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Trip Report Trip Report: Aspen/Snowmass March 2-6 2012

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This trip to Snowmass was a long time coming! When I first started taking an annual western ski trip 6 years ago, I researched all my options and came up with a list of locations I thought would suit me best. The top 2 contenders were Steamboat and Snowmass, and Steamboat won out in the end and I’ve gone back there year after year, but I’d always wanted to give Snowmass a try. Time wise I can’t usually spare the extra vacation days to take a second trip in the winter (and I wouldn’t dream of skipping Steamboat), but this year due to a cancellation beyond my control of a sailing trip I was due to take, I had some extra days. So, I decided this was the year to take a shot at the Aspen area. Since I am an intermediate skier and I determined that the bulk of my time would be spent at Snowmass, I decided to base myself there instead of downtown Aspen.

I departed Boston on Friday night on the last United nonstop flight to Denver. From Denver I made a connection to Aspen. Of course the flight to Aspen took off from the opposite end of the airport so I had to quickly make my way over there, but I made it in plenty of time. I was glad the flight was not delayed or canceled, as the day before, several flights were affected due to weather. We landed in Aspen about 10:30pm and I made my way inside the terminal to call my motel, the Pokolodi Lodge to request a pickup which is included in your rate. It is about a 15-20 min drive to the airport, so by the time you get your luggage, your pickup will be there. I opted to stay at Snowmass, as that is where I planned to ski the first day.

I was thrilled to find that my luggage had made the connection and I was picked up on time by the motel. I was the only passenger and the driver then checked me in to my room and brought my luggage down to it. I had to sign for my lift ticket and rental ski voucher pack to prove I’d received it. They assigned me room 201 which was close to the ground floor. The room was a typical ski motel room---rather dated furniture and a ski rack on the wall. Though it was dated, the room was clean though so it was fine.

The next morning I got up and arranged when to meet up with my friend I was skiing with. I had arranged demo skis through Four Mountain Sports in Snowmass Village but they didn’t open until 8am. Once 8am approached I went over to select my skis. I opted for Volkl Kenjas to start with. The nice thing about renting through Four Mountain is that you can swap out your skis at any of their locations whenever you want.

At 9am I met up with my friend from Steamboat who had come down to ski with me and we went up the Village Express lift. I can’t really remember exactly which runs we skied. If I had been skiing by myself, I would have paid more attention to specific trails, but we just generally skied around. I think we went up the Sheer Bliss lift next and then the Alpine Springs lift before heading down Turkey Trot and over to the Elk Camp lift. We then skied to the base and got the Village Express lift up to Sam’s Smokehouse for lunch. I had a burger with gouda cheese and bacon which was served with cajun fries. The table had 2 types of bbq sauce on it which complemented the fries nicely. After lunch we skied down to the Big Burn lift and skied some trails off of that. My favorite was a trail that followed some power lines down and was bumped up in the middle with widely spaced trees on the sides that you could duck in and out of. This was perfect for me since I am working on learning bumps and trees. We skied that trail about three times before eventually heading back up to Sam’s Knob and skiing Slot and then made our way back to the Village Mall.

We stopped for a drink at the Mountain Dragon before I headed back to my lodge and my friend headed into town where he was staying with friends.

For dinner I went into downtown Aspen. The Pokolodi Lodge is about a 2 minute walk from the RFTA bus stop where you pick up the bus to Aspen. The bus ride to Aspen is about 30 min. After getting off at the Rubey Park stop I looked around the town a bit while it was still light outside. I had dinner at Cantina where I got a margarita, cheese enchiladas and fried ice cream for dessert. The salsa they served was fairly good with a smoked taste to it, but the enchiladas lacked a good flavorful sauce. The ice cream was the standout--it was huge with a delicious crisp crust and three sauces--chocolate, strawberry and caramel.

I got the bus back to Snowmass and was back to the hotel by about 8:30pm.

The next morning I took the 7:45am bus into Aspen where I made a connection to a bus to Aspen Highlands. There is direct service to Highlands from Snowmass, but it left too late for my taste (9am). I met my friend on the bus to Highlands. We got to Highlands about 20 min before it opened.

At 9am we went up the Exhibition Lift. From there we went up the Cloud Nine lift and then up the Loge Peak lift. At the top of Loge Peak there is a patrol hut that has a deck around the back. If you walk around the hut out on to the deck, there is a beautiful view of the Maroon Bells, Pyramid Peak and other mountain views. During the course of the day we skied most of the groomed blues---Broadway, Hayden, Kandahar, Wine Ridge, Upper Robinsons, Upper Jerome and Jerome.

For lunch we ate at the restaurant in the Ritz Carlton at the base, Willow Creek. I had a croque monsieur with truffle fries. The sandwich was fairly large and rich due to the cheese sauce used, but it was good.

After lunch we skied more of the same trails. Aspen Highlands is known for it’s extreme terrain which we didn’t ski. I also don’t ski steeper bump terrain, so we were limited to the groomed blues, though we did ski Suzi Q, a short black.. Even though we didn’t ski the stuff Highlands is known for, it was still worth my going to ski though because the views were spectacular, but I think to truly appreciate Highlands I need to get to be a little more comfortable on ungroomed terrain.

At 4pm we had a drink at the base in the bar Out of Bounds ( I think this was the name of it) before heading back to Aspen. I changed buses in Aspen for a bus back to Snowmass, as once again the direct service didn’t suit my schedule.

Before heading back out to dinner, I decided to switch my skis for something different. I opted to get the K2 Missbehaved.

I took the bus back to Aspen where I ate at Little Annie’s Eating House. There was about a 15-20 minute wait and the place was packed so you could hardly move. I did wait though and was seated. I had a burger with American Cheese and bacon and the burgers are served on an onion roll. I also had fries with the burger. For dessert I had the mocha mudpie which is mocha ice cream on a chocolate chip cookie crust.

The third and last day of skiing which was Monday, we skied at Aspen Mountain. We started up the gondola at 9am and took Dipsy Doodle, Spar Gulch to Upper Little Nell. We then back up the gondola and skied down a different way and ended up at the bottom of the Shadow Mountain lift. We took Shadow Mountain up and then took the Ruthie’s lift and then skied down Ruthie’s.

For lunch we had lunch up at the Sun Deck on top of the mountain. I had wanted to eat outside, but the wind had kicked up and we decided to eat inside instead. We got there early and took a seat by the large picture windows that look out over Highlands Bowl. I had a grilled cheese with roasted tomatoes and bacon. I also got fries and a brownie which we ended up splitting.

After lunch we skied more of the same runs such as Ruthie’s, Copper, Silver Bell, Lazy Boy. Overall, I enjoyed Aspen Mountain more than I expected to. I had always heard it was a tough mountain and people say the bottom all funnels together into sort of a bowl that was hard to ski. I didn’t find anything really unusual . . . .sure the bottom trails are narrower and some of them have sort of banked up sides sort of like skiing in a big half pipe. But I didn’t find it particularly harrowing---I wonder if the fact that I ski in the east and many of our trails are narrow made it not seem so bad to me, or maybe it just wasn’t very crowded that day.

We didn’t do drinks after we skied today, as my friend had to drive back right after skiing in order to get back that night. I dropped my skis off at the Four Mountain Sports in downtown Aspen which was nice so I didn’t have to take them on the bus with me.

After taking the bus back to my hotel, I changed and then went up to the lobby to use their computer to print my boarding pass. Then I took the bus back to Aspen and had dinner at the J Bar in the Hotel Jerome. I had a gin and tonic and a burger with fries. After dinner I wandered around downtown and ended up getting a gelato from a shop downtown. It was cappuccino crunch and was very flavorful.

Tuesday was my day to return home. I had made arrangements 24hr hours prior with the hotel as requested, to get their shuttle service back to the airport. My flight was at 9:25am and I got the 8am shuttle. The ride is about 20 min and I arrived at the airport about 8:20am and the airport was not very busy and had no lines at either the luggage counter or the security line.

The flight departed on time and we arrived in Denver with plenty of time for me to get something to eat prior to my next flight. I decided to go to La Cantina and got the beef tacos and then a cookies and cream drink from Caribou Coffee.

The flight to Boston was oversold as usual, but we did take off on time, so that is always a plus.

I really enjoyed this trip to the Aspen area. I wanted to find out how it compared to Steamboat. As much as I enjoyed it, if I had to pick just one spot, between the 2 I would choose Steamboat. I think the town of Steamboat is a little bit more laid back and the shops are a bit more down to earth. The restaurants also don’t seem as crowded. While I think Aspen has a great bus system and it is wonderful to have free transportation between all 4 mountains, the distances between Snowmass and Aspen is about 30 min via bus, so I felt like I spent an awful lot of time riding buses. I think if I had it to do over, I would stay in downtown Aspen and bus to ski, rather than stay at Snowmass and bus to having a wider range of restaurants and to ski the various mountains. When I booked the trip in October, I had planned on skiing mostly Snowmass, as I didn’t know I’d have someone else to ski with which is why I decided to stay at Snowmass. Had I planned on skiing multiple mountains right from the start I may have planned differently. Of the three mountains I got to ski, Snowmass was my favorite, followed by Aspen and then Highlands. If I went to the Aspen area again, I’m sure I’d enjoy it even more though the second time around because I’d have more familiarity with how things work and what my preferences are. I hope to be able to go back there again sometime in the not too distant future, as the area has a lot to offer.

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