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Trip Report: Snowmass - Jan. 2018

Published on 2/7/2018


DAY 1: Waking up to mostly sunny skies on Sunday and having about six inches of fresh snow overnight outside our condo at Snowmass, excitement was in the air. We had great skiing on the upper mountain off the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss lifts. It was a good day to find some powder and at times it seemed like we were skiing through areas where a foot of snow had fallen. Due to Australia’s summer break and the locals coming out for the fresh snowfall, it was the most crowded day we experienced through the week at any one of the four ski resorts.

Tip # 1 - On a ‘bluebird day’ like Sunday, make sure you stop and enjoy the snow-covered mountains. We had great views of Pyramid Peak and the three Maroon Bells.

DAY 2: With tired legs and a desire for easier and more groomed terrain, about eight of our group decided to head to Buttermilk ski area. I enjoyed skiing with some of our members that I had not had the privilege of skiing with before. Again, sunny skies provided great views of Pyramid and Highland Peaks.

Tip # 2 - Try to find time to ski with others in our club. It’s very enjoyable. For faster skiers, one can use a slower pace to work on large, slow carving turns, letting the skis' edges do the work and not rush the turn. Also, one can work on trying to keep the upper body quieter during your turn.

DAY 3: Again, quite a few of us decided to ski a different mountain and take the daily free bus shuttles offered and we headed to Aspen Highlands. We had very good skiing off the Cloud Nine and Loge Peak quads. Highlands is known for over half their terrain being for experts. Some trails looked tempting, but with a somewhat low natural snow year, one could see outcroppings of rock. At the top there was a gate with a narrow opening warning skiers to ‘BEWARE OF UNFORESEEN OBSTACLES’. That was enough to keep me away!

Tip # 3 - Aspen did not get the bountiful snow storms it usually receives to cover all the tiny pines, grasses and twigs on its slopes. After a few days of skiing, I was learning that the best snow on most of the trails was where these tiny obstacles presented themselves. Twigs were not big enough (if you were centered over your skis) to throw me off balance and it was a lot better than skiing where it was skied off or the possibility of skiing where stones had been kicked up by other skiers.

DAY 4: Back for my second day at Snowmass with another overnight snowfall, I decided to take the Ambassador Tour offered at all the areas. From the top of the Village Express lift, Mark took Christine (from the Washington D.C. club) and me to some great skiing off the Elk Camp lift. We worked our way back to the Coney Glade lift where we observed some amazing and talented Olympic hopefuls flipping, twisting and jumping in the half-pipe and off the huge machine-made jumps.

Tip # 4 - I am never disappointed with an ambassador/host tour when I take skiing vacations. They not only know where the skiing is best under most any conditions, but they can point out mountain ranges and furnish history and folklore about the area. (Big Burn was named after a 1915 fire that burned everything in its path on this mountain range. My favorite, the run called Dallas Freeway, named for a ski club from The Big D, Dallas TX, who enjoyed the run so much that they spent most of their day on it. Apparently, every run was named with history behind it. Yet, he didn’t know the history for the run called Naked Lady).

DAY 5: This was the day to complete my pre-trip goal of skiing all four resorts Aspen had to offer, which meant Aspen Mountain (Ajax) was Thursday’s destination. I found a very willing and accomplished skiing companion in Carol Brantley. Being we were the only two to have skied all four areas on this trip, we started by skiing a couple exhilarating runs from top to bottom, with spectacular views of the historic city of Aspen, on a trail that changed its name about six times. As we were skiing towards the loading area to the Silver Queen Gondola, we had a sensation we were going to ski right down Main Street. Since the upper trails all funnel into one narrow chute near the bottom, we spent the rest of our time on the upper areas. Ruthie’s Run was one of our favorites. A nice afternoon find were some trails off the Shadow Mountain Lift.

Tip # 5 - When there are other ski resorts close by, especially with free transportation, take time to visit as many as possible. There are usually surprises, as we found out Aspen Mountain is the only area to have snowmaking from top to bottom, which made for great conditions on a three mile (over 3,000 vertical ft. rise) run.

DAY 6: My third day at Snowmass and last ski day of our trip provided overcast skies with light snow falling. A half dozen of us headed to the Elk Camp area by way of the Elk Camp Gondola. We rose through the fog and had some nice runs with good visibility until we approached the Elk Camp Quad loading area where visibility deteriorated. My last wish was accomplished that day (after most others had enough fun) when that afternoon I headed towards our condo and the Big Burn Lift and the trail called Dallas Freeway (of course I had to ski my namesake run). The first two-thirds of the run was great intermediate skiing, but then it got steep and full of moguls. When I finished I was tired but pleased. I was ready to call it a great week until a local on the lift ride told me how nice the snow was in the Power Line Glades. YUP, I had to try it and it was great. I was exhausted after about half the glades' run. I did end up sneaking out onto Sneaky’s Run. A final farewell on Friday night was a splendid display of fireworks after our pizza party which was just an added bonus to a super week.

Tip # 6 - This is one of my best tips. Use the hot tubs and warm outdoor pool every day (as I did) to soothe those aching backs, thighs and calves. This (like joining non-club members on the lift) is a great way to meet people and find out other skiers' mountain secrets. It was also a great way to learn culture and customs from the many Australian families with which I shared the hot tubs. Enjoy the people you are with which is what life is all about!


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