Tag Archives: Aspen/Snowmass

Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

This summer, as part of our $29 Perfect Summer gondola ticket package, we’re offering a guided tour of the Maroon Bells. They are said to be “the most photographed mountains in America.” How they can quantify that statistic, we’re not sure. All we know is, they’re gorgeous, and being able to visit them in our own backyard is a pretty huge privilege.

Whether you are joining us for this tour, or looking to spend a day of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure underneath their shadow, we have rounded up a complete guide to enjoying the area below.

Why Go

Maroon Creek Road Maroon Bells view, Aspen, CO

That first glimpse of the Bells. ©Kevin Day

For the thrill of seeing the Maroon Bells. There is an exact moment when the twin peaks come into view along Maroon Creek Road, and it can only be described as exhilarating. Up ahead, it only gets better: the postcard view and reflection from Maroon Lake is so perfect, it almost seems deliberately composed. And if you burn some calories and reach Crater Lake, 1.5 miles into the wilderness, you’ll get a whole different view of the Bells from right underneath their imposing eastern face.

The Valley’s Mountains

  • Pinnacles to the north of Maroon Lake. ©Kevin Day

    Pinnacles to the north of Maroon Lake. ©Kevin Day

    Maroon Peak (14,156 feet) & North Maroon Peak (14,014 feet) – Together, these two peaks comprise the Maroon Bells. Separated by a treacherous saddle, the snow-striated peaks are comprised of mudstone, a loose, sedimentary rock that gives them their distinctive color and a nasty reputation among mountain climbers. From Maroon Lake, North Maroon Peak appears taller, but it is an optical illusion since it is merely closer.

  • The Sleeping Sexton (13,460 feet) – The disorganized jumble of striped cliffs and towers that rest to the north of the Bells is known collectively as The Sleeping Sexton. Topping out above 13,000 feet, if this mountain stood alone, it would warrant a lot more attention.
  • Pyramid Peak (14,018 feet) – Visible from Buttermilk, many first-time visitors confuse Pyramid Peak for the Maroon Bells. It’s snow-striped sides and sheer, angular features certainly bare a resemblance. From Maroon Lake, much of Pyramid Peak is obscured by the sheer rise of its northern ridges.

What Else You’ll See

Paintbrush Maroon Bells, wildflowers, Aspen, CO

Paintbrush near the inlet to Maroon Lake, with Maroon Bells in the distance. ©Kevin Day

  • Wildflowers – The Elk Mountains are home to a great diversity of wildflowers. The combination of rich soil and heavy winter snowpack contribute to a profusion of color. In the aspen groves, look for Colorado’s state flower, the blue columbine, while along water-courses you will likely see bluebells, parry primrose and shooting stars. Alpine meadows above treeline offer a glimpse into some of the heartiest plants on earth, such as alpine sunflower, alpine forget-me-not and sky pilot.
  • Wildlife – On Maroon Lake, there is a decent chance you will see beaver, particularly around the inlet. In the forests and meadows, mule deer and elk are frequent visitors, while on the rocky alpine slopes above, look for marmots, pika, mountain goats, and Colorado’s state animal, bighorn sheep.

Hiking Trails

  • The rushing waters of Maroon Creek en route to Crater Lake. ©Kevin Day

    The rushing waters of Maroon Creek en route to Crater Lake. ©Kevin Day

    Maroon Lake to Crater Lake (easy) – From where the shuttle drops you off (Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead), it is an easy, flat stroll through meadows along the northern edge of Maroon Lake. Beyond, you enter a grove of aspens and climb almost two miles to the lake, which sits at the foot of the Maroon Bells.

  • East Maroon Creek (fairly strenuous and long) – For a little bit of solitude, visit the East Maroon Trailhead and travel into the beautiful depths of the wilderness area. Passing beneath the eastern face of Pyramid Peak, the trail eventually climbs to the top of Conundrum Pass some 8.5 miles in.
  • Buckskin Pass (strenuous, short but steep) – For a glimpse over the mountaintops of the Elk Mountains, few views are better than the one from atop Buckskin Pass. Located on a rolling-green notch north of the Sleeping Sexton, the pass offers a vista that takes in Pyramid Peak, an unusual view of North Maroon Peak, and distant views of Snowmass Mountain and Snowmass Lake.

(Note: The Maroon Bells are two of the most challenging and dangerous mountains to climb in Colorado. This post is geared to those who want to take it down a notch, and does not include route info for making an ascent on the summit.

Camping

Three small, intimate and perfectly gorgeous campgrounds can be found along Maroon Creek Road — Silver Bell, Silver Bar and Silver Queen. Operated by the U.S. National Forest Service, you can make reservations online at www.recreation.gov. One advantage to camping in the valley is that your vehicle is free of usage restrictions on Maroon Creek Road.

Driving There On Your Own

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, Maroon Creek Road has several restrictions on vehicular traffic, including:

  • Personal Vehicles – Access in summer is restricted to 7am–9am, with an entrance fee of $10. From 9am to 5pm, you must take the shuttle bus from Aspen Highlands. Some exceptions apply. Visit the White River National Forest website for more.
  • Shuttles – Regular shuttles travel up Maroon Creek Road to Maroon Lake. Pickup occurs every 20 minutes at the Aspen Highlands Village parking lot. Bus passes can be purchased for $6 at Four-Mountain Sports. Shuttles operate every day from mid-June to Labor Day, and on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the fall. The road is closed in mid-November.
Valhalla Nights
Enjoying the climbing wall at Snowmass.

Enjoying the climbing wall at Snowmass.

Summer is just around the corner, and we’re eagerly getting ready to reopen the Snowmass Mountain and Aspen Mountain to mountain bikers, hikers, nature lovers, and of course, families.

So what do families have to look forward to this summer? Continue reading

Ski school for kids at Aspen Snowmass

The practical part of preparing your child for ski school — having proper equipment and how to layer, for example — is only one aspect of it. Equally important (if not more so) is emotional preparedness, which will help the child get the most out of his or her lesson, plus provide the foundation for a long-term interest in skiing or snowboarding.

At Aspen/Snowmass, this less-tangible side of learning to ski or snowboard is at the heart of every lesson. Pros use the CAT model (which has cognitive, affective, and physical components) to help their students achieve. And the “affective” piece of the equation — the emotional aspect — “almost supersedes all other things,” says Alex Kendrick, Buttermilk Children’s Coordinator for the ski schools.
Children enjoying Aspen-Snowmass
“If a child is a very strong skier but they’re afraid or don’t feel included, it doesn’t matter what they physically can do,” says Kendrick. “We want to make sure they’re comfortable before anything else. We’re teaching people here — I call them little humans — and everyone comes to us with different needs and different experiences.”

Here are some questions to consider when enrolling your children in ski school, along with Kendrick’s tips to help them have a positive experience that can translate into a long-term affinity for the sport:

How can I, as a parent, help prepare my child emotionally for a ski or snowboard lesson?

Ask your child what they’d like to do, what their goals are (the way you ask the questions will depend on the child’s age). Ask what they’re excited about and what they’re concerned about. Understanding what the child’s expectations are can help mold the parents’ expectations.

Especially with kids who are tentative and may not want to go, it’s important to have this conversation. Tell them that this is an opportunity to learn a lot, to make new friends, or to have an instructor who can show them all the cool stuff on the mountain. Sometimes, it’s just about taking the time to introduce them to their instructor and talk to them about what they’re going to be doing that day, and who they’re going to be with.

What about at the end of the day, especially the first day? What should I talk to my child about to make sure the remainder of the lesson goes well?

As a parent, we want to ask our kids, “What did you learn today?” But typically a child will not know how to answer that; they’ll say, “Nothing.”

A good set of questions starts with, “Did you have fun?” To find out what they learned, you have to be more creative. Ask them what the best part of the day was, and what would they have changed if they could. If they say they wished they could go faster, maybe they need a higher-level lesson. But if they say they were scared or had trouble getting down the slope, maybe it’s worth talking to the instructor about whether they’re in too advanced of a class.

What can I do at the end of the lesson to best prepare us for skiing or snowboarding together as a family?

We strongly recommend that the parents talk to the children’s instructor at the end of the lesson. Ask what runs are appropriate for the family to ski together. Ask what skills they’ve worked on throughout the lesson. Then, allow your child to shine and to show off the skills he or she learned in ski school. Let them lead you down the run.

We also talk a lot about safety, so let the child tell the parents about the safety tips he or she learned as well.

Some additional tips for getting ready:

  • If you have a child who is tentative or has never experienced snowsports before, there are plenty of online opportunities to get them prepared visually before leaving home. Look at the website of the resort you’re going to; show them trail maps and photos. If they can start to see some of things they’re going to experience online, then when they arrive it won’t all be so brand-new looking.
  • Talk to your kids about what the experience is going to be like. In order to set them up for success, sometimes kids need to know in advance what it will be like to get that emotional reinforcement.
  • If possible, come out to the mountain the day before the lesson starts. This gives children the opportunity to see where they’re going to be, to see the instructors dressed in red uniforms, and to get a feel for what they’re going to be doing. For a child, information is power; it can assuage a lot of fears.
Lynn Britt Cabin, Aspen/Snowmass
Lynn Britt Cabin, Snowmass Mtn

© Paul Morrison/Aspen-Snowmass

On a recent powder day, my wife and I, along with some friends, enjoyed a late lunch at Lynn Britt Cabin. We’d spent the first four-and-a-half hours of our day covering Snowmass from top to bottom — blasting down runs in the Elk Camp, Two Creeks, Alpine Springs, Big Burn and Sam’s Knob sections of the mountain.

By 1:30pm, we were famished, and yet — to be totally honest with you —it took some convincing for me to stop and have lunch at Lynn Britt Cabin. It had nothing to do with the restaurant … and everything to do with just “sitting down” for lunch.

You see, ever since I learned to ski, lunch has always been a grab-and-go affair. Load up, refresh, resume. If its warm and ready now, I’m there. Finger foods? Even better. Until this day, that was just how it was done for me.

But 90 minutes after we ducked into the small cabin set against a small grove of aspens, I was rethinking what “on-mountain dining” could be. Heck: I was rethinking what defined a great day on the mountain.

Here are a few quick reasons to love this gem of a restaurant.

    1. The Colorado Twist to the Cuisine – This being Colorado, it only makes sense that Chef de Cuisine Robert C. McConnell would emphasize game and locally sourced ingredients on his menu. As it snowed outside, we all opted for the three-course prix fixe menu. My main course was a toss-up between two dishes: Butternut Squash Agnolotti or the Tuesday special, Bison Meatloaf. At the last second, I changed my mind, going for the Elk Stroganoff. No regrets: it was divine.
Cuisine at Lynn Britt Cabin

©Dan Bayer / Aspen/Snowmass

  1. The Cozy, Ranch Cookhouse Feel – Intimate only begins to describe the interior of Lynn Britt Cabin. Vaulted wood ceilings and rustic log-backed chairs are nicely contrasted with white-linen tablecloths and elegant place settings. Western memorabilia and art lines the walls, and picture windows bring the beauty of Snowmass Mountain indoors. The cozy setting was enough to make me linger: “Sure, we’ll stay for a hot chocolate.”
  2. The Backstory – Lynn Britt Cabin is inspired by the homesteaders’ cabins that dotted Snowmass Mountain in the early 1900s (one of these homes — Burlingame Cabin — is now another popular restaurant on the mountain). It is named after a popular Snowmass ski instructor who lost his battle with cancer in the 1980s.
  3. The Encore: Snowcat Dinners – We breezed out of Lynn Britt Cabin and squeezed in a few more runs before the lifts closed. However, you can enjoy this charming little spot afterhours with a snowcat-chartered dinner, every Tuesday and Thursday night in winter. Live entertainment, a special four-course meal, undisturbed views of the stars, and the unique thrill of a snowcat ride up the mountain make it a stand-out highlight for many skiers’ vacations.
Torin Yater-Wallace X Games

On February 6, competition kicks off for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and joining the U.S. Olympic Team will be four local residents of Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley. To celebrate their massive achievement — and to wish them well in going for gold — Aspen/Snowmass will be holding a ceremony in their honor (details below). Get to know these extraordinary athletes with our quick rundown. Continue reading

Ice skating at SK8 rink in Aspen, CO

Known for their cosmopolitan vibe in the laid-back setting of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the towns of Aspen and Snowmass Village have long been synonymous with blending the best of both worlds.

Because of this, it is also easy to stretch your dollar and find plenty of fun, engaging and enriching things to do on a budget. Here are a handful of ideas to help you plan your winter vacation for less. Continue reading

X Games Aspen 2013 - January 25, 2013

ESPN and Aspen Skiing Company have reached a milestone agreement in principle that will keep the X Games in Aspen/Snowmass, Colo. through 2019. After a comprehensive bidding process, ESPN chose to continue its long-term relationship with Aspen Skiing Company, already the longest-tenured X Games host city.  Now in its 13th year hosting the premiere winter action sports event, by the end of the extension pen will have been home to the event for nearly two decades.

“For the last 13 years, Aspen/Snowmass has been a fantastic location for the Winter X Games and we’re excited about extending our stay in Aspen/Snowmass and continuing our great relationship with Aspen Skiing Company,” said Scott Guglielmino, senior vice president, programming and X Games. “While the level of interest from other locations was excellent, the opportunity to continue our collaboration with Aspen Skiing Company proved the most promising for long-term growth and development of the event.”

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“It’s amazing how X Games has seemingly become part of Aspen/Snowmass’s identity over the years,” says John Rigney, vice president, sales & events, Aspen Skiing Company. “There’s a rich cultural history here and we’re fortunate to host many world-class events, but I can’t think of a single event that resonates so well with kids and young adults as X Games does – and that’s a win for our resort, and more importantly the sports we love. Our community is proud to collaborate with ESPN and we look forward to five more great years together.”

ESPN’s X Games Aspen 2014 will celebrate its 13th year in Aspen from January 23-26, 2014, with live coverage on ESPN and ABC. The premier winter lifestyle event will again showcase the talents of more than 200 athletes from across the globe competing for medals and prize money in the sports of Snowboard, Ski and Snowmobile. Snowboarder X and Snowmobile Long Jump will return to the X Games Aspen list of disciplines in 2014 after a brief hiatus.

X Games Aspen 2013 - January 26, 2013

In addition to the sporting competition, X Games celebrates the intersection of sports and music that exists in the culture of the X Games.  In 2014, X Games Music Presents will return to downtown Aspen’s Wagner Park Jan. 25 and 26 with four globally recognized musical guests as part of the X Games Aspen 2014 event. International dance music superstar Tiësto anchors the event on Sunday, which also includes a set by Axwell, while Phoenix, and Matt & Kim take center stage on Saturday.

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The concept of the X Games winter event originally rotated on a two-year basis, beginning with the inaugural event held in Big Bear Lake, Calif. in 1997 followed by sequential stops in Crested Butte, Colo. (1998-1999) and Mount Snow, Vt. (2000-2001) before calling Aspen home in 2002. The new agreement with Aspen Skiing Company follows on previous extension agreements made in 2004, 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2013By the end of the five-year deal, the X Games will have been in Aspen/Snowmass for 18 consecutive years (2002-2019).

The announcement means Aspen / Snowmass joins Austin as the two host locations of X Games.

In July 2013, ESPN announced that the X Games summer home would move to the Texas capitol after 11 years in Los Angeles.  X Games Austin will be held June 5-8, 2014 at the new 1,500-acre Circuit of The Americas sports and entertainment complex in southeast Austin, as well as in downtown Austin. More information at www.xgamesaustin.com.

Skiing a groomer at Aspen/Snowmass

Scratching your head with an empty suitcase in front of you? Trying to compile a checklist of things to take care of before you hit the slopes? No worries.

Whether your new to the sports of skiing and snowboarding or just need a refresher before you arrive, this essential guide will prep you for your day on the mountain. Continue reading

kids enjoying Aspen/Snowmass

Unlike gymnastics, basketball or other after-school sports, skiing is an all-day commitment for your child. Skiing also requires more equipment than most sports. Luckily, the ski/snowboard instructors at Aspen-Snowmass provide a unique blend of athletic coach, mentor and caregiver. Their world-class expertise and guidance will help your child attain his or her individual goals. Continue reading