Aspen, Colorado
At The Center Of It All

By Ryan Lougee
Photos by Matt Power 


Mike Young tests out the blower pow at Aspen Highlands. Holla!

Deep in the Central Rocky Mountains of Colorado, surrounded by the Elk Mountains and the Sawatch Range, among twenty of the states 54 famous fourteeners, lies Aspen. The somewhat remote valley hosts four resorts—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. There’s always excitement and entertainment in the valley throughout the winter—from the busy holiday season and X Games madness to the multi-week spring break parties. We’ve got celebrities and zillionaires by the private-jet load—but beyond all the glam and glitz, you’ll find talented locals who enjoy a great lifestyle, and you’ll discover all the amazing riding opportunities that these mountains have to offer.

Where To Ride
Aspen is 220 miles west of Denver, which is a three-and-a-half-hour drive, or a 30-minute flight from DIA on United, Frontier, and Delta into Aspen’s very own ASE airport. With one lift ticket and the free RFTA bus system, you can ride all four resorts in a day or spend years figuring out what’s so special about each one of them.


Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain/Ajax—The Town Hill
Aspen Mountain has been the centerpiece of Aspen since the first lift fired up in 1947. The new gondola powers you up from downtown Aspen in fourteen minutes, straight to the 11,212-foot summit. With 300 inches of annual snowfall and 673 acres, Ajax has zero-percent beginner terrain, making it a charge-hard type of mountain full of freeriding with steeps, cliffs, mine tailings, and well-manicured groomers. Feel the burn with some top-to-bottom cruisers on the ganja … I mean the gondola. Check out Walsh’s or the Dumps for some more goods. Or hang at Othello’s Rail Riding Hood to get your quick jib fix on. Backcountry access is available to the Castle Creek Valley and the Independence Pass side of the mountain. Watch out for aggro, speed-suit wearing skiers that forget snowboarding saved the ski industry.
Aprés at the pool/bar of 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel.
Distance from Aspen: It’s downtown
Cost: $260–336 (four-day pass with seven-day advanced purchase)
Best for: Real snowboarding, cruisers, and skiers in spandex and fur
Web site: aspensnowmass.com/aspenmountain


It’s not a secret anymore–Aspen Highlands. 

Aspen Highlands—A Freerider’s Paradise
Highlands is the best-kept secret in Aspen! Not many people come here—it’s super steep, the Deep Temerity chairlift accesses expert-only terrain, and free snowcat rides at the top of the lift bring you even closer to Highland’s Bowl at 12,392 feet. The place gets over 300 inches of annual snowfall across a solid 1,000 acres of terrain, considering that 36 percent of the terrain is expert/double-black diamond runs as steep as 48 degrees—it’s only a matter of time before it gets “discovered.” Ride the snowcat and hike Highlands Bowl for an insane view of Pyramid Peak, the Maroon Bells, and steep, open pow runs that bring you down to the Deep Temerity lift. Danger, danger—good times!
Get your après on at the ZG Grill or at Crust.
Distance from Aspen: Three miles
Cost: $260–336 (four-day pass with seven-day advanced purchase)
Best For: Real snowboarding on a big mountain
Web site: aspensnowmass.com/highlands


Justin Bartle spreads a buttery slide at Buttermilk

Buttermilk—Get Your Park And Pipe On
Buttermilk, the home of the Winter X Games XIII, is coming in hot this season with the number-one ranked halfpipe in the Transworld annual Resort Poll. The resort is building an even more impressive Olympic-sized Superpipe with 22-foot walls that will be shred-ready this season. Riders can polish their skills in every level of terrain park as they work their way up to the X Park and Superpipe. Don’t be surprised to find yourself riding alongside Olympic and X Games medalists on any given day. With a summit elevation of only 9,900 feet, the temperature at Buttermilk is generally warmer, making the snow nice and soft for bangin’ those tricks proper … or learning new ones. Greg Boyd and his park crew keep this place smooth like butter every day, and you’ll usually have the place to yourself on weekdays. Buttermilk is the place to start your shred career.
Aprés at Bumps where you can see the X Park and Superpipe, or in Aspen after a five-to-ten-minute free bus ride.
Distance from Aspen: Three miles
Cost: $260–336 (four-day pass with seven-day advanced purchase)
Best For: Beginners to professionals, terrain parks/pipes, X Park/Superpipe and cruising perfect groomers
Web site: aspensnowmass.com/buttermilk


Lonnie Kauk ends it on an up note at Snowmass

Snowmass—Something For Everyone
This place is like Disney World—there’s something for everyone to get stoked on. It’s a giant mountain with 3,132 acres of terrain with 300 inches of annual snowfall with beginner areas, cruisers, glades, steeps and deeps, parks and pipes, and anything else you could ever want. An eight-passenger gondola leads to one side of the mountain, while a high-speed six-passenger lift goes to the other side, with wide-open runs in the middle and huge, alpine bowls at the summit.
Greg Boyd and his park crew keep the three terrain parks (including the new Snowmass Terrain Park), the regular pipe, and the Superpipe dialed on the daily. It’s a great place for the whole family to enjoy or just roll solo through the park, and you’ll be tagging along with local rippers in no time.
Aprés at the Cirque Bar & Grill, Goodfellows, Mountain Dragon, Zanes or the Brother’s Grill for free hot wings.
Distance from Aspen: Nine miles
Cost: $260–336 (four-day pass with seven-day advanced purchase)
Best for: Everything
Web site: aspensnowmass.com/snowmass

Around Town:
Aspen is a small town and easy to get around in if you walk or ride one of the many free busses, but if you drive, parking can be difficult since town is always packed. There are several hotels, restaurants, bars, and retail stores for your spending needs. The Little Nell is a five-star hotel, Matsuhisa is high-end sushi, fifteen-dollar mixed drinks are common, and Gucci or Louis Vuitton will burn a hole in the wallet real quick … here’s how to avoid getting burned.

Eating:

New York Pizza
This is the cheapest place to eat in town. Get two big slices of pizza and a drink, or a slice and a brew for under ten bucks … throw the extra buck in the tip jar because it’s the best slice you’ll ever have and the crew shreds, too. Open late night, this is the only place to eat after the bars close. They keep the party going with bumping music and a warm place to hang inside. Free delivery.
409 East Hyman Ave, Aspen. (970) 920-3088


Fill ‘er up. 

Johnny McGuire’s Deli
Their motto is “Health Food Sucks”—specializing in hot and cold subs with many options, or build your own. Get a sandwich and a drink for under ten bucks and you’re full. Tip them, too. Free delivery.
730 East Cooper Avenue, Aspen. (970) 920-9255

The Big Wrap
This place is on the healthier side, with several wraps, salads, and smoothies. Check out here with food and a drink for under ten bucks as well. Closed on Sundays because the owner, Babs, needs a full day on the mountain—just like you. Free delivery.
520 East Durrant Avenue, Aspen. (970) 544-1700

La Cantina
Think mountain coastal Mex. This joint is a super fun place to hang with your crew and fill up on free chips and salsa. They have a huge menu and a cheap happy-hour menu (under ten bucks) in the bar. The owner, Darren, is super nice and stoked to have shreds in his restaurant, and Adam at the bar is always serving up “specials” to get your pre-game kicking before you head out to the clubs.
411 East Main Street, Aspen. (970) 925-3663

Jimmy’s: An American Restaurant & Bar
Come here for steaks and other quality dishes in the dining room—Jimmy’s also offers a reasonable bar menu. Several moderately priced choices including ahi tuna/filet mignon with mashers and veggies for twelve bucks. Or just order a beer and ask for the fresh pretzels and you’re on your way to being full for the price of a beer.
205 South Mill Street, Aspen. (970) 925-6020

Matsuhisa
Gourmet Japanese seafood and sushi by Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. This is the best restaurant in town—by far. You can easily drop a hundo by yourself here … two-hundo even. Try the upstairs lounge and bar for Monday-night football specials where you can find several hot and cold items for ten bucks each. Split it up and share amongst your crew, and you’ll all get a real nice taste on your tongue. Seriously, though … banger place to eat if you’re trying to live it up.
309 East Main Street, Aspen. (970) 544-6628


Aspen–for better or worse.

Nightlife:

Eric’s Bar/Aspen Billiards/Cigar Bar

Eric’s Bar is the best bar in town. Aspen Billiards is Aspen’s nicest pool hall and is casually elegant with eight tables and a full bar. The Cigar Bar is an elegant smoking and drinking environment that serves fine cigars and fine liquors. This is the go-to spot in Aspen … three in one.
315 East Hyman Avenue, Aspen. (970) 925-6707

Fly Lounge
Are you ready for a music- and aviation-themed environment of a private leer jet cruising through the clouds with uniformed flight attendants offering drinks and bottle service? DJ Chuck Koch and other fly DJs will keep you dancing. Great experience!
426 East Hyman Avenue, Aspen. (410) 897-2625

The Regal Watering Hole
Aspen chic, while still maintaining a casual vibe using organic and earthy materials and colors. The owners, Tim and Paul, are often on hand to share drinks and play host while making introductions to keep everyone feeling right at home. Keep dancing—it’s a fun place.
220 South Galena Street, Aspen. (720) 275-3876

Belly Up, Aspen
Aspen’s premier live-music venue with a multimillion-dollar sound system, a capacity of 450 people, and three levels. In just the last couple months this place has seen the likes of Method Man, Redman, Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, Damian Marley, Stephen Marley, DJ Z-Trip, Tiesto, STS9 … just wait for the winter season! Check the Web site bellyupaspen.com for upcoming shows. This place is a must.
450 South Galena Street, Aspen. (970) 544-9800

Sleeping:
It’s expensive to get hotel rooms here during the winter season. Check aspensnowmass.com and follow the links in “Stay Here,” and shop around for the best deals.

Sky Hotel
Located in town at the bottom of Aspen Mountain, this place has a very stylish lobby and rooms as well as the 39 Degrees Bar. The hotel offers courtesy transportation around town in brand-new Cadillac Escalades.
709 East Durrant Avenue, aspen. (970) 925-6760

The Inn At Aspen
Located at the base of Buttermilk.
38750 Highway 82, Buttermilk. (970) 925-1500

The Silvertree Hotel
This is a full-service ski-in/ski-out hotel.
100 Elbert Lane, Snowmass. (970) 923-3520


Radio Boardshop.

Local Shops:

Radio Boardshop
Owned by X Games announcer Travis McLain. The spots got Uninc and Nike SB, as well as the latest in tight, bright, and hipster trends. Yeah, yeah, yeah!
424 East Cooper Avenue, Aspen. (970) 925-9373

Polar Revolution
Owned by Sammy Knauer and run by two of Aspen’s first snowboard shop guys, Scott and Charles from the Alternative Edge. Does anyone remember AE’s hearse?
312 South Hunter Street, Aspen. (970) 544-0600

Events:

Winter X Games XIII
January 22–25, 2009 at Buttermilk. This is the place to be for the who’s who of the snowboarding, and the rest of the winter action-sports world. Chaotic, but a super fun time to be in Aspen. Bro, brah, cha! Dude, man, dude! expn.com

Aspen/Snowmass Open
February 5–8, 2009 at Buttermilk. This is an open event for those who wish to ride the X Games Slopestyle course and the X Games Superpipe. Cash and prizes are up for grabs—if you think you have what it takes, then register online through aspensnowmass.com. The event does fill up.

CoverGirl Snow Angel Invitational
April 5–8, 2009. Where the girls, including Gretchen Bleiler, show off their skills in a four-day all-chick shred sesh.

[sidebar]
Get Your Skate On


Aspen’s Skatepark.

Aspen Skatepark
Located just off North Mill Street in the Rio Grand Park. It’s free—outdoor, concrete bowls, mostly transition, some vert, a little pool coping, a flatbar, and a bank—all built by Team Pain. Helmets required.

Snowmass Skatepark
This a new skatepark located next to the Snowmass Recreation Center and the Town Park Station. It’s free, outdoors, concrete street/bowl setup, banked center piece, down-flat ledge, flatbar, curved bar, step-up, banked wall, deep and squared vert bowl, smaller round bowl, et cetera. Helmets required.