Aspen Highlands, Colo.: Rank 10 West, 1998

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Long roped off as out-of-bounds, Highland Bowl¿at 12,500 feet¿is a cauldron of outrageous skiing that crowns Aspen Highlands. Last winter, to loud hurrahs, a group of spectacular drops known as the Y-Zones were opened in the Bowl. "Uncrowded and glorious," reports a reader. While the mountain has grown to 675 acres in five years, Highlands' base area has nearly vanished, with its buildings being razed last spring to make way for a village now scheduled to debut in the 1999-2000 season. This winter's base lodge operations (ticket sales, ski shop, bar, restaurant) are in temporary structures at the bottom of the Exhibition lift, so tolerance will be required. On the plus side, a triple chair has replaced three old lifts on the Thunder Bowl side. "Improvements in lift system are great. No lines," enthuses one reader. Highlands features over-the-top views (check out 14,000-foot Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells) and skiing worthy of the world-class setting. Steeplechase is reason enough to buy a ticket. Grand Prix to Moment of Truth is one of several legendary howlers. In a valley with four ski mountains, there's a reason many locals ski here. Five minutes from Aspen (and its copious nightlife), Highlands has limited parking¿but not limited skiing. "Great snow and great terrain," says a reader.

What's New A fixed-grip triple chair, from the bottom of Exhibition lift, and a tasty black run under it called Separator.
A Good Deal Five nights' lodging, four days' skiing, Nov. 22-Dec. 20 and April 11-19, $340 per person. Call (888) 452-2409.
Medals Gold Snow, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Weather, Scenery; Silver Lifts, Service, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities.
High/Low Rank Weather (1); Family (49).
Don't Miss A trip to the Aspen Historical Society Museum at 620 W. Bleeker in Aspen (Adults, $3; Children, 50 cents).
Reader Remarks "Varied and challenging terrain, but not intimidating. A fun mountain that's not crowded." "No ski-in/ski-out lodging. Needs more après-ski optionsafter the lifts close."