Top Lift: 12,510ft
Ski Area: 5,246 acres of terrain
Adult Lift Pass: $385- $594 for six days
In a Nutshell
The quaint Victorian streets of neat redbrick houses are more reminiscent of Dickensian Chiswick than cool Colorado. And if money’s no object, then Aspen is the best resort for intermediate skiers, bar none. It’s one of the best for beginners, too. And the slopes are never crowded.
Essential Advice for the Perfect Trip
The skiing in Aspen is awesome. Make no mistake about that. And there’s some glorious scenery too. In fact, Aspen’s list of ticks is one of the longest we know.
In the boom years of the early noughties, the town seemed to be getting ritzier, and more conservative, with every passing minute. The days when gonzo journalist Hunter S Thompson ran for the job of sheriff, on the Freak Power ticket – when Aspen was a by-word for fresh ways of thinking and living – seemed long, long gone. The place seemed poorer for it.
But we all know what’s happened to the American economy since then – and Aspen hasn’t been immune from the effects. We wouldn’t wish economic misfortune on anybody – but one positive side-effect has been the fact that the resort seems less frenetic and more welcoming once more. You can even eat more cheaply – by sitting at the restaurant bar and ordering bar food: slightly smaller portions but otherwise exactly the same quality.
It’s been said that it’s easier to buy a Picasso than a pair of socks in Aspen, since art galleries outnumber the more humdrum clothes stores by three to one. Certainly the designer boutiques are still going strong, ranging from Prada and Ralph Lauren to chic sportswear outlets. As a result, the town’s vintage stores, Replay Sports (+1 970 925 2483), Susie’s on the Alley and Susie’s Limited (+1 970 920 2376) are goldmines for when it comes to finding second-hand designer goods.
Changes at Snowmass
A big change in recent years has been the redevelopment of Snowmass – the ski village set at the bottom of its own mountain, eight miles west of Aspen. A billion dollars were spent, and Snowmass got new ski-in, ski-out lodging, as well as new bars, restaurants and shops. In some respects, it rivals Aspen as a base to explore the combined Aspen Snowmass ski area – but only if you’ve got children in tow, or you really can’t be bothered riding the free bus system. If you’re looking for the character which has made Aspen famous, you need to stay in the town itself.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the quality of the skiing. Just looking at pictures of the Highlands groomers makes us yearn to ski them again. The same goes for the open, gladed trees under the Big Burn Chair on Snowmass, and Ruthie’s – the breaktakingly long run down the middle of Ajax. These runs are only ever (slightly) busy over Christmas, New Year, and President’s Weekend (mid-February) – and it’s hard to think of a better place for intermediate skiers to build their confidence, and push their skills to the next level – provided they’ve got a healthy holiday budget.