Aspen is America’s best-known resort, with great skiing on four snow-sure but unconnected mountains. The scenery is fabulous, so is the charming town, and it’s easy to see why movie stars and tycoons gravitate here.
Now the bad news…
Aspen’s four ski mountains are effectively separate resorts, served by excellent free ski buses. In Aspen itself the skiing is very convenient if you lodge near the main lifts – or it’s a trudge if you don’t. As you walk along the heated pavements (or sidewalks), you can look up and admire the snowy pistes cut through the forest and watch happy skiers yeehaa-ing their way down the home runs to the base lodge of Ajax Peak. Ajax is the main mountain with runs up to 3,420m at Sundeck. From here you have long cruising blue runs and short steep blacks, including a vicious mogul field. Near the bottom of the mountains there are plenty of easy blue trails and winding mountain paths to get you down in comfort and style.
Fifteen minutes out of town, Aspen Highlands is one giant mountain; 3,560m high with skiing back to the base lodge at 2,450m, and runs mainly for adventurous intermediates and advanced. Try the hike up to sensational highlands bowl. Across the road is buttermilk, an easy-peasy little ski station with lots of great beginner and intermediate runs, an ideal place to learn and improve – and great for all on a powder day.
By far the biggest area is the skiing, ski-out station of Snowmass, a 20 minute drive from Aspen. This is an intermediate’s paradise with the entire Big Burn Mountain devoted to long, wide cruising trails. Lots of recent improvements include a smart new village.
Aspen itself is the most interesting tourist centre to stay. Its old Victorian sandstone buildings have been wonderfully preserved and renovated and the only high-rise in sight is the mountains. There are lots of designer outlets, some great restaurants (for all pockets), lots of night life and great hotels, not least the hip slopeside Sky Hotel and the historic Jerome.