The Edge

Westword's guide to the 1997-98 ski and snowboard season

The Aspen resident has been skiing Snowmass for four years, although as a professional, he skis many of his 220 days a year in New Zealand and Argentina, as well as Europe and Alaska. But the backcountry at Snowmass remains one of his favorites. "This has the best lift access to 12,000 feet," he says. "Open gates to access thousands of acres of incredible backcountry. It's the best in the state for sure, maybe in the country."

Davenport is originally from Massachusetts, but he went to the University of Colorado in Boulder, and when he graduated, the father of one of his roommates offered him a job running the race department at Snowmass. "This girl's dad was the mountain manager there," Davenport says. "I've been ski racing my whole life, which is why I went to Boulder--to ski race for the college. In retrospect, I'm so glad this guy brought me here, because not only is it a real town, but it's a real place with a sense of community. And the Aspen Ski Company is very proactive, which is not something you can say about every ski area. And I just like Snowmass mountain."

There are two cruisers there that Davenport really enjoys. "On the Big Burn, there's Sneaky's, a really long, moderate, very-much-intermediate cruiser that, when it's groomed to perfection, is really fun for carving," he says. "It's got probably the best view of any run at Snowmass; it falls away about 2,000 feet to this creek, and the view of these mountains right there is beautiful." His other top pick for cruising is right beneath Sam's Knob Lift, "because it's a black diamond, but they groom it, and it has a consistently steep slope, the same pitch the whole way down, like twelve or fifteen hundred feet. And it has a high-speed quad going right next to it, so you can do eight or ten runs on it in an hour."

And while Davenport's not a huge bump skier, there are two of those that he favors as well: "On a powder day, probably Reidar's, on High Alpine," he says. "And in the spring, when the bumps are softer and slushy, I like skiing them on Wildcat." He adds that powder's always stashed in Hanging Valley Glades, to skier's left of Hanging Valley Wall. "There's always lots of untracked lines in there," he says. "It's like a microclimate that seems to get more snow than other places on the mountain, and there's always lots of hidden pockets of deep snow." Hanging Valley Wall is also home to one of Davenport's favorite in-bounds extreme experiences. "On the far skier's right, there's a combination of two runs called Adios Ridge to Rayburns," he says. "It's out there. Multi-terrain, beautiful views, steep and good powder. It's a good spot for 'boarders, too."

Davenport thinks another place skiers should check for "good cruising corn" is Powderhorn, off to the side of the Campground lift. "That's an out-of-the-way one," he explains. "It's one of the least-used runs on the mountain. The lift is like eighteen minutes, but it's totally worth it, because the run is really, really long, with tons of different terrain, natural half-pipe things. It's got to be 2,400 vertical. It's sort of an adventure, one of those ones you have to stop ten times because it's so long." He adds that, for 'boarders, the double-black Powderhorn also has a lot of hits.

Gowdys is another double black Davenport likes, mainly because of the cornice on top and, although it's short, "it's pretty steep, maybe 48 degrees all the way down," he says. "It's a good test-your-limits run that's usually in good condition."

After he's done testing his limits, Davenport, who's a vegetarian, likes to feed his hunger at Cache Cache (205 S. Mill). "That's one where so many locals go, you see the same people there, and the bar menu is half the price of the regular menu," he says. "We're talking exquisite bistro food for really cheap." And although he calls both Farfalla Trattoria (405 E. Main St.) and Mezzaluna (600 E. Cooper Ave.) "a little bit pricey," he still thinks the cost is normal for Aspen and says both have great "L.A.-style" Italian food. For cheaper eats, Davenport recommends GoodFellas (100 Elbert Lane in Snowmass Village) for pizza, and in Aspen, Su Casa (315 E. Hyman Ave.) and La Cocina (308 E. Hopkins) for Mexican food.

Before dinner, though, one of the best happy hours in the Aspen area, according to Davenport, is at La Pinata (65 Daly Ln. in Snowmass Village). "The food's lousy at La Pinata and at The Mountain Dragon (67 Elbert Ln.), too," he cautions. "But they're very popular apres-ski. I'm predicting, though, that The Cirque Cafe, which is new this winter, will be the big hotspot this year."

After dinner, Davenport says, the Double Diamond (450 S. Galena) is "the premier livemusic club," and if he wants a more intimate setting, he sits down for a drink and live tunes at Howling Wolf (316 E. Hopkins Ave.). Another place he likes, early or late, is Pacifica (307 S. Mill), which he calls "a very trendy, super-upscale fish house with a killer raw bar." He adds, "It's the coolest setting, and sometimes I just love to sit at the bar and have a martini."

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