The Glitz & Glam Of Colorado
If you haven’t been to Aspen, that could be a good thing. It’s by far the most talked about mountain of anyone who spends their holidays in the Alps, Summers on the Amalfi costs and jets into Aspen for weekends to the chalet.
Well, that is how I saw it for most of the time. Flying in on any day you get a sense of where you’re at in the pecking order. Flying commercial is uncommon as there will be a line of private jets parked on the runway. Bit of a stretch, but holy shit there is some serious money on the tarmac.
Once you make the short trip in from the airport, most of the action is happening down in the village and a fur coat is a must for the ladies. Sorry, one more point before we get into the mountain is the second-hand store. They have a normal section and a designer section! In a fucking second-hand store. Only in Aspen.
Ok, enough about the rich and famous, Aspen does have some pulling power. It’s hosted every winter X Games so far bar one.
Aspen is made up of four mountains, three of them are in the Roaring Fork Valley, and the fourth (Snowmass) is just a short detour from it.
The main town of Aspen has Ajax Mountain, five kilometres west is Highlands, on its doorstep is Buttermilk. The most annoying thing about Aspen apart from the overdone collagen lips is none of these mountains connect via lifts. This always annoys me. You have to get a bus between them and it’s best to stay on one mountain a day. Ride mountains, not busses.
Only one of the mountains has a significant village being Ajax which is commonly referred to as Aspen Mountain. There is Snowmass Village, which is bigger than the other three put together, but its 16km or so to the west of the main village.
Staying in Aspen has its advantages. Being the biggest for all that you desire in the village. If you are looking for a challenging mountain, this is not it. Depends on what tickles your fancy, but for freeriding and challenging terrain, head to Highlands, and if you are looking to find your limit, get to the Highland Bowl. Get the Loge Peak Chair up and head left. Weather dependent there will be a snowcat that will take you to the start of the hiking trail.
Now it’s time to earn your turns. There are so many lines to take and explore. Your legs will be burning by the end, depending on your fitness levels, you can get two, three or even four in a day, but you will feel it. If you are an advanced rider/skier. It’s a must, so find your limit.
If you are into getting some sick air, then head to Buttermilk. This is where the X Games are hosted, and the terrain parks are there to sort out the boys from the men. They range from Small to Holy Fuck. So be sure to get yourself some protection if you like getting your air miles.
If you don’t know what you want and you are up for anything, or you have a group of varied abilities, and you want to stay together, the best bet is Snowmass. It has so much terrain that it has plenty for everyone, no matter what their skill level.
I almost forgot to mention Ajax or Aspen Mountain. Depends on who you talk to. It’s got varied terrain; it’s a bit Plain Jane and small in comparison to the others. It’s not for beginners that is buttermilk. So be sure to know your limit here, but you will get bored quick.
Location and accessibility to the mountain is a massive tick for me when this works. The town of Aspen is 350kms from Denver. There is frequent ground transportation. This is still a bit of a drive; the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is the best way to get here. It’s only 5km from Aspen and 9km miles from Snowmass. If you can connect through here, it’s a massive selling point.
The best place to stay is in Aspen. It’s the best regarding offering everything if you are not hardcore. Aspen is a historic ski town, and I would not call it a village as it’s so big and operates all year round like a small town.
It has a wide variety of accommodation and it goes without saying that the further away from the lifts the more expensive it gets. My advice is to stay as close as you can to the bus terminal. It’s smack bang in the centre of town and easy to organise your travel between mountains.
Snowmass has a more traditional snow village at the base of the mountain. 95% of the lodging is ski in ski out. Snowmass lodging is mainly hotels and condominiums. The other option is to stay in the village at the base of Aspen Highlands, but there's not much else to do there other than ski or snowboard.
Just remember that this is no place for a snow bum and your dollar will not go far. For me, there are a lot better places to ski and board in the area, but if you want to go here to tell your friends you went to Aspen for the weekend, they will no doubt be impressed. If they have never been before.
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