Highlands Signs


Eagle, CO

Last updated on Mar 11, 2024

Posted on Mar 10, 2024

This blog post - and possibly more - is dedicated to the signs at Aspen Highlands - "Highlands".

The post feature image is my *first picture of a Highlands sign - March 29, 2013 when I spotted South Castle Chute. Here's a higher res pic:

*I don't have any older pictures than this.

I started skiing Aspen Highlands circa 2002. But back then taking pictures wasn't as easy as it is now. And I was in a completely different frame of mind - as in drunk, stoned, and tripping all the time. If I did take pictures they're gone. The oldest picture in my iPhoto library is '98.

My oldest picture on the top of Highland Bowl is here, taken on January 8, 2008:

My first recorded picture from the top of Highland Bowl - January 8, 2008:

After a 3 year hiatus for reasons entirely due to the state I was in, I skied Highlands yesterday March 10, 2024.

I immediately went to see the signs. Skied a couple of my lines - I could feel the signs, snow, and trees saying "Howdy. Where you been? We missed you". The feeling was mutual. And I immediately noticed some new signs!

When I spotted my first sign back then I thought it was cool that someone thought to put the name of the run on a tree. I dug that the signs were nondescript - small, low-key, not in plain sight. If you weren't looking you'd miss a sign - same as in life. Then when I looked at the trail map and saw that the signs weren't on it - quadruple turn-on. Once I saw one sign, I had to find more. It was on. The signs adventure began.

More backstory.

I first started blogging about the signs on heyheyrenee in 2013, here:

Highlands signs

heyheyrenee is being sunsetted, I'm in the process of migrating all my important posts to spinbackwards. Now that I'm back it's only right that I refresh the signs post.

I'm not the sign eminence grise. But since it is my trip, I make some of the rules. However most of what you'll read here comes from ahsp (aspen highlands ski patrol), whom I've appointed as the definitive source.

ahsp are kind and cool. Watching them over the years I can see misfit toys - and I say that with a smile. Some of them (brother Terry comes to mind) even agree with my view! I'm somewhat of a misfit toy too. I wear white sunglasses all because of retired ahsp Mike Tierney, aka "Pinto".

A sign either is or isn't official, there is no middle ground. As of now "official" means made, produced, mounted, verified, and approved by ahsp. I do have a couple unofficial signs posted purely for reference – Deadheads should think of them as lot signs. So far these unofficial, lot signs are thought to be made by the dregs known as ski instructors. There are unknown signs – which can be official – if and only if a trusted source at ahsp says so. Who're my trusted ahsp sources? Eh, I'll just say I have a verification method that begins and ends with ahsp. A sign cannot be on the trail map. A sign can be free standing, mounted to a tree or something else.

You'll see some shrines mixed in. I've included some shrines because they're also approved by ahsp. And some of shrines like GoGo Gully were built by ahsp. There's also a sculpture - Gargoyle.

Somewhere I have a Highlands t-shirt with this on the back - "Never overestimate your ability, never underestimate this terrain". They mean it. Some of the sign lines ("line" is skier speak for the run you ski) are really challenging - steep, dangerous. I won't ski some of them on days when the snow is slick or setup. Because if I fell, we all do, I'd slide and maybe not be able stop before hitting something.

I'll be 65 on June 25th. Father Time is undefeated. They'll come a day when I'll say so long to some of the sign lines. I want to document as much as I can before that time comes, while I still have the ability.

As of now I don't have a favorite sign line.

What the signs aren't is fealty to Aspen, Aspen Snowmass, or Highlands. I'm extremely grateful that I live 90 minutes from Highlands, that I ski well enough to find the signs. For sure, Highlands is a great ski area. Ajax (Aspen Mountain) and Snowmass are fine ski areas too. But they'll be no ranking here.

The signs are about an adventure, a metaphor for what happens when you pay attention. People should be paying attention to what's happening all around them. There's a counterculture connection, something else I long for. Aspen Highlands was founded by Whipple Van Ness "Whip" Jones. Legend has it that Whip went against the grain. For years, Highlands was an irritant to Aspen Skiing Company. The signs have traits. Most of all, I dig what the signs mean to me.

As of now, I'm not publishing sign locations. Hey man I've put in years finding 'em. Earn your sign! However. Full disclosure: I didn't find all the signs by myself. ahsp brothers Jonesy, Pinto, Spade, and Jetter have turned me on. I'm gonna pay it forward. Just haven't thought about how so that it's fun, and, fits within the story.

In the unlikely event anyone stumbles upon this - and they care. If you see a sign I don't have, or if you find inaccuracies, please ping me. I'm happy to add your entry and/or correct mine and credit you, so long as what you tell me passes as official. Again, there is no signs middle ground.

Oh. And this. The signs connect me with a favorite song from my teens: Signs - The Five Man Electrical Band.

I present to you all the signs I've found so far - by name A-Z, w/date found, and a little extra.

I hope you dig the signs as much as I.

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