The Aspen Mountain experience continues to get better and better in the more than 65 years since the first chairlift was installed on the mountain. Today, Aspen Mountain serves up a vertical smorgasbord of skiing and snowboarding options that include double-black and tree runs as well as groomed and also intermediate cruising runs under Ruthie’s and Ajax Express lifts.
“Ajax,” as the locals call it, offers it all.
Aspen Mountain Quick Facts:
- Base Elevation: 7,945 ft./2,422 m
- Summit Elevation: 11,212 ft./3,418 m
- Vertical Rise: 3,267 ft./996 m
- Ski Terrain: 675 acres/273 hectares
- Number of ski trails: 76
- Miles/km of ski trails: 64 miles/103 km
- Longest ski run: 3 miles/4.8 km
- Steepest ski runs: Elevator Shaft section of the Silver Queen run – slope angle of 42 degrees
- Snowmaking: 210 acres/85 hectares
- Lifts: 8, including 1 six-passenger gondola
- Uncrowded slopes: On average, 3 people per acre/ 9 people per hectare
- Restaurants: 3 total: Ajax Tavern, Bonnie’s and Sundeck.
This week, our blog team takes a closer look at skiing Aspen Mountain, with the help of Frias vacation specialist Mike Duffy. Mike moved to Aspen in the winter of 2006-07, and first skied Aspen Mountain that year. He’s been skiing it ever since, and he loves it. This week, our team sat down with the Cape Cod, Mass., native to pick his brain about all things Ajax. Here we go!
Q: Do you remember what your first impression was of Aspen Mountain?
A: “That there was a ton of vertical feet to ski, and that you can ski a lot of runs in a short amount of time. “
Q: Had you taken a gondola before, and what did you think of the Silver Queen Gondola?
A: “At that point, I had taken a gondola before. In college I had spent a lot of time in the Stowe Mountain gondola. I was in awe of how long a ride that the Silver Queen gondola was. It is great for resting your legs after a long top to bottom.”
Q: Why do you prefer Ajax over the other local ski mountains – Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass?
A: “You are able to pump a lot of vertical in a short amount of time. I love the long gondola ride, when you get to the top the view is breathtaking and there is so much terrain to ski. There is great backcountry skiing on Ajax as well, you can even loop back into the resort and use the lift to access another run.”
Q: What type of skis do you use?
A: “I ski a 186 Blizzard Gunsmoke just about every day. When conditions get a little more firm, I sometimes switch to the 186 Blizzard Peacemaker, which is a little narrower than the Gunsmoke. When things are firm it’s fun to be on something narrow, whereas when it gets soft I like a wider ski.
Q: What’s the best advice you can give someone heading up Ajax for the first time?
A: “Make sure you make it to ‘The Dumps,’ which are very unique runs created from silver prospectors mining the mountain in the 19th century.
Q: When is the best time to ski Aspen Mountain?
A: “The best time to ski Aspen Mountain would be when there is powder! Or anytime of the day you can get up there, even with just an hour of free time you can get 4-5 runs in easy!”
Q: So, how is Aspen Mountain on a powder day?
A: “Aspen Mountain is amazing on a powder day. I really can’t imagine another mountain I would rather be on during a powder day.”
Yes, the powder can get deep on Aspen Mountain.
Q: How would you classify yourself as a skier – aggressive, recreational, or something else?
A: “I would classify myself as an aggressive skier. Probably could have been a good racer if I didn’t grow up on a sandbar!”
Q: Do you like to ski tree trails?
A: “I love glades! Aspen has beautiful tree skiing, it’s very unique experience skiing glades with all the white aspen trees surrounding you.”
Q: How about moguls?
A: “Moguls are great, too. I have a friend who was a very good junior mogul skier. It’s amazing to watch someone like that rip through bumps with so much grace.”
Q: What’s your favorite lift on Ajax?
A: I think my favorite chair would have to be the FIS lift, also known as ‘6.’ All of the lifts are known by numbers to the locals.”
Q: It’s the first run on a powder day, and you’re first off the gondola. Where are you headed?
A: “I would be tucking to the Ridge Of Bell. From there, I would ski the Face Of Bell to the 6 lift and try to get a few runs over there, such as Pinball or Bear Paw. Then I would ski a dump run (usually Zaugg) to Niagara or Slalom Hill to the gondola.”
Q: Last run of the day. What are you taking?
A: “On days off, there is nothing better than catching the last gondola, and then taking the high traverse toward Ruthie’s and watching the sunset in front of the Highlands Bowl.”
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on Aspen Mountain that’s NOT skiing?
A: “My favorite thing to do on Aspen Mountain besides skiing is eating a oatmeal pancake with eggs and bacon at Bonnie’s.”
Q: Is there a good place to grab a snack or lunch? What do you recommend?
A: A good place to grab a snack or lunch would be either the Sundeck at the top of the mountain or you can grab a quick bite from the Big Wrap across from gondola plaza or 520 grill on Copper Street and eat in the gondola.”
Q: Do you like to do anything on Aspen Mountain in the summer?
A: “In the summer on Sundays they have live Bluegrass bands at the Sundeck. Great place to grab a drink, check out the view, and listen to some good music.”
Q: Anything we missed?
A: “Make sure to take a little time and find some of the world famous shrines located on Ajax mountain. A couple of my favorites are the Jerry Garcia shrine, Jimi Hendrix shrine, and of course the Red Sox shrine.”
Thanks, Mike! We’ll see you on the slopes! When Mike’s not on the slopes, he’s busy booking picturesque Aspen vacations for Frias Properties guests. Feel free to give him a call at (970) 429-2411 or e-mail him at Mike@FriasProperties.com to talk about how close you can get to the slopes in a Frias vacation rental. Frias offers more than 200 downtown condominiums, townhomes and private homes to choose from!