Working in the ski industry we have a lot of chats with people who describe some of the lesser-known resorts as hidden gems or national treasures. Hidden gems is pretty obvious, but what is a national treasure? Stephen Fry? The Beatles? The Crown Jewels? Obviously we looked to Google to translate for us:
Aspen is one of the all time great ski destinations. It’ss a vibrant American town with boutiques, fine dining and trendy bars intermixed with ski shops, well priced restaurants and pubs. Aspen Mountain has superb intermediate and advanced terrain which runs into the heart of the town. Snowmass resort sits 15 minutes shuttle away at the other end of the four mountains, offering large and varied terrain with a ski-in, ski-out village popular with families.
But what makes it a national treasure? Let’s find out.
The history of Aspen
Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and later named “Aspen” because of the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the city boomed during the 1880s.
Around 1936, another ore was discovered – snow. Three investors sought to establish a ski area above Aspen. Unfortunately World War II halted progress on the ski area, but after the war, Friedl Pfeifer, a member of the 10th Mountain Division, returned to Aspen and began making plans for Aspen’s first chair lift. In 1945, Chicago industrialist, Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth came to Aspen and joined forces with Pfeifer in the development of the Aspen ski area. In 1946 the Aspen Skiing Corporation was founded and in 1950 Aspen hosted the FIS World Championships, which confirmed Aspen’s status as an international resort. The rest is history.
The rich history dating back to the Silver Miners and the Victorian architectural style is uniquely American and something the city fathers have gone to great lengths to preserve.
What makes Aspen unique?
The true essence of the resort is embodied in the people that live here. They want visitors to truly experience the lifestyle and natural beauty that they get experience every day. You will rarely find anyone here stand-offish and most visitors normally comment on how approachable the resort is with its American sense of hospitality.
In recent years, property prices in Aspen itself have skyrocketed due to the amount of celebrities that have bought property in the town for their ski holidays and it’s now known as the most expensive place to buy property in the whole of the US. It’s known as a bit of a playground for the rich and famous, as the traditional aspect of the town appeals to them. However, don’t think that has had an effect on the town – on the contrary, the town has managed to keep its traditional image and architecture.
What’s the oldest tradition in resort?
In 1951, Aspen local Jack DePagter decided to make the most of the weeks following Christmas when town was otherwise quiet. Embracing Aspen’s Nordic lifestyle, DePagter settled on a winter carnival reminiscent of those of the European Alps and Wintersköl was born. The four-day “toast to winter” features a lineup of uniquely Nordic events, including on-mountain activities, a parade, Soupskol competition, canine fashion show, WinterFest, fireworks, live music and more.
What’s the skiing like?
Fantastic. The four areas provide everything you could ever want from a ski area.
Buttermilk and Snowmass mountains are beginners’ and families’ heaven – both are forgiving and uncrowded with wide open gentle slopes which make learning to ski fun for everyone.
Discover the long cruising runs on Aspen Highlands, starting from the mid-mountain ‘Merry Go Round’ restaurant. Ajax has a huge range of runs whilst Snowmass has enough trails to exhaust the piste skier.
There are challenges in abundance. Snowmass offers great tree skiing and oodles of off-piste powder, plus some wickedly steep chutes including The Hanging Valley Glades and the Cirque the longest lift served vertical rise in the USA. Ajax boasts a minefield of moguls and offers the most challenging skiing of all.
Best for a powder day
Aspen Highlands, for sure. The advance steeper runs of Steeplechase and Highland Bowl are amazing on a powder day.