ASPEN

FOR THE LOVE OF FOUR MOUNTAINS



Prior to a visit to Aspen, I was an Aspen reverse-snob. You know the type, ‘Why go to Aspen?’, ‘Surely better places to ski than Aspen’, ‘All I hear is bloody Aspen, Aspen Aspen’.

And then, like all true reverse-snobs. I actually went there and saw it for myself.

Loved. it.
Loved. It.
Loved. It.

In the words of a ski-blogger reverse-snob in the gondola on Aspen Mountain;
“Now, I see why people JUST come to Aspen”.

THE NUTSHELL

Aspen is located in Colorado State, accessible via a drive from Denver international Airport or smaller regional airports of Eagle and Aspen. It is a short-ish drive from Vail Resort, and 3 hours from Steamboat Ski Resort, thus making a ski-road trip possible if one was so inclined. (I was inclined).

It is an actual town, with a thriving centre largely focused on tourism. If you’ve been to Australia and know Noosa in Queensland, Aspen is Noosa on snow. Meaning very significant shopping and dining in a sport/ outdoors sport inclined setting. Buses within the town are free and the SKIER IS KING. When a skier crosses the road, the traffic slows. A reverse of what happens if you attempt this (minus the ski gear) in Shanghai or Hanoi.

This is a great resort for a couple, a long-much anticipated (expensive) special occasion, or if money is no object. I’m planning to return here when I turn 40, sans children.

WHAT’S SO GOOD?

Out of the Gondola window @ Ajax

The main drawcard for this resort is CHOICE. Four mountains of Ajax, Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk are linked via the one pass, each mountain catering to very particular skier types. Buttermilk for learners and/or kids, Snowmass is where the ski school is located but can happily accommodate intermediates, highlands for the lovers of hiking, adventure and beauty, and Aspen Mountain (known as Ajax) for the lovers of vertical.  Some resorts are just for skiing, but Aspen town gladly accommodates avid shoppers, diners, browsers and people watchers. A great place to take a girlfriend who is only ‘half skier, half shopper’.

SO?
If Ajax mountain had a soundtrack, it would be
Braveheart or something haunting backed by drums. Our visit coincided with a handy dump of fresh snow, falling in all the right places. It was unpopulated enough that our thrills came cheap. Not the best place to take my father, who was a little nervy after a leg-break (note to self).

Highlands’ drawcard is ‘ skiing ‘the bowl’, and keen skiers from all ages line up for ‘the bowl’ to open after ski patrol bombing, like puppies waiting for a treat. Chairlift rides all over this mountain are spec-tac-u-lar viewing. Runs are generously wide and there are plenty of faces to explore.

SNOWMASS AND BUTTERMILK
We didn’t ski there due to time constraints, but the ski school and a lot of supporting accommodation is located at Snowmass, and there X-Games was being held at Buttermilk during our time there. love to hear some reports on experiences skiing there. Some all accounts the skiing is quite decent at Snowmass if it’s a family trip you’re after.

Highlands. Appreciate THAT.

Waiting for patrollers to finish blasting
Oh yeah!

Waiting for ski patrol to finish blasting to open the lift.
Gorgeous at night 
Stunning

                                                                        
                                                                                                        The Basin. Beauty you can’t buy in a bottle.

ACCOMMODATION

It’s tough work getting ‘reasonably priced accommodation’, so save this resort up for a special trip or when you’ve just got a raise. We stayed at the Aspen Mountain Lodge, which was as reasonable as we could get in a town where people don’t blink an eye at prices. Our room was $170 a night, including breakfast, plenty filling. It got us mingling in the breakfast room with the workers and the early-risers who shared tips on the merits of each mountain if you were heading out.

FAMILY HOLIDAY
If you have endless supplies of spare cash it is a super-family holiday. But if you’re regular Joe, this is not the family holiday for you. I cannot comment on ski school at Snowmass, but we took our ‘Amazingly talented’ 5 year old skier up to Ajax, coz 5 and under ski free. (Call me cheap). He did a couple of runs and survived to declare he ‘loved it’. The others had to suck it up @ $30 an hour babysitting rates back at the hotel. Daily lift passes for kids and ski school rates are not as cheap as resorts in Canada, which offer alternate value for money. See post on Big White.

There are cheaper places to stay around Aspen if you’re on a budget. Carbondale is a short drive from Aspen, if you’re happy to hop in a car each day and commute with the Aspen workers. For this purpose Glenwood Springs is good too, albeit a little further away.  

DINING

Aspen offers all budgets of meals from cool 50s style diners for burgers and wings to fine dining. A plethora of Irish and other cosy pubs remind us of Scotland and Ireland, in that ‘come in from the cold’ style. Very enticing places to have a beer. Plenty of nightclubs and eating holes, basement style. A trendy place to head in case of blizzard. We ate at Jimmy’s, enticed by the promise of steak. Apart from the waitress spilling a significant amount of wine on me, it was a cosy place to watch the snow fall while sipping on red wine.

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