Everything You Need to Know About Skiing in Aspen

Everything You Need to Know About Skiing in Aspen

glitzy Colorado
town of
needs little introduction. It’s been attracting
well-heeled visitors and snow-sports enthusiasts since the 1950s
and is perhaps equally notorious for being a
party hot spot – Gigi and Bella Hadid, Elton John and
Mariah Carey saw in the New Year here.

But what makes this former mining town a draw for Europeans who
have the French
and Italian Dolomites on their doorstep? Well, the
champagne-light snow for one. Along the list of pros you’ll find
famously quiet pistes and non-existent lift queues. Plus, who
doesn’t need a free Lavazza coffee at the base of the mountain to
pep you up for a day’s skiing? Or a tissue from one of the numerous
“sniffle stations” before you hop on the next chairlift? This
resort is one slick operator, and more affordable than you might

Peak Experience

Aspen resort comprises four mountains that are included in your
ski pass and connected by a free shuttle-bus service. Aspen
mountain (locals call it Ajax) is accessed by the Silver Queen
Gondola at the centre of town and has a good mix of terrain for
those who like to cruise wide blues and others looking for the
thrill of tight-knit glades. For mid-morning break, in-the-know
skiers head to Bonnie’s for its doorstop wedges of apple strudel
and whipped cream.

A five-minute bus ride will get you to Highlands, home to the
mighty Highland Bowl – a decent challenge for experts and
backcountry junkies, if you’re up for the 3,777 metre hike across
the alpine ridge. Afterwards, Refuel with pho noodles or protein
bowls at Merry-Go-Round.

Next up is Buttermilk, a touch further down the road, and the
place to go if you love miles of leisurely groomed pistes or fancy
brushing up on your freestyle skills in the park and pipe.

The biggest mountain is Snowmass, and especially suited to
groups due to its varied terrain and 94 runs. When you’re feeling
peckish, head to Ullrhof for free popcorn (and to make use of the
phone charging stations), or Up4Pizza to grab a slice of pie and
one of their satisfyingly squidgy cookies. Hot foot it to the Wine
Cabin in the afternoon – it’s BYO so be prepared to jostle for your

Mountain etiquette

If you’re a seasoned European skier, you’ll know there are
pretty much no rules when it comes to piste etiquette. All the more
reason to appreciate the well-organised lift queuing systems in
Aspen – don’t barge – and carefully managed, hazard-marked bowls
and glades. Ski patrol define perimeters with boundary rope, but
otherwise you’re safe to ride anywhere. Another thing to note is
lifts close earlier here at around 3.30PM.

Some of the words you might hear frequently are “lifties” (lift
attendants), “trail” (piste), “groomers” (groomed runs) and “cat
track” (a flat connecting run). Even snow plough and parallel
techniques have affectionate nicknames – “pizza” and “French

Après and late-night hangouts

Aspen is suitably geared up for après activity. However, here
it’s all about guacamole-laden nachos and beer rather than vin
chaud and charcuterie. One of the favourite spots is Base Camp Bar
& Grill at the bottom of Snowmass mountain, where you can tuck
into complimentary s’mores from a pop-up truck between 3.30-4.30PM
every day. Alternatively, bag one of the fire-side tables at State

In town, Hops Culture has a choice of over 200 craft beers, but
their Colorado mule with fresh ginger is also particularly good. To
experience a slice of Aspen history, head to Justice Snow’s,
located in a former opera house originally built in 1889. Red Onion
is the closest you’ll come to a traditional pub and is the ideal
spot for post-dinner drinks. Alternatively, Hooch is the local
drinking hole of choice for artisan cocktails and is accessed by a
hidden black door off the street. Don’t miss the “Jalisco
Campfire”, a spicy concoction of Chinese tea-infused tequila, lime
and Thai-chilli agave.

This image is on holiday

Eat local

The threat of an expanding waistline is heightened when faced
with three-course chalet dinners and fondues in European ski
resorts. Fear not, clean-eating and vegan options are readily
available in Aspen incase you’ve overdone it on the nachos.

Start the day right at Spring Café, where breakfast is a
virtuous affair of coconut yoghurt bowls, avocado on gluten-free
toast and almond-milk coffee. Alternatively, try the fluffy oatmeal
pancake stack bathed in maple syrup at Poppycock’s. If it’s a
powder day, grab one of Victoria & Co’s famous muffin tops or
mezcal-cured lox bagels to go, along with the best flat white in

You wouldn’t be in Colorado without an ample choice of steak
restaurants, and Monarch has the feel of a hip gentleman’s club.
Try the bison filet or cowboy rib eye with apple butter steak sauce
and wild mushroom gnocchi. At Jimmy’s the beef is sourced from Kurt
Russell’s ranch – one of Aspen’s most iconic residents. If you’re
not a meat-eater, the truffle fries and crab cakes are a winner.
Its sister restaurant, Jimmy’s Bodega, is also loved for its raw
bar, oysters and ceviche.

White House Tavern is a no-reservations sandwich joint but don’t
let that fool you. White House Tavern is one of the most
notoriously difficult places to get in to, with people queuing out
the door for their French dips and crispy fish in brioche buns,
topped with thousand-island slaw. L’Hostaria is another hot spot
for its homemade pasta and osso bucco. The Korean pork and biscuit
sharing boards at Meat & Cheese are a welcome change to the
usual Savoie fare.

Gucci, Prada and the boutiques in between

Shopping is an elite past time in Aspen, but if your budget
doesn’t stretch to Dior, Bruno Cucinelli or Loro Piana, there are
some lovely little boutiques to browse through in between. American
high-street stalwarts J Crew, Free People and Club Monaco are more
affordable options – and cheaper in dollars. Pitkin County Dry
Goods is a mecca for jewellery, and you can pick up beautiful
delicate pieces from Chan Luu, Wwake and Jennie Kwon. Snowboarders
will find all the latest gear in D&E and Rocky Mountain
Chocolate Factory is filled with sweet treats and candy-covered
caramel apples that are great for gifts.

Best places to stay on a (relative) budget

Let’s be frank, Aspen isn’t cheap, but if you know where to look
there are some great hotels and condos that provide fantastic
service without the squeeze on your wallet.

Hotel Durant has 19 rooms – a standard costs around £200 a
night, including breakfast. After a long day’s skiing you can enjoy
relaxing in the hot tub or treat yourself to their complimentary
après wine and cheese.

Mountain Chalet couldn’t be better positioned right by the
Silver Queen Gondola, and offers cosy rooms for around £175 a night
with breakfast. They’ll pick you up and drop you off at the airport
too for a small tip.

If you prefer your own space, The Gant has condos with fully
equipped kitchens for around £500 a night based on four people
sharing. Head to the nearby Citi Market using their free shuttle
service and pick up your own groceries to save some cash.

The Lowdown

British Airways flies to Aspen Pitkin Country airport from
Heathrow – going via Dallas, Denver or Chicago is your best bet.
Then it’s just a 10-minute taxi ride into town, and most hotels
provide free collection and drop-off services.