Snowboarding : Aspen Highlands

Aspen is one of the premiere ski towns in North America. Yes it has glamour, money and celebrities, but it also has an interesting history, both in skiing and mining, and boasts great skiing on four separate mountains.

Ask a crowd of non-skiing Americans to name a ski resort, and you can bet a bundle that Aspen will be one of those, though they will probably know more about the rich and famous who frequent the resort than about its equally notable skiing. With four mountains within 12 miles of each other (one of those, Snowmass, is detailed separately), offering 44 lifts and more than 5,246 skiable acres, a trip to Aspen just for the skiing would be well worth it. But Aspen has much more.

Aspen fits a niche unique among North American ski resorts. Sure, other resorts attract wealth, but Aspen’s wealth glitters and sparkles with a “look-this-way” flamboyance. Here, the well-to-do seem to want everyone else to know it. You’ll see the newest ski and city fashions on beautiful women as they pass turn-of-the-century brick façades. Private jets wait for their owners on the airport tarmac. Paparazzi aim their lenses at every celebrity in town so that supermarket tabloids can keep their pages filled.

Don’t head to Aspen purely to observe celebrities, however. You may not find any. They are most common during the Christmas-New Year holidays and March’s sunshine days, but they are difficult to spot when in ski clothes. If you want to mix with the upscale crowd, stay close to the Aspen Mountain gondola base, where the fanciest hotels and shops are clustered. You’ll find a mixed crowd here, which combines expensive and reasonably priced restaurants and bars. Beyond downtown, the outward signs of wealth disappear.

If all your information about Aspen comes from People magazine, you probably think you can’t afford to ski here. True, lift tickets are among the priciest in America, but it’s a little-known fact that lodging and restaurants have a wide price range, starting out with inexpensive dorm accommodations and topping out at stratospheric luxury suites.

Perhaps due to Aspen’s glamorous reputation, its adventurous nature is sometimes overlooked. Aspen also draws skiers and snowboarders who couldn't care less about the off-mountain scene. They come for the slopes, which have received rave reviews for decades. Aspen Mountain challenges intermediate through expert skiers and snowboarders and boasts a green reputation. Among other efforts, Aspen has built the state's first wind-powered chair lift. Buttermilk is the perfect beginner and cruising mountain, plus it’s home to the ESPN Winter X Games and the and the Crazy T’rain Terrain Park. Highlands is the most varied for its size, with terrain for experts and beginners, cruisers and bumpers. In the 05/06 season Highlands unveiled Deep Temerity Lift and 180 new acres of advanced, expert and extreme terrain. This year more than 40 more acres opened in the area, bringing the total acreage for Highlands to1,010.

If you’re determined to see celebrities at Aspen, three sightings are guaranteed on Aspen Mountain. Look for shrines for Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Jerry Garcia. The Elvis shrine is in a grove of trees just below Back of Bell 3. Marilyn’s shrine is on a cat track above the Elvis shrine and Jerry is memorialized in a grove of spruce trees to skiers’ right on Ruthie’s Run after you unload from the FIS chair. Ask an Aspen ambassador for directions and be sure to take your camera. For a little romance, check out the Valentine’s shrine between Walsh’s and Hyrup’s on Aspen Mountain, where you’ll find a secluded “porch swing” to canoodle.


"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."    — Robert A. Heinlein

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