Core skiers and snowboarders know the truth: Colorado’s posh retreat is a powder haven, with long runs, deep stashes, no crowds and the best party scene in the state. Our insider’s guide will bring you to the goods.
Everyone has an image of what, Aspen is all about. A lot of the stereotypes are correct—you will see furs worth a home down payment and tiny dogs strolling down the streets and you might share a gondola ride with a reality show celeb in a one piece. But the only truism about Aspen that matters: The skiing is top notch, with none of the crowds that track things before your third run on a powder day at the I-70 resorts. Here’s our guide to making the most of it.
Aspen Mountain specializes in speed: Swoosh down the same runs that have hosted World Cup finals, race through gladed powder stashes, or simply link one quad-burning top-to-bottom run after another. It’s no wonder this storied resort, just steps from downtown, is a legend. The town’s original resort doesn’t have any green runs, but you can warm up your legs on its long sweeping groomers. From the top, cruise Dipsy Doodle to Spar Gulch, which feeds into Upper and Lower Little Nell, all while enjoying iconic views of town as you descend back to the gondola.
Take lunch at the Sundeck on the mountain, where you can soak in vistas of Aspen Highlands, Highlands Bowl, and Castle and Hayden Peaks. The menu optons here include delicious stir-fries, hearty soups and fresh baked goods.
After lunch, explore the terrain skiers’ right of the Gent’s Ridge Lift. Dropping any chute from Walsh’s to Kristi will test your skills and indicate if you’re ready to drop Bell Mountain, a series of tricky steep and narrow bowls littered with trees under the Silver Queen Gondola. Powder stashes await when you hit the heavenly glades of Copper Bowl or North Star to Gentleman’s Ridge. Sunny mid-afternoon laps under the F.I.S chair, on short but sweet runs like Reds and FIS trail deliver excellent aspen skiing.
With its legendary bowl, Higlands is where hardcore skiers and riders seek untouched snow and big-mountain lines. Get to the goods with a ride up Exhibition Lift and a quick ski jaunt over to Cloud 9 and take a couple quick warm-up laps down world-class groomers. Now, you’re ready for Loge Peak. From the perfectly-spaced trees of Mushroom to the steep bumps of St. Moritz, this part of the mountain will challenge even the best skier.
A few laps off Deep Temerity lift will get you ready for the big event: the hike-to-terrain of Highland Bowl—some of the steepest and wildest inbound terrain skiing in North America. From the top of Highland Peak, enjoy an insane view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells before shooting the gut of Ozone or swooshing down G-3. When you are ready to take a break and fuel up, hit Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, a one-time patrol shack turned restaurant serving high-class Bavarian food and known for raging parties complete with loud music, dancing on chairs and plenty of spraying champagne.
APRES & MORE
After a full day on the slopes, the Limelight Hotel (limelighthotel.com), is the perfect palce to eat, chill and crash. The quirky luxury downtown resort serves the best breakfast buffet around (included in your stay!). Guests have access to free fat bikes, and be sure to check in with the hotel staff to coordinate complimentary snowshoe tours and a chance to join ski patrol when they sweep Aspen Mountain at the end of the day.
For dinner, treat yourself at Acquolina (acquolinaaspen.com), a comfortable but elegant trattoria and pizzeria offering authentic and incredibly delicious Italian food and wines, and welcoming, warm service. For late-night munchies, stop by New York Pizza, a tiny upstairs eatery serving pies, slices, hot sandwiches and a range of beers on tap.
GAY SKI WEEK
Don’t miss the most fabulous party in town, no matter your orientation, when it takes place this year. “Many people don’t know that Aspen Gay Ski Week (January 12-19, 2020, gayski week.com) was the first gay ski week in the world, and played a pivotal role in the equal rights movement,” says Massimo Alpian, Colorado local, activist and outdoor industry PR pro. “Aspen was one of the first cities in Colorado to secure LGBTQ+ rights protections. With this history, Aspen Gay Ski Week includes world-class skiing, art and cuisine, bowl laps with a slice of pizza and beer at Highlands, and a stoke-worthy list of week-long events including my favorite, The Downhill Costume Party. All this makes this an inclusive, beautiful event in a ‘little place called Aspen’ that has welcomed the LGBTQ+ community for the past 40+ years.”