Aspen insider Doctor Pete gives you the local’s lowdown

Written by on October 7, 2016 in North America - Comments Off on Aspen insider Doctor Pete gives you the local’s lowdown

Aspen insider Dr Peter Stiebel has been skiing around North America for 28 years, but keeps getting drawn back to Aspen. He’s not alone, Aussies are their #1 international market. So why do we love it so much? Ask Doctor Pete..

On your bike to Aspen, and no, that's not our Doc © Aspen

On your bike to Aspen, and no, that’s not our Doc © Aspen

I guess 300 inches quality Colorado snow and 300 sunny days help.

Then there’s good access, 4 mountains, huge variety, a great and authentic town with fantastic shops, restaurants, bars and so much more.
The four and a half hour drive from Denver usually makes it quieter than the closer resorts off Interstate I-70.
Most people fly into Aspen, with excellent connections from Australia, and maybe most of them locally arrive in private jets – the little airport is a parking lot for them.
In fact Aspen will check all your ski boxes. Plus even if you don’t ski, there is so much to do for non-skiers — art galleries, music festivals and now the new Aspen Art Museum — that it’s perfect for couples where one partner doesn’t ski at all, or not much.
For those that do ski, the closest skiing is at Ajax Mountain, which rises vertically directly out of the valley floor at town’s edge, easily accessed via the Silver Queen gondola which runs from the town base to the summit.
From the top there are a myriad of blue, black and double black runs, some groomed and some not, and some extreme terrain areas. There are no green runs at all on Aspen Mountain.

Doesn't get better than this  © Aspen Snowmass

Doesn’t get better than this © Aspen Snowmass

But the gondola allows foot passengers for the 14 minute ride to the summit, where you can sit and lunch at the summit’s Sundeck restaurant. Downloading is allowed too, especially if your ski legs are shot, which can easily happen with the 1097m/3600’ vertical.
Look out for shrines in the tree runs to Elvis, Marilyn,The Grateful Dead, and lots more. Ask a local for help to find them.
If tree skiing do watch out for the poorly marked but very dangerous mine shafts that dot the mountain. They can kill. Best to ski the trees with a friend and watch out for each other.
Ajax is your Aspen insider best bet when it’s snowing hard, as there are many tree sheltered runs, and the ride up in the gondola is much more pleasant than on a chairlift when it’s cold and snowing hard. Powder can still be found in the tree runs even days after a storm.

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A 5 – 10 minute shuttle ride takes you to Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk/Tiehack ski areas, which is slightly lower in altitude and next to Highlands, pitched more to the beginner and intermediate skier, but a sneaky powder day option too when the more gung-ho head elsewhere.
At its base and adjacent to the highway are the amazing half pipes and terrain parks built for the X-Games.
Snowmass is 20 – 30 minutes, a completely self-contained mega resort in itself, but also free to enjoy with your Aspen 4 Mountain Pass and the super efficient local buses.
All four mountains have superb on mountain restaurants for casual lunch dining. And then there’s Cloud 9 restaurant, a former ski patrol building at Aspen Highlands, built on a ledge at 10,900’ with great views of the neighbouring Pyramid Peak, and the Maroon Bells, both over 14,000’.
Lunch is fine dining, and the later 2pm lunch by mid afternoon turns into table top dancing, ski boots on, and Veuve Clicquot abounds in record quantities. In fact Cloud 9 is the largest Veuve outlet in America, with only a 4 month season. At about 3.45 you are reminded to stop drinking and ski down to the base area. You can also go for selected evening dinners with transport up the mountain and back by snow cat.
Meanwhile, back on Ajax keep a watch out for the pop-up Oasis Bar, anywhere on the mountain, featuring “Clicquot in the Snow”.
Aspen town itself has so many bars and restaurants, some budget and some 5 star, and everything in between. Many of the bars have extensive happy hours, and cheap bar snacks abound. Most restaurants do have a bar, and it is more fun, and financially less straining, to sit at the bar instead of a table and choose from the slightly lesser menu.

Snowy times under the gondola © Aspen Snowmass

Snowy times under the gondola © Aspen Snowmass

Aspen insider tips:
Where to drink at Aspen? Happy Hours are everywhere, and more than just an hour. In Aspen try Chair 9 / Ajax Tavern, Mezzaluna, J-Bar, Justice Snow’s, or the Limelight Hotel.
A real coffee in Aspen? American coffee is mud! They have no idea. Go to Victoria’s, run by Aussies, where a latte is a latte and not some dribbled cream on mud mess.
Accommodation in Aspen? You could buy. One place that caught my attention was an 8 bedroom, 11 bathroom home for $USD 36 million, so you’ll get change from $AUD 50 million! But there are plenty of moderate, affordable hotel rooms and condos available, and some excellent early bird package deals – maybe the best thing about Aspen Snowmass is there are some amazing accommodation and lift pass deals that keep it as, or more, affordable than any major resort in America. Day lift passes are not cheap across the USA generally, but most of us go for at least a week or more, and with that in mind there are exceptional value 30 day, and new 10 day, consecutive pass deals, valid for usage starting any day from 1 January to 17 April 2017
For more on the resort www.aspensnowmass.com
For a great package deal including discounts up to 40% off accommodation for stays over 12 nights and lift pass specials check www.travelplan.com.au

Thanks to Tomas Zuccareno for the awesome Aspen cover shot last issue

Thanks to Tomas Zuccareno for the awesome Aspen cover shot last issue

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