Hitting the slopes in Aspen is what most folks are here for in the winter. With four mountains, a plethora of gondolas and lifts, and an endless selection of ski runs, skiing in Aspen can sometimes seem overwhelming because there's so much from which to choose. What do you need to know when planning an Aspen ski vacation? And what's important to know once you make it to town? This week our blog team highlights a few Aspen skiing tips with the help of Frias Properties reservations manager Mike Duffy. Mike's an avid skier and has been skiing in Aspen since 2006, so he's our resident expert on the local terrain. He spends about 100 days a year on the hill. Let's sit down with Mike and get the scoop:
Q: Where should beginners ski? A: "The terrain at Buttermilk or Snowmass is ideal for beginners." Q: How many lessons should you take before going it alone? A: "Interesting question, I would say until the beginner feels comfortable riding the lift on their own and navigating the mountain on their own." Q: What's a pro tip for securing a cheap lift ticket? A: "Very difficult to do in Aspen. The Aspen Skiing Co. gives a discount for booking in advance and if you know a local with a season's pass they receive lift ticket discount coupons." Q: Where's a good place to rent ski gear? A: "Hamilton Sports is a great ski shop. They also let you leave your rental skis and boots overnight (boots on the dryer). Most people boot up in the shop (leave their shoes there) and head across the street to Ajax or the free skier buses, which are about 75 feet from the store." Q: What are some good brands of skis? A: "My favorite brand of ski is Blizzard." Q: What's a good tip for proper size of ski boot? Should it be tight? A: "You should feel your toes touching the front of the boot and when you buckle it up it will pull your toes off the front. That is a proper fit." Q: What do you recommend for poles? A: "When you flip a pole over and grab under the basket your elbow should make a 90-degree angle."
Q: What's a good time of day to head to the gondola? When is it least crowded? A: "Any time before 11 a.m. you should be able to walk onto the gondola. Unless, it is a powder day. You will need to be there early to get in the lineup." Q: What's the easiest way to get on Aspen Mountain? The gondola or Lift 1A? A: "That would depend on where you are staying in town. If you are in the neighborhood close to 1A, I would take advantage of that lift. There is never a line, and it is enjoyable be outside on a nice day. That being said, if it is a stormy cold day the gondola would be a better option. Also if you are staying closer to the gondola I would just use that lift. Sometimes when there is long line at the gondola, I will walk over to 1A." Q: What's a pro tip for riding the local free bus to Highlands, Buttermilk or Snowmass? A: "They depart every 15-20 minutes per hour. So grab a coffee at Ink, Victoria's, or Starbucks and head over to the bus depot for the next shuttle." Q: How many layers am I going to need to keep warm at the top? A: "That would depend on the weather for that day and how your body deals with the cold. I typically have a compression base layer, and then have a second layer on. I have multiple second layers, based on the temperature. Light layers for warm days and heavy layers for cold days. I also use a buff around my neck to shield my face on cold days." Q: What's the best way to avoid beginners? A: "Most beginners ski at Buttermilk or Snowmass. If you want to avoid those skier types than head to Ajax or Highlands."
Q: Where's the best corduroy? A: "Snowmass has great groomers and offers a 'Noon Groom.' They will open one run at noon that has fresh corduroy." Q: What's the best expert terrain? A: "Ajax offers the most expert terrain, that and the Highlands Bowl will have expert runs." Q: What's important to know about Highlands Bowl? A: "The hike is not for the faint of heart. Especially for those who come from sea level. If you are not in decent shape you might want to pass on it. They do offer a cat service which will bring you up the first quarter of the hike. Sometimes that can keep your legs fresh for the last three quarters." Q: Where's a cheap place to get gear? A: "Tough question. Usually at the end of the season the stores will have a sale to make room for the new merchandise for next season. Other than hitting a sale at the right moment sometimes you can do well online with sites like steepandcheap.com." Q: Is there any way to cut the lift line? A: "No need to cut lift lines in Aspen. The four resorts really spread skier traffic out. You typically do not see lift lines, unless it is a powder day!" Q: Where's a good place for aprA"s-ski? A: "My favorite spots are Ajax Tavern, 39 degrees lounge at the Sky Hotel, Chair 9, and the world famous Skier Chalet." Q: Where should I stay if I want to ski the four mountains? What condos do you recommend? A: "With Frias Properties of course! I find it beneficial to be in Aspen where a majority of the restaurants, bars, and shops. Especially with the free skier shuttles to the other resorts departing from downtown Aspen."