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If you have to pick just one, Turpin suggests Snowmass. "You could ride there for days and still not see everything on the mountain. But if you're up for something a little more hard-core, there's nothing better than hiking Highlands Bowl at Aspen Highlands. You'll put in 30 to 45 minutes of work to earn your turns, but it's worth it for the view alone, and those turns just might be the best you'll ever make. Buttermilk gets overlooked but can also be great fun, and you can't beat Ajax if you're looking to ride right down into the world-class après scene." Opening day at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass is November 28; Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands open on December 14.
Splurge: "If you're gonna splurge, try getting a room at the Sky Hotel, which has the quintessential Aspen après party and is right at the base of Ajax," Turpin says. "The Aspen Mountain Powder Tours snowcat trips would be another great splurge, and definitely hit the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands; that's where we like to go when someone's rich parents are in town for a visit." Turpin also loves the ski-in/ski-out Viceroy hotel and restaurant in Snowmass. For in-town dining, try the Chef's Club at the St. Regis Hotel, which features Best New Chef winners invited by Food & Wine magazine, or shell out for a temporary membership to the private Caribou Club (memberships start at $500 per couple for the week, but even temporary members are encouraged to bring guests to the nightly dinner parties).
Ski bum tips: "If you're a true ski bum, you've got to know somebody in Aspen you can stay with, and if you don't, then you should get to work on that as soon as you get here or start looking on Craigslist," Turpin says. "I can't remember a single weekend last season that we didn't have someone sleeping on our couch." Turpin says the Westin Hotel in Snowmass is a popular choice because frequent travelers can use their Starwood Points there, and also suggests the Mountain Chalet at the base of Ajax. "The Limelight Lodge is another great option," he says. "It's pretty luxe and not exactly a ski-bum joint, by any stretch, but the free breakfast buffet is the best in town, and Aspen Brewing Company does regular tasting events there."
Drink locally: "Right now, my favorite beer we brew is the Cougar — and not just for the Aspen-appropriate name," Turpin says. "It's a version of This Season's Blonde, a blond wheat ale that has been one of our most popular beers for the last couple years, but the Cougar is sour-aged in oak barrels with Colorado peaches." And every hour is happy hour at Aspen Brewing, with most beers priced at $4.75 and pitchers at $15. "Our beers are also served at the mountain bars and almost everywhere in town, so I'd definitely do some bar-hopping," Turpin says. "And if spirits are more your thing, definitely ask for anything from the Woody Creek Distillery, which is down-valley in Basalt and has a tasting room there. They have a couple of signature vodkas and outstanding spirits like apple brandy and pear eau de vie, and are gearing up to release a much-hyped Colorado whiskey."
BEAVER CREEK RESORT
"Everyone thinks Beaver Creek's all family-friendly, and it definitely is, but we also have some of the best advanced and expert terrain in America," boasts snowboarder Stephanie Merritt, tasting-room manager at the Crazy Mountain Brewery in Edwards. "The Birds of Prey runs they use for the Talons Challenge and will use for the World Cup races are all really great, and we also have awesome glades like Royal Elk Glades, Black Bear Glades and Boettcher Glades, which are some of my favorite stamping grounds. If you're really after a challenge, take Chair 8 and Cinch up and then go down Red Buffalo, which is a green run, and take the gate to the Stone Creek Chutes. There are some great trees back there, cliffs you can huck off, and some of the best skiing and snowboarding in Beaver Creek."
Opening day is November 27, and the resort will host the Birds of Prey World Cup ski racing event November 29-December 1 and December 6-8. Another popular event at Beaver Creek is the annual Food & Wine Weekend, January 23-26, which gets crowded.
Splurge: "There's this really awesome sushi place called Hooked, and everything there is great, but if you're going for something really extravagant, you'll want to order the Crimpster," Merritt suggests. "It's like the seafood version of turducken: it's crab meat stuffed inside jumbo shrimp stuffed inside a lobster and wrapped in bacon. It's awesome." For high-end Italian, try Toscanini, right by the ice rink at the base area, or venture out to nearby Edwards, where Merritt suggests both Juniper and Dish, the restaurant where Jenna Johansen — a contestant on Bravo's Around the World in 80 Plates and current Innovation Chef at Epicurean Catering — first made her name. "You can also class up your après game at the Metropolitan, which has great tapas, wine and cocktails."