The Edge

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

When she's really looking to do that, she just heads over to Bell Mountain. "The speed bumps and more shallow bumps that aren't real steep--you can just haul on them," she says. "Then you start skiing down the Face of Bell and keep cutting over and cutting over, so you're really skiing down the shoulder of Bell, or they call it the clavicle--isn't that what's between the face and shoulder? Those bumps will just burn your legs like crazy."

To go the bumpy route, Simpson heads to either Bell or, on a powder day, Walsh's, which is "even steeper than Bell, and it can get bumped out. On a powder day it's awesome," she says. "But all of Bell is bumps." She also names the blue Dipsy Doodle and, directly under the lift, Dipsy Wall, as other good bumpers, "but be aware that they're double diamonds when it's groomed," she cautions. "Go straight down that, and as it comes out, take a right and go straight back down to the chair. It's awesome."

When she wants to go on a ski cruise, "if it's not crowded, Spar Gulch, which is where they do the 24 Hours of Aspen, is really fun," she says. "And in the morning, before people get on it and it turns icy, Ruthie's Run is a really fun cruiser. That's where the World Cup Downhill is done." To ski the trees, she hooks up with Gentleman's Ridge, and she divulges that there are also "secret stashes" at Pandora's Box, the local nickname for the run to skier's right of Walsh's. She adds that Walsh's, too, doesn't get much traffic, nor do Hyrups and Kristi, because "a lot of people don't ski those unless there's really good conditions, and you have to hike out to them."

One more good place for some alone time is off the so-called "couch chair," what locals call Chair 4 (also known as Little Nell Lift) because it's so slow. "If you're tired at the end of the day and want a long lift to rest on, this is it," Simpson says. "There are good cruisers under and around the lift. There's never a line at that lift, either."

The locals also like to hit a secret tree line that goes from Walsh's to the Ridge of Bell, Simpson says. "There's no sign there, and you have to look for it. That's where the Elvis shrine is, where people have hung all these pictures of Elvis from the trees." After the Elvis shrine, Simpson likes to hit Bell Mountain, then cuts across Spar Gulch and then over to Chair 1 (Shadow Mountain Lift) for some "total bump skiing all the way down," she says. Another shrine, this one to the Grateful Dead, is over by Ruthie's Run. "You'd never find it unless someone showed you," she says. "I'm not into it, but sometimes people hang a little pot from the trees, and that's where all the stoners go to toke. People have even carved out a little seat there."

The best steep skiing, according to Simpson, can be found at the Dumps, off the lift called S1. "The Dumps are great skiing. It's the steepest run, but only when there's snow. A lot of times it doesn't have enough snow, though," she adds. "But on a powder day, they're killer."

For a milder time, Simpson suggests such runs as 1 Leaf and 2 Leaf, which run off the Copper Cutoff, which parallels Spar Gulch. "That tends to be less crowded than Spar," Simpson says. "If you want to avoid the end-of-day rush, it's definitely the way to go."

The crowds are hard to avoid off the mountain, too, so Simpson recommends getting down earlier to get food. "Cache Cache [205 S. Mill St.] is great for a quick, good and lower-priced dinner," she says. "They have a bar menu, so you can sit there, and they have a whole different menu that's a lot cheaper, but still as fabulous as their regular menu." She adds that it's first come, first served, so late afternoon is a good time to sneak in there.

Pricier but "unbelievable" meals come from Renaissance (304 E. Hopkins St.), Simpson says, and Pinons (105 S. Mill St.). "I work at Pinons, so I guess it'll sound like I have to say it, but truly, the food there is incredible." Before dinner, happening happy hours are at Mezzaluna (600 E. Cooper Ave.)--"They have cheap pizza and beer right after skiing," Simpson says--and Ajax Tavern (685 E. Durant Ave.), where, if it's a nice day, skiers can sit on the deck and watch people ski down. The best pizza is "most definitely New York Pizza [409 E. Hyman Ave.]."

Simpson is a hunter, so she tries not to eat meat that she hasn't killed herself, but in a pinch she'll get a burger from either Little Annie's Eating House (517 E. Hyman Ave.) or Boogie's Diner (534 E. Cooper Ave.). "Boogie's is touristy, though, but it's still a great burger," she adds. "Lunch in general, especially a cheap lunch, is a tough one in Aspen." She suggests Johnny McGuire's Deli (132 Midland Ave. in Basalt) for a "good, basic sandwich," and to sit down, The Flying Dog Brewpub (424 E. Cooper Ave.) for pretty good bar food, and the Howling Wolf (316 E. Hopkins Ave.), which has "a lot of vegetarian stuff, pretty healthy, everything from tuna sashimi appetizers to pot stickers, pasta, steak and fish."

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