (or, in most cases, partially across, and then abruptly into) the water.
The weather moved in as we arrived at Cloud 9. Perfect timing, because the skiing was over and it was time to boogie. This was what we'd all been waiting for; the Cloud 9 experience had been hyped beyond reason, and our curiosity was piqued to an all-time high. Could this party actually be as good as rumor told?
Bare Naked. P: Jeremy Swanson Aspen/Snowmass
Yes. Double yes. The interior of Cloud 9, which is quite fancy I might add, was taken over by hordes of party seekers, wild animals, scantily clad women and the like. Tables covered with gourmet fondue sets had been surrounded by hungry lunch-goers just minutes earlier, and now, ski boots and all, we piled up onto them, and onto the benches and chairs, and proceeded to party.
The music blared, hands waved, champagne flowed, feet stomped, drinking glasses smashed, plates shattered, sweat poured. It was nothing short of legendary. The room couldn't accommodate the masses that had assembled, so the party spilled out onto the patio, where it was more of the same; the snow didn't discourage.
For hours this continued, until finally the plug was pulled, and we were herded to the base area. We made our way down the slopes and as we neared, womping sounds reached our ears; it sounded wild. We rounded one last corner, and all at once laid our eyes on a dancing sea of neon. Thousands of people collected in an opening, groovin', movin', getting downright crazy. And we thought Cloud 9 couldn't be topped?
Tastes much better at 12,392 feet. P: Jeremy Swanson Aspen/Snowmass
We hurried down, flung our skis onto the racks, and joined in the mess. It was a celebration unlike anything we'd been a part of; a true farewell/tribute to a fantastic winter season. On the subject of tributes, the festing was interrupted briefly by a barrage of fireworks. Everyone focused their attention up the hill, where the explosions were ringing out one after another. And suddenly, out from the trees, came the Aspen/Snowmass Ski Patrol squad. Their final safety sweep completed, they joined together for one last shred down the hill. The crowd erupted into a deafening cheer, showing their appreciation for the men and women who work day in and day out to keep us all safe on the mountain.
Once they reached the bottom, they joined in the fun, and the party didn't stop. Period.
I can assure you that it will take nothing short of aliens invading Earth to stop the Freeskier team from attending Highlands Closing for years to come. And I'll expect to see you all out there as well. Big thanks again to the friendly folks at Aspen/Snowmass, The Gant Hotel, and the Silver Queen for taking such great care of us. And of course, thanks also to our great friends who rock hard, and helped make this weekend a smashing success.