Aspen insider Doctor Pete gives you the local's lowdown

snow action team 23.07.2016

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.. Plus there are some amazing Early Bird specials on lifts, accommodation & airfares from Australia’s #1 Aspen specialists Travelplan – see full details at bottom of feature.

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.

Great ski USA travel insurance
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. The 30 day pass includes 2 days at Thredbo!
For more on the resort www.aspensnowmass.com

For great package deals including discounts up to 40% off accommodation and lift pass specials check www.travelplan.com.au the number #1 international ski tour operator to Aspen, and by far Australia’s number #1 for Aspen/Snowmass. The best Early Bird deals for 2018-19 season expire soon so don’t wait.


SKI10 – Adult $834* AUD Child/Teen (7-17) & Senior (65+) $492* AUD
10 day consecutive lift pass

SKI30 – Adult $942* AUD Child/Teen (7-17) & Senior (65+) $518* AUD
Unlimited 30 day consecutive lift pass
Include 2 days at Thredbo!

All discounted lift passes can only be purchased with minimum 7 night stay


Hotel Jerome in a Deluxe King (2 Nights FREE), breakfast, return airport transfers
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $5,042* AUD 2 share

Hearthstone House in a Standard Room (Up to 40% OFF), breakfast, apres wine/cheese
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $2,215* AUD 2 share

The Gant in a 2 Bedroom Apartment (Up to 30% OFF), return airport transfers
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $2,664* AUD 4 share


Top of the Village in a 2 Bedroom Apartment (Up to 20% OFF)
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $1,848* AUD 4 share

The Crestwood in a 2 Bedroom Apartment (Up to 20% OFF), return airport transfers
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $2,158* AUD 4 share

Limelight Snowmass in a Deluxe Room ( Up to 25% OFF), return airport transfers
& 6 day lift passes.
7 Nights from $3,172* AUD 2 share

Aspen Airfares

Getting to Aspen is easy and affordable, with special Early Bird deals!
Economy Return Adults from $1,763pp inc taxes

Premium Return Adults from $3,913pp inc taxes

Business Return Adults from $5,513pp inc taxes

Based on Delta Early Bird – Book by 15 September 2018. Subject to availability and conditions apply. Other conditions including payment deadlines, blackout dates and weekend surcharges may apply.

Limited availability: early booking is essential

Kids Ski FREE (7-12 Years)
With Purchase of Discounted Child Equipment Rental Package
Aspen Snowmass is the resort of choice for countless families because of the fantastic kids programs they have on offer. Ski school caters to littlies as young as 2.5 years to teens up to 17 years.

Skiing and riding is one of the few sports that the whole family can enjoy together, and now, you can save more than ever.
This fantastic deal means you have more to spend on giving your child the opportunity to learn skiing or snowboarding, or maybe master a new skill.

*All specials and packages are subject to availability. Blackout dates and other conditions may apply. Contact us for full details. Pricing in AUD and valid at 3 July 2018. Latest from www.travelplan.com.au

Pancakes at Aspen

Pancakes for breakfast, Veuve & fondue for lunch works for us, but that’s not the Doc’s certifiable advice, so follow at your own risk
© Dan Beyer; Anna Stonehouse