Skiing and snowboarding is what draws most people to Aspen during the winter. With four world-class mountains, modern chairlifts and gondolas, and an endless selection of terrain for all abilities, some guests may feel overwhelmed by planning their ski week.
What do you need to know when planning an Aspen ski vacation? And what's important to know once you arrive? This week our blog team highlights a few Aspen skiing tips with the help of Frias Properties reservations manager Mike Duffy. Mike is an avid skier and has been skiing in Aspen since 2006, so he's our resident expert on the local terrain. He tallies nearly 100 days a year on the slopes.
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 a new skier or snowboarder 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: Most visitors purchase a multi-resort pass like the Ikon Pass or Mountain Collective Pass, which is much more affordable than a window-rate lift ticket. Our guests receive discounts when they reserve lift tickets through our Concierge at least seven days in advance. Always check with us first!
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 Aspen Montain or the free skier buses, which are about 75 feet from the store.
Editor's note: The Concierge can also provide guests with advanced booking discounts on equipment rentals.
Q: What are the best skis for Aspen Snowmass?
A: My favorite brand of ski is Blizzard, and they have many options for different types of skiers. It's best to ask the guys in the shop!
Q: What's a good tip for well-fitting ski boots? Should they feel tight?
A: You should feel your toes touching the front of the boot, and, when you buckle up, the boot 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: If you arrive any time before 11 a.m., you should be able to walk onto the gondola -- unless it is a powder day! If the report says more than six inches, you will need to be there early to get in the line-up.
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: The busses depart every 15 to 20 minutes, so grab a coffee at Ink, Victoria's, or Starbucks, and head over to Rubey Park to wait for the next shuttle.
Q: How many layers am I going to need to keep warm?
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 a second layer under a waterproof shell. I have multiple second layers of varying weights, 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 Aspen Mountain 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: Aspen Mountain offers the most expert terrain, and the Highland Bowl has incredible terrain with snow that stays soft for weeks after a powder day.
Q: What's important to know about Highland 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 snowcat 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: Our local stores usually have past season's gear offered at discounted prices. If you visit in the spring, you can score some great deals. If all else fails, head to Replay Sports, a second-hand store that receives hand-me-downs from many well-equipment (read: sponsored) locals.
Q: Is there any way to cut the lift line?
A: No need to cut lift lines in Aspen! The four resorts really spread out skier traffic. You do not see lift lines unless it is a powder day!
Q: Where's a good place for apres ski?
A: My favorite spots are Ajax Tavern, Chair 9 at The Little Nell, and the world famous Skier's Chalet (invitation only!)
Q: Where should I stay if I want to ski the four mountains? Which condos do you recommend?
A: With Frias Properties, of course! I find it beneficial to be in Aspen where we have the most restaurants, bars, and shops. The other ski areas are easy to access with the free skier shuttles.