Aspen: Penning A Memory

Aspen Vacation Pearls

Ah, Aspen.

A place where smiles never leave your face – not so much because you’re happy, but because that grimace of surprise – as you stare death in the face looking down those slopes – freezes there, at that ridiculously high elevation.

And guess what? You no longer have to be Kevin Costner or Melanie Griffiths to hobnob at the finest establishments while there. Case in point: us. Frozen-on smiles and all. 

As we wrapped up our trip out West, where we attended a conference with my husband and two boys, I collected some travel pearls, for those of you who plan to come, too.

* Accommodations:

We stayed in Snowmass, at the Westin, where the conference was held. Super convenient – ski-in, ski-out – but maybe just a tad bit dated. Complimentary cookies, cider and hot chocolate on a daily basis made for some happy kids, though, who may have easily helped themselves to thirds and fourths when our head were turned.

The ski valet downstairs was fantastic. The group of guys who run it help you out with anything – from taking off sweaty boots to stowing away your ice-encrusted skis. You can even store them there overnight, and be royally presented with them upon arrival in the AM.

* Skiing:

We skied 3 mountains while there (notably absent was Buttermilk Mountain, which I hear is the easiest one to ski down – perfect for those of you still learning).

Snowmass.

This mountain has a large variety of options for skiers – with over 90 trails – from green to multiple black diamonds in difficulty. A run from the top will last you quite a while, with roomy lanes (I joke that they’re like Kramer’s ‘extra-wide lanes’ from good old Seinfeld days). Gates are automated everywhere in Aspen, so no mater which mountain you choose, lines, if any, move quickly.

Taking a break on Aspen/Ajax Mountain.
I found my son taking a break at one of the forks on the slope. Snowmass is very family-friendly, and he can attest to that

It was our second year there, and this one was my favorite mountain by far.

Notable off the main lift, about 3 minutes into your ascent, is a bra tree, right below – adorned by different-colored bras. I imagine the gals who threw them down were prepared with extras, given the temps, but you never know. I meant to take a photo of it, but couldn’t manage to slip my hand out of the warm, cozy glove in time to snap the shot. Instead, a foosball table from the center of the Village will have to do. *shrugs shoulders*.

A foosball table in Snowmass Village.


 

Aspen

Referred to as Ajax by some of the locals, this mountain is for the more advanced, even if it’s shorter in height. You’ll find lots of steep slopes, and blues here are the equivalent of blacks back on the East Coast.

Standing in front of a sign that reads, 'Viagra'.
I just had to take a picture with this. But let’s get one thing straight: I did NOT ski down a double black. I DO intend to stay alive and remain in one piece. It was pointed out to me, after the fact, that the sign likely read Niagara originally. Ah.. makes sense. I was trying to stay alive and didn’t quite catch that. Still I love the sign

What a cool little village lays beneath, though. We ate at Ajax Tavern in The Little Nell – Recommended. It is at the very bottom of the slope, so you can literally clap wildly, or give a standing ovation to those who end their run in a sweep. Or you could alternately laugh your butt off if it’s your family member – even f for just s*its and giggles. Either way, you’ve got front row seats.

It’s the classic spot for people-watching, too, if you’re into that, and all while chewing down on quality farm-to-table cuisine. A must is their truffle fries.

Pricey, yes, but all of Aspen is, after all.

There happened to be an event sponsored by Men’s Magazine and Women’s Magazine while we were there. It was part of the town’s Winterskol – 4 days of fun celebrations that take place throughout Aspen in the wintertime, in its 67th year this year – and turned out to be a stylish apres-ski party under a giant tent, with live DJ and free swag. We clearly didn’t belong and brought down the coolness factor a combined 30% – 15 me, 15 the hubby. But it still remained 70% cool, and everyone seemed ok with that.Winterskol signs adorns the path leading up to Aspen Mountain.

In fact, there were festivals going on throughout Aspen, which I believe happens all the time. Just google your trip dates, you’ll find something cool.


Highlands

The most challenging mountain in Aspen, from what I hear, is Aspen Highlands. What a mountain. What a rush.

Was fun, though icy, when we were there. I happen to be purposely pushing aside the memory of the two particular slopes on which I palpitated. And hyperventilated. But somehow survived.

A view of Aspen Highlans.
The breath-taking views of Aspen Highlands, captured in a still. I do admit to at least one moment of hyperventilation and/or palpitations, experienced while staring down its slopes.
Vintage Aspen Highlands Print hangs in the restroom.
Vintage Highlands Bowls Sign, found hanging in the mountain’s bathrooms. They even have art in the restroom!

We did NOT ski into the heart of the famous Highland Bowl. Only double blacks lead into its depths. I do have one thing to say to those of you who ask if I did and it goes something like, “Whatcha talking ’bout, Willis?” I did hear that it’s fabulous, however.

Cloud 9 is the famous restaurant on top, which was a must-do. We checked off that box but didn’t get to experience the shenanigans we had heard so much about (legend has it, music gets cranked up at a certain time of the day and everyone pops open expensive champagne bottles and sprays it everywhere).

View from Cloud 9, near the top of the mountain, are not to miss. Our friend sips on coffee as he takes it all in. Making memories.

Reservation to the Cloud is needed in advance. I hear getting a table there closer to 2 PM is smartest if you want the full experience. Ask to sit near the window, for the views, or just be adventurous like us and sit in the frigid outdoor patio.

* Food:

*Matsuhisa

Restaurant in Aspen Village, recommended for foodies. Cuisine is Japanese/sushi, owned by Nobu Matsuhisa of NYC’s Nobu. Our favorites were the Yellowtail Sashimi appetizers, Crispy Rice with Tuna, and Black Cod with Miso. Be prepared to take out a small loan prior to receiving the bill, in true Aspen form.

*Brunelleschi’s:

A family-friendly, make-you-own pizza joint in Aspen Village. Our second year there. The kids enjoy making an individual pizza, chef’s hat and all. For the adults, it’s meh.

*Toro:

Another meh, culinary-wise. This ‘meh’ experience still managed, however, to burn a hole in our pockets. I did, however, enjoy the brussels sprout salad. And the pace itself is beautiful, down to the semi-private rooms with the view, adding to the ambience.

*Fuel Cafe:

We found this little sandwich hole near our hotel and loved it. Yummy sandwiches and smoothies, freshly made. It truly fuels you, especially hen a sandwich is as healthy as this:

Veggie sandwich, so good for uou, at Fuel Cafe, Snowmass
Veggie Sandwich, complete with toasted multi-grain bread, avocadoes, tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, and shredded carrots.

*Random non-ski pointers from our trip:

*We flew straight in to Aspen, from the NY/NJ area, with a layover in Chicago. I’m not sure I would do it that way again. Flying into Aspen was bumpy and weather made for somewhat of a rough descent. We had to re-ascend during our landing because of weather. I’d consider flying directly into Vail, as our friends did, and hitching a ride (less 90 mins).

*It’s cold. Your phone MAY turn off on the slopes, so be prepared, because the temps drain the battery. On our last day there I noticed my hand warmers kept it warm in my pocket – and charged – but I can’t be sure it’s sound advice. Along those lines, wear layers!

*Altitude Sickness- don’t get it. It sucks. To avoid it, try increasing your water intake a day before your tip and during it as well. Avoid dehydrating drinks like caffeine and alcohol. You can always see your good ‘ole doctor ahead of time and get prescription medication for prevention. Symptoms include headache, nausea, and shortness of breath.

For you Pinterest Lovers:

Our family's guide to Aspen

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