He wasn’t kidding. On a recent March afternoon, music was pumping on Cloud Nine’s deck while partiers in T-shirts danced, hooted and sprayed Veuve Clicquot into the sun.
“One more!” they shouted at the DJ. Last call in the middle of the day? Well, people had to go home — by ski or snowboard.
But don’t worry, there’s plenty to do in Aspen if you don’t feel like (or can’t afford) guzzling bubbly at 11,000 feet.
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Quirky and welcoming
Aspen, with a population of 6,800, has a reputation as a playground for the rich and famous — which it is, make no mistake. But it’s also a funky town with a welcoming spirit (the Aspen Gay Ski Week celebrated its 40th anniversary in January 2017), endearing quirks and seriously good skiing.
Embodying that attitude are the “shrines” that are half-hidden in the trees off ski runs at all four resorts, and include elaborate tributes to famous former locals like singer John Denver and gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson, as well as more oddball picks like the Blackhawks hockey team and Calvin and Hobbes.
Located in the Roaring Fork Valley, Aspen experienced its first boom in the 1870s with a silver rush. Later would come white gold, when the town turned to snow sports.
Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke founded the Aspen Skiing Company in 1946, but didn’t stop there as he was adamant that a healthy body and healthy mind go together. So he and his wife, Elizabeth, also founded the Aspen Institute (which runs the Aspen Ideas Festival) and the Aspen Music Festival.
Over the years, the Aspen Skiing Company incorporated the nearby ski hills of Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk; a single lift ticket ($159/day for an adult, but advance and multi-day purchases offer deep discounts) gives you access to all four resorts, which are linked by free shuttles.
Of the four, Buttermilk is the smallest, a stone’s throw away from Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (which provides easier access to the area than Denver, a four-hour drive away, and fares better in winter weather than many similar mountain airports).
Those X-Games Aspen you may have heard of, every January? They’re actually held at Buttermilk, which also offers cool beginner runs.
Snowmass is the largest resort of the quartet and is packed with extra-long, extra-wide intermediate runs, while Highlands is loaded with challenging steeps.
Town and slope
But it’s Aspen that offers the best mix of slope action and town life.
For a more expensive experience, a snowcat will drop you off for dinner at the cabin (a four-course meal starts at $85 for children, $115 for adults).
Where to stay
Admittedly, ski season accommodations can get quite pricey.
Do not fear if your budget doesn’t reach those heights — just head over to Basalt, a cute little mountain town 18 miles from Aspen, where you’ll find plenty of Airbnbs.
The best way to avoid the headache of parking on the mountain is to drive over to the Brush Creek Road Intercept Lot on Route 82 and hop on one of the free buses to the resort of your choice.
It’s cheap, it’s convenient — the only thing left is to have fun.
Elisabeth Vincentelli is a Brooklyn-based writer covering entertainment and outdoor recreation.