Author Archives: Kevin Day

About Kevin Day

Kevin Day is a Colorado-based writer, photographer and content developer. Born and raised in Denver, he has been skiing since he was 12 years old and hiking since he could walk. His obsession with the mountains has taken him all over Colorado, as well as Italy, Switzerland and Ecuador. He has also done volunteer trail work with the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, including a stint on Pyramid Peak.

Powder day skiing at Snowmass Mountain
Four Mountain Sports

Honestly, the crew at Four Mountain Sports is obsessed with the gear they rent, and know just the right skis to match your style and ability.

The four mountains of terrain at Aspen Snowmass offer a million possibilities for skiers. From day-to-day, you might be ripping it in the terrain parks, lining up for a crack at fresh tracks in Highland Bowl, or maybe you’re just laying low on groomers.

Either way, having the right pair of skis to match the conditions and terrain can make a world of difference.

Every year, Four Mountain Sports rents the most modern skis from such brands as K2, Rossignol, Blizzard, Nordica and Salomon. Here are three skis we’re buzzing about in 2015 — and the ideal terrain and conditions to use them on.

BLIZZARD BONAFIDE 180cm

Best Used For: Anywhere, Anytime.

What We Like About It: This ski goes all over the mountain, and given its knack for handling any type of turn, it’s a great choice for those of you who want to tackle every imaginable type of terrain in a single day. The smooth but stiff feel of the Bonafide will allow you to beat your buddies top-to-bottom and look good doing it. Get ready for a ride.

Where to Ski With It: Open it up on The Burn with some GS turns, or tighten it up in the Dumps on Aspen Mountain.

Availability: All Four-Mountain Sports locations

Rental tier: Premium

LINE SICKDAY 95

Best Used For: Days with variable conditions

What We Like About It: For many at Four-Mountain Sports, this is their favorite ski, largely because it epitomizes the modern, all-mountain ski with lightness, quickness and versatility. Its stability makes it great in any size of turn, and allows you to hold the edge for as long as you want. Skis powder better than many wider skis. No wonder Skiing Magazine named it the Ski of the Year in 2014.

Where to Ski With It: At home on Aspen Mountain’s Face of Bell as well as Buttermilk’s groomers. You may want to pick a different ski for terrain parks.

Availability: All Four-Mountain Sports locations

Rental tier: Premium

KASTLE FX 94

Best Used For: Days with variable conditions

What We Like About It: Designed by Aspen Snowmass skier extraordinaire Chris Davenport, the Kastle FX 94 is one of the most versatile all-mountain, all-conditions skis made today. Made with a Silver Fir and Ash core to sheets of Titanal and rubber foils (really, the best materials available) Kastle has produced a ski with an incredibly smooth feel. Don’t be surprised if you ski with more confidence on this beauty.

Where to Ski With It: Thrash the steeps on Highland Bowl, or connect several groomers for an epic top-to-bottom run at Snowmass.

Availability: All Four-Mountain Sports locations

Rental tier: Premium

The Sled food truck restaurant

Just a few weeks ago, our crafty food-and-beverage team realized a dream of theirs: to bring the foodie-culture phenomenon of the food truck to the slopes of Snowmass.

The Sled at Aspen Snowmass, mobile food truck

Yep. There it is. We called it The Sled.

The Sled food truck restaurant

Our food truck handles great in the powder.

Now, technically its not a truck. It’s a trailer behind a snowcat (which is five times cooler anyway). To go along with the Oasis on Aspen Mountain (our mobile, snowcat-towed champagne bar) Fridays at Aspen Snowmass just continue to get better for lovers of food and drink.

The so-to-speak engine behind the food truck is once again Jim Butchart, our Executive Chef. “The concept is street food on the mountain,” he told me. “A once a week expression of our philosophy on mountain dining. Fun, fresh, unique and deliciously unexpected.”

The Sled will be showing up at Snowmass every Friday through the end of the season, in conjunction with the Bud Light Big Rail Fridays. Just follow our culinary team on Instagram for details on their location.

Every week promises something new.

“We’re not going to limit ourselves,” Jim continued. “The offerings are based around a specific ingredient, region, dish, season, idea, whim, inspiration. Pretty much, we will cook whatever we fancy that day, that moment.”

The Sled mobile kitchen at Snowmass

Look for this sign on Fridays, although you might smell what’s cooking first.

A couple of weeks back, that included a choice of ramen in a miso broth with pork belly for $8, or a báhn mì with chicken pate, pork belly and pickled vegetables for just $5. Recent weeks have also seen an exploration of Mexico and its flavors: veal-cheek tacos with salsa verde (which was $5), or green chile posole with cotija cheese (only $3).

And this Friday? French cuisine? BBQ? Another round of miso broth and ramen? Jim and his team probably won’t know until that morning. You’ll just have to swing by and find out.

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse.
The Cliffhouse with Pyramid Peak in the background. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The Cliffhouse, looking more Himalayan than Mongolian. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

A while back, I was chatting with Jim Butchart — the Executive Chef of Aspen Snowmass — and the topic of favorite on-mountain meals came up. The first thing that sprung to his mind, literally, were the vegetable spring rolls at The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. “Nobody knows about them,” he noted.

That last line — nobody knows about them — could describe a lot of things at Buttermilk, such as the powder stashes on Timber Doodle Glade, or the way the aptly-named Javelin propels you at gleeful speed when its groomed.

The Cliffhouse may seem unassuming at first glance (well, except for that view of Pyramid Peak), but once you see what’s cooking here, its pretty clear this restaurant is one Aspen Snowmass’ true hidden gems.

When I was up there a few days ago, I went for a Pho noodle bowl, which they make at the Mongolian grill station, as well as a glass of carrot-lemon-ginger from the juice bar.

It’s mostly an order-it-exactly-as-you-like kind of place. First, hit up the salad bar and load up on the veggies you want them to fold it: edamame, yellow bell pepper … whatever sounds right.

Pho noodle bowl at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

Pho’ing it up at Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

Head to the back, hand it over, let them know whether you want rice or noodles (you can choose between mongo, which has yakisoba noodles, or Pho which uses a traditional rice noodle) and then watch them cook it all up on the traditional Mongolian range top (which is a monstrous piece of equipment … instant kitchen envy).

At the end, you can add garnishes, such as basil.

The slippery noodles and layers of Asian flavor — green onions, ginger, soy beans, pepper, basil — instantly recharged me.

And since it was gorgeous, bluebird day, I ate outside on the patio with this view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Creek Valley.

Panorama from The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The panorama from The Cliffhouse atop Buttermilk. Click to enlarge. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

One more element I’d recommend: It may be cliché to throw an egg on everything at this point, but seriously — do it. The extra hit of protein does a body good when skiing at Buttermilk. Zero lift lines usually equals an extra two or three runs per day.

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

The dragon atop the gong at The Cliffhouse. ©Kevin Day for Aspen Snowmass

Merry Go Round at Aspen Highlands

If you live in the Roaring Fork Valley, you have good reason to consider Wednesday your favorite day of the week. Starting tomorrow (January 14), Aspen Snowmass will once again be having a local’s appreciation day every Wednesday at Aspen Highlands, which includes such Hump Day bennies as free parking at the base, and lunch and beer specials at the Merry-Go-Round.

But here’s the best part: even if you aren’t a local, no one cares. Everyone is welcome to enjoy the perks of “the local’s mountain” on Hump Day (local’s can simply enjoy it every week because, well, they live here).

Last week was a dry run for the festivities at Merry-Go-Round, and being the resident foodie, I felt it was my obligation to head up the Exhibition Lift shortly after 9am, burn through as many groomers as I could (you know: to work up an appetite), and offer a taste test of the Hump Day Grill which they set up on the patio.

Here’s what my investigation turned up:

Golden Horn and Thunderbowl: Still Untouched at 10am

Gunbarrel run at Aspen Highlands

At 9:40am, there were only two sets of tracks on Gunbarrel below the Cloud Nine lift.

I was celebrating Hump Day by taking it easy a bit, so groomers were the order of the day. After a few warm-up runs off of Cloud Nine, I worked my way over to Golden Horn and Thunderbowl. It had been two days since the last snow, and I was still finding fresh places to turn at the top of Golden Horn Woods and even when I cut over to Limelight near the base. Look: free parking is nice, but finding stashes days after a storm is the really reason to hit up Aspen Highlands.

Brats + Sunshine & Beer = Appreciation

Tommy Knocker Brat at Merry-Go-Round, Aspen Highlands

The Tommy Knocker Ale Bratwurst at Merry-Go-Round. Not pictured: beer to wash it down.

At lunch, I went over to the Merry-Go-Round where they had set up an outdoor grilling station for the day’s Hump Day special.

Each week they will be changing up the special, but you can always expect that (a) it’ll be grilled, (b) it’ll be $8 for a main and two sides, and (c) there will be $4 beers to wash it all down.

Last Wednesday, they were offering a choice between Kielbasa, a Tommy Knocker Ale Bratwurst, or a more traditional Pork Bratwurst, each served on a pretzel bun. And of course — this being Aspen Snowmass — there was even a mustard menu. I went half-and-half: whole grain on one side, truffle mustard on the other.

The Merry-Go-Round terrace is perfectly positioned to absorb the sun rays at that hour. A catnap just about happened.

A Glass of Red at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

There isn’t really a lunch hour at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro; it stretches from noon until the lifts close. This Swiss-inspired restaurant — which doles out pots of fondue and raclette — has long been a hot spot for locals and out-of-towners alike, who often order bottles of Veuve Clicquot and by 2pm, start dancing on the tables.

Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands

The place to be in the afternoon on Hump Day (or any day for that matter).

I was more interested in a glass of wine and the lounge chairs on the deck, which takes in a stellar view of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Bells.

Wine at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

Opening a bottle of Beaujolais Cru at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, because, why not?

As an avid wine drinker, one thing I appreciate about the on-mountain restaurants here is the well-curated wine lists, even by the glass. As I bellied up to the ice bar, I expected to find the usual suspects: a Napa Cab, a Sonoma Chard, maybe a Super Tuscan if I was lucky.

But instead, they were offering a handful of under-the-radar gems: an Oregon Pinot Noir from Domaine Serene, a Nebbiolo Langhe from Barbaresco producer De Forville, and even a Morgon, one of the top Crus of Beaujolais. It was like hearing a bunch of B-sides on the stereo instead of the greatest hits.

I noticed the Morgon was unopened. “No one is drinking the Beaujolais Cru yet?” I asked.

“Nope,” the bartender noted. Then he smiled: “Let’s open it.”

Such is the spirit of afternoons at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro.

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain
Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Loading up for our trip to the Lynn Britt Cabin at the base of Snowmass Mountain.

If you are a parent who is planning a ski trip for your family, odds are you’ve wrestled with what to do after the slopes close, especially if your kids are under 10 and if (how should we say this?) sitting still in a restaurant is not their forte.

I was thinking about this conundrum last Wednesday as I approached the Lynn Britt Cabin at sunset, riding shotgun in one of Aspen Snowmass’ snowcats. I had been invited to join eight families for the cabin’s weekly Chuck Wagon Dinner, a family-oriented evening of good food, sing-alongs and playful fun halfway up Snowmass Mountain.

While my four-year-old daughter couldn’t come along with me this go around, I couldn’t help but see the whole event through her eyes.

Stepping out onto the snow, our group was greeted by the sweet smell of a campfire. Above, pastel-pink clouds were making way for the purple darkness of night, and before us, the cozy cabin was lit-up in holiday lights, exuding a warm glow from the inside.

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Arriving at Lynn Britt Cabin via snowcat.

As I watched a few kids make snowballs (only to toss them into the campfire), I thought back to how I spent my evenings on ski trips from my teen years: This sure beats ordering a pizza and a pay-per-view movie, I thought. The ride in the snowcats, the Western cabin, the quiet ski slopes under a rising moon … These kids will probably remember this night for a long time to come.

Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Kids walking into Lynn Britt Cabin for a night of sing-alongs and good food.

As we were seated inside the cozy restaurant, we were introduced to the Harmony Sisters, Susan Anderson and Barbara Cyr. They have been performing for chuck wagon dinners on Snowmass for 16 years, dating back to the Burlingame Cabin days, and each Wednesday they serve as MCs for the Lynn Britt Cabin family dinners.

Roasted Chicken and Pan-Fried Trout, Lynn Britt Cabin Chuck Wagon Dinner Snowcat, Snowmass Mountain

Roasted Chicken with Pan-Fried Trout, Whipped Potatoes, Green Beans

They immediately had kids singing along to a handful of campfire classics as well as a few requests from the parents, like Van Morrison’s “Brown-Eyed Girl,” which a father dedicated to his daughter. A box of musical instruments was set out, and soon the room was filled with the kind of joyful noise that only a band of kiddos can create. Parents beamed and passed around a few bottles of wine while the first and second course were served.

Speaking of the food, it was a delicious yet rustic take on Western classics. After warming up with an apple cider, we were served tomato soup with corn bread muffins, and a family-style salad comprised of local organic greens, candied pecans and dried cranberries. Roasted chicken was complemented by pan-seared trout (which was substituted by mac-and-cheese on the kids’ servings). Then came the decadent, apple-raisin bread pudding which seemed perfect for this cold winter’s night. When no one was looking, I went back for seconds.

After a little storytelling and a chance for the kids to enjoy the outdoor campfire a little more, the team fired up the snowcats for the return trip down the mountain. I asked our snowcat driver, Peter, if it takes a long time to round up the kids at the end of the night.

“No, not at all,” he said. Then he smiled. “It’s the parents we have a hard time wrangling.”

The Lynn Britt Cabin Family Chuck Wagon Dinner is served every Wednesday night through the ski season. $65/adult (excluding alcohol) and $35/child includes the 10-minute snowcat ride and free entertainment. Call 970-923-8715 or 1-800-525-6200 ext. 4715 to learn more information and to make a reservation.


 

New Years Eve fireworks at Aspen Snowmass

For Aspen-Snowmass, 2014 was a year bookended by huge snow storms (such as more than two feet in the last two weeks), with some incredible stashes and a gorgeous summer in between.

You’d think we might have a hard time saying goodbye to a year that was so good to us, but that’s not our style. We’re as optimistic as ever for 2015, and — as if to show it — the whole community is upping its game for New Year’s Eve celebrations. Whether you’re in town already, or looking to make last-minute plans, here are seven area events to enjoy an indelible New Year’s Eve in Aspen and Snowmass.

1. Bottomless Cristal at the Little Nell

You read that right: not bottomless Bud Light, or bottomless margaritas … bottomless Cristal. That’s just how they roll over at the Little Nell, where this year’s Winter Wonderland New Year’s Eve party includes two stages of live music (jazz musician Steve Peer on one, electronica-violinist virtuoso Katerina Visnevska) and all the fine Champagne you could ever want beneath the Aspen Mountain fireworks.

2. Dinner at the Lynn Britt Cabin

Already one of the most memorable vacation experiences you can have at Aspen-Snowmass, the snowcat dinner on New Year’s Eve at Lynn Britt Cabin will be even more magical than usual. Ring in the New Year with extraordinary gourmet cuisine at this cozy restaurant midway up the mountain.

3. Party and View Fireworks at the Limelight Lounge

Consistently one of Aspen’s best apres ski spots, the Limelight Lounge at the Limelight Hotel will be hosting a New Year’s Eve party complete with a DJ, gala buffet and a Veuve Clicquot Champagne toast at midnight. An added bonus: the excellent views of the Aspen Mountain fireworks display.

4. Huey Lewis & the News at Belly Up

Aspen’s acclaimed live music club will be hosting Huey Lewis & the News to its stage on New Year’s Eve. Now in their 36th year together, the rock legends are best known for “I Want a New Drug,” “The Power of Love” and “Workin’ For a Livin’.” Will they play their Back to the Future hit “Back in Time” at some point, given the occasion? We’ll find out.

5. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Wheeler Opera House

Get down to the sounds of New Orleans with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Wheeler Opera House. Tickets include the performance, an open bar and delicious noshes. You’ll be grooving to the band’s infectious rhythms long after the show ends.

6. Multi-Course Tasting Menus Around Town

Aspen’s nationally acclaimed restaurants have plenty of opportunity to flaunt their culinary creativity (see also the Food & Wine Classic in June) but New Year’s Eve is tailor-made for multi-course tasting menus. Some reservations can still be snagged, but they’re going fast.

7. Plenty of Parties Around Town

Aspen’s nightlife cranks it up every night, but particularly on New Year’s Eve. From the Vintage Hollywood Soiree at The Sky Hotel to the swanky to-the-nines party at the St. Regis Aspen, options abound. The Aspen Resort Chamber has a complete roundup.

locally sourced salad greens from Elk Camp
Executive Chef Jim Butchart

Executive Chef Jim Butchart.

Aspen Snowmass has long been committed to operating a four-mountain resort in the greenest way possible.

From generating carbon-negative energy at a nearby coal mine to qualifying for LEED certification in four of our buildings, our resort has always gone the extra mile to demonstrate a commitment to our environment.

That desire carries over to our acclaimed restaurants as well.

Lead by our Executive Chef Jim Butchart and our Environmental Foundation, we’ve followed through on several promises to keep the environmental impact of our restaurants — and the food they serve — to a minimum. Here’s how.

Sourcing Local Foods

Fresh greens from Elk Camp Restaurant, Snowmass, CO

Fresh greens from Elk Camp Restaurant at Snowmass

Fortunately for everyone, the most environmentally friendly practice also translates into the most flavorful food. Sourcing local ingredients — such as produce, poultry, dairy and more — not only helps the local economy and reduce our carbon footprint, but it also delivers the freshest, most flavorful food for our guests.

“We get a good deal of our product from Source Local Foods on the Front Range,” notes Jim Butchart. “And we’re searching every possible avenue to find even more local foods. But the biggest challenge is that very little is growing in our valley when we have the highest demand in winter.”

Because of this, our food and beverage team is helping local growers apply for grants that will allow them to build out infrastructure for supplying local produce in winter. Money from these grants can go toward building high tunnels for year-round growing or even increasing staff.

“We’re not going to be complacent and say ‘oh, it is what it is, we can’t source locally in winter.'” Jim adds. “We’re actively finding ways to get what we’re looking for, which is even fresher ingredients.”

Serving Locally Raised, Grass-Fed Beef

Locally raised beef on the menu at Ajax Tavern, Aspen Mountain.

Locally raised beef on the menu at Ajax Tavern, Aspen Mountain.

Along similar lines, Aspen Snowmass gets all of its beef — for 12 restaurants across all four mountains — from local ranches. Case in point, we’ve recently developed a partnership with Carbondale-based Crystal River Meats. Supporting local ranches who raise grass-fed beef not only reduces the energy needed to raise and transport beef, but it also helps the local economy.

“We want to support the local economy. That has always been our goal,” notes Jim. “One way to do that, is to support local ranchers, such as Crystal River Meats.”

In the case of Crystal River Meats, it’s an operation that has stayed family-run for generations.

“They’re real cowboys,” Jim laughs. “I tell my chefs that when I can’t get a hold of Tai to place the order, its because he’s out there on his horse ranching. It’s the kind of thing we want to support for many reasons.”

Expanding Our Composting Program

In addition to having a comprehensive recycling program, Aspen Snowmass has also enhanced its composting initiative.

“Logistically, it’s not easy to pull off composting across the mountains,” Jim admits. “We have to have special trash bags, we have to haul it down the mountain with a snowcat, and then we have to deposit it in special containers at the bottom. But it is something we’re committed to, and we’re looking to keep expanding it because its important.”

Currently, six restaurants on Snowmass compost in the kitchen, while both restaurants on Buttermilk compost in the front- and back-of-the-house.

“None of these things help the bottom line,” Jim admits. “But at the same time, we don’t want to transfer these operational costs to our guest. We do these things because they’re the right thing to do.”

Bike Snowmass in fall color, Aspen mountain biking

While its true that Maroon Bells has already been dusted with snow — and as a result, everyone is fired up for ski season — there is still a full month left to ride the singletrack and freeride trails at Bike Snowmass. Earlier this summer, we made a little movie on what its like to ride this mountain’s varied terrain (check it out below).

Throughout September, the Elk Camp Gondola and Elk Camp Lift will remain open on weekends through October 5. Come on up and ride through the aspens as they start their annual transition from green to gold, and while you’re at it, grab lunch at the Elk Camp Restaurant, or enjoy any of the free on-mountain activities that go along with your lift ticket.

The Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain will also continue to run on weekends through October 5, giving you access to the Sundeck restaurant, hiking trails, disc golf, the climbing wall and other kid-friendly activities, and best of all: that view.

Head to our website to buy your lift tickets for September.

Bike Snowmass from Aspen Snowmass on Vimeo.

Gondola ride, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado

A few months back we wrote a post on ways you could stretch your dollar in Aspen and Snowmass Village during the winter. Now that we’re in the throws of summer, we thought we’d offer up some similar budget-conscious suggestions with a decidedly summer twist.

Continue reading

The Return of Valhalla Nights

Valhalla Nights at Snowmass

This past Friday, Aspen Snowmass kept the Elk Camp Gondola running until sunset as a mix of locals and vacationers, families and couples, foodies and revelers headed up to Elk Camp for the first of 10 Valhalla Nights this summer.

Rock climbing wall at Valhalla Nights, SnowmassHeld every Friday through the end of August (as well as select Tuesdays), this evening party serves up delicious food, drinks on the Elk Camp patio, live music, and classic summer pastimes from s’mores to hula hooping to mountain biking to badminton. It’s the summer rendition of the popular Ullr Nights, which is held at the same locale in winter.

I came up with my wife and two daughters — ages 4 and 5 months — and I’m convinced it was the mellow vibe that kept the kiddos tantrum-free well-past their bedtime. The event offers up several kid-friendly activities that appeal across a spectrum of ages. So while the older kids tackled the climbing wall (or could enjoy Bike Snowmass’ mountain biking trails), our oldest played in the giant sandbox, explored wildflowers on a nearby nature trail, and danced a jig to the live music.

But most of all, she enjoyed the gondola ride — her first since she was a baby. The views of the forest as the sun set, the promise of a playground at the top … she was downright giddy with anticipation. (And here I was, thinking that s’mores or the Strider bikes would be her favorite part).

roast chicken, golden beets, mac and cheese, Elk Camp RestaurantAs for my wife and I, we are foodies, so the roast chicken with golden beet salad and asparagus, and creamy mac-and-cheese was an immediate dose of comfort.  And it was especially cool to see a few selections of Colorado wine (yes, Colorado makes excellent wine) on the wine list.

Valhalla Nights will be held this upcoming Friday (July 18) from 4pm to 8:30pm. For more information on future dates and other details, check out the official page for Valhalla Nights.