Wintertime in Aspen is much more than schussing on the slopes. Try to knock a few of these off your list this trip, and you’ll be on your way to living it up like a local.
Full moons on a clear night in the Roaring Fork Valley are a sight to behold. And there’s no better place to enjoy them than at the top of a mountain. Skinning, or hiking, up Buttermilk Mountain the night of (and the day before and after) the full moon has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years. And revelers have taken to hosting big bonfire parties near the top of West Buttermilk. Hike up Tiehack or Main Buttermilk for a real workout before partying (or enjoying a nice warm hot chocolate in a thermos) up top, or head to West Buttermilk for a less intense and much shorter hike to the top. If you hiked up, swing by the Ute Mountaineer and pick up a sled for a fun ride down. Start hiking just after sunset, or wait til later in the night. The fresh corduroy on the way down is also a pretty nice treat. Either way, the view from the top will be spectacular. The last full moons of the ski season will be on March 8 and April 6.
SkiCo might have recently limited the number of drinks you can imbibe at this alpine bistro to three, but the party certainly isn’t over at Cloud 9. Dine at 10,740 feet on Aspen Highlands, and enjoy a casual table setting and an outdoor deck at this full-service restaurant with majestic views of the Maroon Bells. Cloud 9 is open for lunch with a prix fixe menu that changes daily, featuring dishes like osso bucco, raclette, venison ragout, Pheasant breast, Strudel variations, vegetarian dishes, international wine and fine champagne. The fondue is also a popular choice. It’s open for ski-in, ski-out lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. The also play host to Thursday night snowcat dinners from 5:30-8 p.m. For reservations, call 970-923-8715.
To experience humanity’s first form of rapid on-snow transportation, check out Krabloonik (krabloonik.com, 970-923-3953) in Snowmass Village. The dog sledding operation is said to be the largest in the lower 48 and offers a unique way to experience the beauty of the valley while being pulled by a 10-dog sled team and an experienced musher. The restaurant at Krabloonik also offers a fine dining experience.
For the granddaddy of hot springs, head to Glenwood Springs. Right off Interstate 70, as the Glenwood Hot Springs website says, is one of nature’s sources of happiness. “The Grand Spring, as it was known, is a timeless natural wonder discovered by the ancient Ute Indian culture,” the site says. “For thousands of years this mineral-rich water has created legends of healing, mountain adventure, and relaxation.” The resort boasts more than 1 million gallons of naturally heated water, a spa, lodge, athletic club, sports shop, and breakfast and lunch selections. For more information, visit www.hotspringspool.com or call 970-945-6571.
Located 11 miles outside Aspen at the base of the Elk Mountain range, the Ashcroft Ski Touring cross-country area has over 35 km of groomed trails. At the heart of the area, the Pine Creek Cookhouse is the premier Aspen dining experience for cross-country skiers, snowshoers, nature lovers and gourmands. Guests leave their cars behind at the historic Ghost Town of Ashcroft to cross country ski, snowshoe, or ride the horse-drawn sleigh to the Cookhouse. For lunch, skiers enjoy freshly made soup, wild game Sherpa Stew, a fresh array of salads, sandwiches, entrees and vegetarian delights. At dinner, take a guided ski adventure by miner’s light or a romantic sleigh ride to the Cookhouse, then enjoy a legendary Aspen dining tradition featuring buffalo, elk and venison. For reservations, visit www.pinecreekcookhouse.com or call 970-925-1044.
With how dangerous backcountry conditions have been this year, the Highland Bowl is about as close to out-of-bounds skiing as most of us should be getting this year. The terrain is expertly maintained by the stellar Aspen Highlands ski patrol, so you know they won’t open anything unless it’s safe. Most people head to the Bowl the day after a powder day (after a day spent shredding the slopes on one of the other three mountains). But if you head up on a powder day, you might just be treated to one of the most glorious runs of your life. While your waiting on the Bowl to open, hang out at the Ski Patrol shack at the top of the Temerity and Loge lifts and watch the team throw avalanche bombs. Or, better yet, take a few laps to warm yourself up on Deep Temerity. And ditch the cat ride in favor of hiking. You’ll feel better about yourself at the end of the day. To check on the status of the bowl, call the hotline at 970-544-3048.
With March just around the corner, the end of ski season is, regrettably, in sight. Fortunately, that also means end-of-the-season parties are coming up fast. All four mountains host a closing day bash, but the one at Aspen Highlands is certainly the most notorious. So grab your onesie or other ridiculous outfit and take a final lap in the Highland Bowl before settling into one of the biggest parties of the year. They’ll be a party mid-mountain outside of Merry-Go-Round restaurant, and one at the base. There will be a pond skim, DJs, and revelry lasting til the early evening. This year, closing day at Aspen Highlands is slated for Sunday, April 22. Check out www.aspensnowmass.com for more info.
Every once in a while you have to get really high to truly experience Aspen’s beauty, because as we all know, sometimes the ground just isn’t cutting it anymore. For an extreme trip across the sky, Aspen Paragliding (aspenparagliding.com, 970-925-7625) can hook you up with a tandem flight, so you can dangle your feet thousands of feet above the Elk Mountains. Winter flights take off from the tops of Aspen and Snowmass ski areas, weather permitting.
This is guaranteed to be on of the most athletically intense, and awesome, days of your winter. Get an early start and hike, or skin, up Aspen Mountain. You have to be to the top by 9 a.m., so give yourself plenty of time by starting no later than 7 a.m. After traveling more than 3,000 feet over 3 miles to the top of Ajax, enjoy a free yoga class up top taught by the lovely ladies of Arjuna Yoga. The one-hour class starts at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Then, ski down to Bonnie’s restaurant for a delicious, $4 oatmeal pancake. When you’re finished, rest assured that you will have done more in one day that most people do in a week.
They are funky, grassroots creations. They are a brand of folk art that Aspen can call its own — born out of the ski culture this town has shaped. There are more than 40 shrines over Aspen/Snowmass’ four mountains, to celebrities like Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Hunter S. Thompson. The exact locations of all the shrines is a semi-closely held secrets, so your best bet is to find a local and ask. Check out www.aspensnowmassshrines.com for a list.