Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

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Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby ChrisC » Fri Mar 05, 2021 7:38 am

Aspen is not my first choice to go skiing. However, partners who do not ski much were going to join the outing (escape from the couch!) and wanted a walkable town and hiking easily accessible.

We stayed in a condo in Aspen not too far from the gondola. This allowed us to cook some meals and eat breakfast at home, avoid a rental car and utilize the excellent public transportation system. Also, Aspen was coming out of a mid-January code RED Covid Alert which required indoor dining to be suspended - lots of deals to be had if you researched.

We used frequent flier miles (25k roundtrip) to fly directly into the Aspen airport which was only a 10-minute cab ride ($15) to the condo. Super convenient!

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Aspen - February 8th

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Windy! The gondola was closed most of the day - requiring a circuitous route to the summit. Little Nell -> Shadow Mountain -> Ruthie's -> Ajax Express. The skico should not even pretend the Bell Mountain lift is even operational anymore. If it does not operate on a day like today - gondola down - then it will never run.

We primarily stayed on top the entire day since it was too time-consuming to ski to the base. Kind of a warm-up day. Lots of groomers and some easy bumps off Ajax Express, Ruthie's, Gent's Ridge. The snow was quite soft and coverage excellent despite only a reported 42" base. (Last week about 24" fell). Lunch was inside at Bonnie's - one of the few places in North America that is reminiscent of Europe since it is independently operated from the skico and been around forever.


Aspen Highlands - February 9th

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Solo today - so I walked about 5-10 minutes to the Aspen transportation center. There were constant free buses to Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk - as well as many other locations - leaving every 5-10 minutes. Pretty amazing for the US! Also, I liked that Aspen still has free bins for your shoes when you changed into ski boots at any of the mountains.

A storm moved into today with squalls/light snow starting mid-morning. Despite Highlands Bowl being open, I did not want to go up there today. No views, no powder, harsh conditions. Therefore, I primarily skied Temerity, Loge and Cloud Nine. Deep Temerity is definitely some of the steeper bump terrain in Colorado - and was wind-loaded. Conversely, the west-facing Olympic Bowl runs were a bit wind scoured. Some fun groomers in between.

No pics due to weather.


Snowmass - February 10th

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Everyone wanted to ski Snowmass - so we got on one of the buses and it took about 25 minutes or so. I had not skied Snowmass since they built the huge Snowmass Village. Wow! Major investment since my last visit in 2014. Also, the newer Sheer Bliss and High Alpine HSQ really improve access to the expert terrain.

It snowed consistently all day with a total of about 4-6" on top of the 3"+ inches from the previous day. There were a couple of sun breaks that allowed us to get up into The Cirque 2x - Headwall and AMF. Otherwise, we primarily stayed on the High Alpine, Sheer Bliss, Big Burn, Sam's Knob, and Campground. The Big Burn was quite fun with 6"+ on the groomers and in the trees. Did not make it over to Hanging Valley due to visibility.

No pics due to fog and snow.

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Ate outside in Aspen at the White House Tavern with double gas heaters - so warm I had to take off my jacket. Fun watching the groomers up on the mountain dining on a sidewalk/patio. Did after-dinner drinks at the Hotel Jerome - beautiful hotel lobby/bar.

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Aspen - February 11th

Back to Aspen Mountain for the final day. Finally, more typical Colorado - sun, no wind, temps in 20s/30s. And lots of new snow!

Gondola was open. There was a 10 min line in the morning till 1030 am due to limited capacity - i.e. singles got their own cabin. However, this was an easy wait given the 3000+ vertical drop. Skied Bell, Gents Ridge/Jackpot, FIS, Walsh's, The Dumps, Silver Queen, Corkscrew, Roch Run, etc. Very soft bumps and pockets of powder. Did not find any of the shrines, but did not know where to look. Have to note that a lot of local racer kids were just out of control coming down Spar Gulch and Copper Bowl into the intersection - a little ridiculous - but a known bad spot. Those runs are definitely more fun in the AM and mid-day.

Ate lunch outside on the deck of Bonnie's - great soups and strudel!

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Aspen Town - February 12th

Walked around Aspen town and went to the Art Museum before leaving. Quite a few beautiful buildings.

However, the town really exists in its own alternate reality: there must be 50+ art galleries, not a single storefront was vacant from the pandemic, lots of useless designer stores, many people were there just to walk around, celebs galore (Nicki Minaj and posse, Elle McPherson at lunch, Kurt Russell), wine bar tables requiring a $500 minimum, people dressed in space suits on the hill, furs (fake?, real?), etc. But a healthy ski culture seems to exist at the brew pubs, shops, mountains.

I had never stayed in Aspen proper before - once is enough. Previously stayed at Snowmass and down valley.

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Aspen Art Museum
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ChrisC
 
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Mar 06, 2021 8:02 am

ChrisC wrote:We used frequent flier miles (25k roundtrip) to fly directly into the Aspen airport which was only a 10-minute cab ride ($15) to the condo. Super convenient!

A smart move only beaten by the previous year when United offered 17.5K roundtrips to their premier ski destinations -- IIRC, you took advantage of that deal.

For lift tix, did you use Ikon with the Aspen upgrade or the Mountain Collective pass?
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby EMSC » Mon Mar 08, 2021 10:32 am

ChrisC wrote:The skico should not even pretend the Bell Mountain lift is even operational anymore. If it does not operate on a day like today - gondola down - then it will never run.


I concur, but my best guess is that maybe they have not removed it nor stopped listing it so they can use it as a bargaining chip with the NFS at some point to get something new and shiny done. It's a very common occurrence for example for certain places in Canada or etc.. to leave infrastructure up until it's needed as a bargaining chip to get a new terrain pod or etc... by 'removing a lift' at the same time.
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Mar 08, 2021 10:53 am

EMSC wrote:leave infrastructure up until it's needed as a bargaining chip to get a new terrain pod or etc... by 'removing a lift' at the same time.

Interesting, I never thought about that but it makes sense from a game-theory perspective. I wonder if that's the deal with the connector lift at the bottom of Loveland, which hasn't been used in almost 20 years -- or did they remove it and I didn't notice?
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby ChrisC » Mon Mar 08, 2021 12:20 pm

Lake Louise is almost a junkyard of decommissioned chairlifts - with the towers still up - even decades later.

The Canadian Parks Dept sounds incredibly difficult to deal with.....especially getting their new master plan through.
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby ChrisC » Mon Mar 08, 2021 12:33 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
ChrisC wrote:We used frequent flier miles (25k roundtrip) to fly directly into the Aspen airport which was only a 10-minute cab ride ($15) to the condo. Super convenient!

A smart move only beaten by the previous year when United offered 17.5K roundtrips to their premier ski destinations -- IIRC, you took advantage of that deal.

For lift tix, did you use Ikon with the Aspen upgrade or the Mountain Collective pass?



I didn’t do any passes earlier this year - not knowing what Covid would bring.

I was able to get 2 industry discounted Mountain Collective passes around Feb 1st. Will try to use Tahoe days on them. However, since I no longer have a ski house share the several years, I’m a lot less likely to go. (Previously had places near Homewood and Alpine Meadows access road.) I’m done with the 7+ hour day trips :)

American has A LOT of great FF deals round trip - especially with their Saver awards. Montrose/Telluride 16k, Jackson 20k, Spokane 14k, Aspen 20k. Most were available January and March - with some dates in February.
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Re: Aspen/Aspen Highlands/Snowmass, CO: Feb 8-11, 2021

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 08, 2021 5:28 pm

ChrisC wrote:I was able to get 2 industry discounted Mountain Collective passes around Feb 1st.

Those were generally in conjunction with SIA, thus the late January timing, for $199 I think. But I was told no SIA in 2021, thus no cheap MCPs.

NASJA offered MCP for $299 last fall, which was not quite enough for me to bite with the Ikon overlap. Nonetheless we had to pay $300 for three advance purchase Snowbird tickets this week because we used 2 of our Ikon days in January.
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