Vanlife

The new “Blue” sprinter by Aspen Custom Vans.

Matt Foley would be rolling in his grave if he knew of the movement that is #vanlife.

The hashtag on Instagram alone reveals more than five million posts, most depicting beautiful scenery from remote pockets around the world.

While Chris Farley’s infamous SNL character did not condone such a lifestyle, a growing contingent of nomads, adventure-seekers and weekend warriors are embracing the freedoms of living in a van down by the river.

Just ask longtime locals Jason and Kimbo Schirato, the husband-wife duo that launched Aspen Custom Vans last year in an effort to share their love of #vanlife with the valley.

“Van life is just convenient and comfortable and saves so much time at camp,” says Kimbo Schirato. “We were so sick of being uncomfortable in tents that the van was, in our eyes, the next best option.”

“In retrospect, we probably could have just sprung a few hundred dollars for some real cushy sleeping pads instead of tens of thousands for a sprinter,” she quips. No regrets?

As part of their latest project, the couple converted a Mercedes sprinter van, affectionately named “Blue,” that’s available to rent.

Another adventurous local couple, Ted and Christy Mahon, took Blue for a ride mid-May. Below, Christy shares a few notes from the open road.

aspencustomvans.com

Notes from the road

Friday night (5/17)

  • Rainbows and black clouds as drive from Aspen to Ouray
  • Pull into Thistledown Campground just before dark. Awesome riverside camp. Enjoy a glass of wine and a beer before drifting away to sleep under a waxing rising moon

 

Saturday (5/18)

  • Wake up at 5 a.m. to 6 inches of new snow at the campground. Wondering about options for the day, how does the new snow change things?
  • Slowly get moving on coffee and oatmeal, since the weather isn’t good and the temperatures are cold outside, we aren’t in a rush to get going and we decide to relax and enjoy the morning inside the van
  • Pondering options for the day
  • No need to race out the door, snow should stay good and cool temps keep avalanche risks low
  • Sometimes plan B’s are even more fun ... we took the opportunity to start high and from a cleared Red Mountain Pass Road. We’ve only skied the pass one other time, so we were psyched to find 6” inches of new powder as we made our way up to McMillan Peak, 12,804 ft. Found a fun ski line down into U.S. Basin. Love touring places we haven’t been before, and although it stayed pretty wintry all day, we had pockets of sunshine and amazing powder. The basin proved to be a ski playground
  • We couldn’t resist being so close to Silverton, one of our favorite places in the state. Soaked in the quirkiness of the town, even more pronounced during the off-season, and then we drove off to our new home for the night, South Mineral Creek Campground
  • The weather was cold and snowy, making the coziness of the van even more appreciated and fun
  • It wasn’t that nice out, so happy hour took place inside the van away from the weather, which was really nice because it’s so comfortable
  • We sorted our gear and packed our bags for the ski day tomorrow, made our lunches, opened a bottle of wine and relaxed. Then we made dinner

 

Sunday (5/19)

  • 5 a.m. alarm clock, making coffee and getting ready inside (versus a cold tent) is so nice! We could get used to this…
  • 6 a.m. on the trail - a 30-minute hike with skis on our backs through avalanche debris, which has become a fixture of backcountry skiing after this record-breaking winter. So much devastation. Once up high, everything is still buried deep in snow. We made our way towards our objective, U.S. Grant Peak, 13,676 ft., as the weather started to change - just as forecasted
  • Winds picked up around 13,000 feet and crested the summit in the thick of it. Fast transition, we ski, semi-blind due to the clouds and low visibility, retracing our route back down to the trailhead. By now we’re in a spring storm, we seek shelter once again inside the van, get out of our ski gear, unpack, change, and get ready for the drive back to Aspen. Two days of skiing in the San Juan Mountains, and while the weather could have been better, sometimes it’s these types of outings that are the most memorable. If it was always easy, it wouldn’t be fun

Erica Robbie is the arts and entertainment editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at erica@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @ericarobbie.