Ever watched Aspen Extreme? It's one of the first (and possibly the cheesiest) ski movies ever made - and a particular favourite in CD HQ. Look out for a young Trevor Eve, and an even younger Martin Kemp in the role of the top dog Austrian ski instructor who gets all the business and the girls until two new kids on the block arrive in town.
With first hand experience, Helen of Chalets USA, tells us how it is to ski Aspen now.
Experience how the other half live … if only for a little while.
Arriving in Aspen Snowmass can feel like travelling to a different planet. You pass the private jets at Aspen Pitkin airport, easily viewed from the highway and then see the boutique shops by appointment & you could be forgiven for thinking what am I doing here?
And then, as you get to know the Aspen Snowmass area, you realize Aspen is just really good at looking after its guests & making everything as easy as possible for them. So want to be treated like a queen? Go skiing in Aspen!
Take lift tickets for example – they’re delivered to your accommodation & given to you when you check in. So you can start skiing as soon as you’re ready, without having to queue to pick up your lift passes.
If you rent skis with Chalets USA & Four Mountain Sports, transfer of ski or snowboard gear between the 4 Aspen Mountains is free. If you’re skiing at Snowmass one day and want to ski at Aspen Highlands the next, simply take your equipment to the transfer station & they will deliver it to Aspen Highlands for you, ready for you to pick up the next day. If you don’t rent, you can still use this service for a nominal fee. They will also store your gear if you want to ski the same mountain 2 days running, meaning no carrying skis or snowboards to & from the slopes.
The lodging properties in Aspen Snowmass even make it easy to get from Aspen airport to your accommodation, with many places including airport transfers in their rates. If you can fly into Aspen airport it’s a great idea, as the transfer is only about 15 minutes to Aspen or Snowmass.
Dining in Aspen town is legendary & the variety of top notch restaurants astounding. You can really spoil yourself by exploring the many independent & celebrity chefs run eating establishments, such as the Chef’s Club in the St Regis. However if you don’t want to break the budget, many Aspen restaurants let you sit & eat at the bar for a lower price & more limited menu, a great way to experience the quality of the food without the hefty price tag. Alternatively walk a couple of streets away from the centre of Aspen and you’ll find some wonderful “locals” restaurants which are very reasonably priced – The Bangkok Happy Bowl is tiny, but has authentic Thai food (& you can get take away or free delivery), or try The Hickory House for wonderful BBQ ribs & more.
Aspen is famous for its nightlife & has a vibrant late-night scene. Spot the celebrities as you watch bands at Belly Up or dance the night away at Bootsy Bellows, owned by David Arquette, Courtney Cox’s ex-husband. Aspen even has the Wheeler opera house performing opera & live theatre, if that’s more your style or you want to treat yourself to a special evening out.
The on mountain restaurants have wonderful & varied food, quite unusual in US ski resorts – Bonnie’s on Ajax for example has been around forever & offers wonderful salads, chilli, apple strudel & to-die-for views from its legendary slope-side deck. Prices are surprisingly kept to a reasonable level on the slopes. When we were last in Aspen we were asking how could this be the case? For many of its on-mountain restaurants, Aspen has decided to deliver good quality food at reasonable prices to ensure guests have a great experience skiing & otherwise. Try the Elk Camp restaurant on Snowmass for example.
Little touches on the slopes make the whole ski experience so enjoyable – tissues at the lifts & sometimes complimentary orange juice or hot chocolate at the top of the lifts to warm you up, just when your hands are feeling chilly.
Aspen is far enough away from any large metropolitan area that it tends not to get the crowds at weekends & I’ve only ever seen lift queues at the start of an epic powder day! Normally slopes are quiet & lift queues rare.
Snowmass in particular has many ski in, ski out properties which again make life easy. Isn’t it wonderful to step out of you apartment or hotel room, click into your skis & go! Crestwood for example is true ski in, ski out right above the base area, making it quick & easy to hop on the slopes.
The modern “Treehouse” kids ski school & childcare centre is perfectly located at the base of the lifts in Snowmass, making it extremely convenient for parents to drop off their children in the morning & go skiing! It also makes it super easy for mum’s and dad’s to check in on their children during the day & maybe grab a bite to eat at lunchtime in the plaza cafes & restaurants nearby.
Snowmass is also home to the “skittles” officially called the “Sky Cab gondola”, which takes both skiers & non-skiers from Snowmass base village to the Snowmass mall area, a little way up the mountain. The skittles (so named because the lift is made up of 3 little gondolas in a row), runs into the evening, again making life easy for guests to access restaurants in either area even if you’re staying at the other.
Talking of ease of getting around, Aspen Snowmass has a wonderful bus system. It’s free & easy to use – the buses are marked with the
destinations they’re going to “Aspen Highlands” mountain or “Snowmass” for example & they run frequently into the evening.
All in all Aspen Snowmass does everything possible to make the skiing & après ski parts of your holiday run like clockwork. Rub shoulders with the rich & famous & live like them too, if only for a little while…!