As in most North American ski resorts, there’s only one ski school in Aspen – the one owned by the lift company. But standards are high: anyone who’s ever suffered a bored and arrogant French instructor in the Alps will be blown away by the level of commitment and enthusiasm shown here. You’ll pay for it, mind: Aspen’s ski school is one of the most expensive we know.
Some offbeat courses
Aspen runs a highly motivated ski and board school. One of its specialities is the three-day Beginner’s Magic package. But there are lots of other courses, some of them quite unusual. Women’s Edge is for intermediates to build confidence and advanced skiers wanting the challenge of double-black-diamond terrain. Buttermilk Seniors Camp is a three-day clinic with the pace customised to meet the needs of older skiers.
You can also join a powder tour to make fresh tracks on Aspen Mountain. Two guides and a driver lead each 12-person snowcat group, selecting terrain according to snow conditions and the group’s experience. The tours start at 8.15am, lunch is served in a heated cabin, with snacks and drinks available on board throughout the day.
Snowmass is home to Challenge Aspen (+1 970 923 0578), affiliated to the Aspen ski school and one of the best places in the world for people with disabilities to learn to ski.
Great facilities for kids
The ski school runs a full children’s programme and kids aged 12 years and under must wear helmets on the mountain. The entire resort is very child-friendly, especially Snowmass and Buttermilk, and even has a special kids’ trail map.
At Snowmass base, the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center features seven themed rooms for different ages. Snow Cubs (+1 970 923 0563) caters for children aged from eight weeks with lessons from as young as 18 months up to four years. Big Burn Bears (+1 970 923 0570) and the Grizzlies (+1 970 923 0580) are for older children.
For an alternative apres-ski activity, Kiddie Cookers (+1 970 544 0264) is a cooking school in the resort that accepts aspiring chefs under the age of 13, and specialises in organic cuisine and nutritional dishes.
At Buttermilk, Powder Pandas (+1 970 923 1227) cares for three- to six-year olds. Kids Room (+1 701 456 7888) provides childcare in town.
Kids of all ages will love the Aspen Candy Company in Aspen and Snowmass – which are sweet shop, ice cream parlour and 50s-style diner in one. Another unmissable outing, for dog and cat lovers, is a trip to Aspen Animal Shelter, 10 minutes’ drive from the town centre. The shelter will lend you a dog for the day (or just the evening) to take for a walk, or – better still – you can hop on a bus to visit the pristinely clean shelter and play with the puppies or kittens there, as well as taking one (or several) of the older dogs for a walk around land owned by the shelter.
Teenagers are well catered for
There are special courses for ages 13-17 years where kids of different levels can learn to ski everything from easy groomers to terrain park tricks to mastering glades and steeps.