It was quite possibly the best circumstance to make my first trip to Aspen Snowmass, the only ski resort in Colorado with a vertical rise of over 4,000 feet! In almost any circumstance, skiing two weekdays in the middle of February at one of the top ski resorts in the world is a truly incredible experience! On top of that, I got to ski Snowmass with something like half a foot of fresh powder each day!
There are some drawbacks to skiing during a snowstorm. There is less visibility. Wind and snow hit you in the face on both the lift ride up and while skiing down the mountain.
There is a place at the top of Elk Camp where there are typically iconic views of the Maroon Bells, the most photographed place in all of Colorado. There are even binoculars set up at the top of the chairlift. I’ll have to gaze at these mountains another time.
Also, some of the higher lifts at the ski resort were periodically closed due to wind and visibility.
When they were open, the conditions were less than ideal.
Also, when part of a ski resort is closed, some of the other lifts can generate unexpectedly long lines. The lines were by no means long compared to what can be seen on weekends at the ski resorts along I-70 close to Denver, particularly Breckenridge and Keystone. For Aspen standards, though, this a long line.
Several people I talked to on the lift indicated that they do not encounter too many people from Denver. Maybe that is why the lift lines were mostly short to non-existent.
Snowmass has two base areas, the Base Village and the Village Mall.
Both places have restaurants, shops, lift ticket windows and access to bus service.
The resort pays homage to wildlife, both past and present. Somewhere near Snowmass, discoveries of Ice Age era bones were made.
The Town Park bus terminal in Snowmass Village is not only a place to catch one of the shuttle busses to the ski lift, but also a mini-museum, with information about all sorts of interesting discoveries made in the area.
On the resort, at Elk Camp, the Wapiti Wildlife Center includes exhibits about the wildlife that currently inhabit the area. Apparently temperatures exceeding 78°F (24°C) can kill alpine marmots, and squirrels can gather 16,000 pine cones in a year.
Apen itself is a very expensive town.
So, we ended up staying in Basalt, a town a little less than 20 minutes down the river from Aspen.
Basalt is a beautiful town of just over 4,000 people, with an active tourism industry of its own (fishing, mountain biking, and people who stay here to ski in Aspen), some really good restaurants and regular bus service to both Aspen and Glenwood Springs.
When conditions get rough, particularly if it is windy, I often head for the trees.
Tree skiing is among my favorite ski experiences and at Snowmass, with fresh snow both days, I got some of the best tree skiing of my life! While turning through the trees on this lightly packed snow, I felt like I was doing exactly what I came to Aspen to do! There were several runs we did a whole bunch of times, and we ended up spending most of our time in only a few areas of the mountain.
This is something we decided on halfway through the first day. We had come to Aspen for an experience, one that we were already having. Why be so obsessed with finding it again and again just to check off some kind of mental list or fulfill some idea put into our heads about what we are supposed to do at a place like this? Snowmass is a huge resort, and Aspen has three other ski areas. It is impossible to do it all! That’s kind of the point. People who live here need variety.
Time rushed Americans often get too obsessed with lists and agendas while traveling. Obsession with some kind of mission has the potential to diminish the experience we originally came for. Sometimes, we need to lighten up. Be present. Forget what we are planning to do next and enjoy what we are doing now. Go into the kids area despite being adults.
On this short trip to Aspen, I put into practice how to overcome the tyranny of expectations and get the most out of my travel experiences. I encourage anyone who is reading this to do the same.