Winter is coming! In this year’s installment of the Edge, Westword’s annual guide to winter activities, we’ve got the what’s what, the what’s new, and the what to do at ski areas and mountain towns across the state. From skiing and snowboarding to new mountain roller coasters, fat-bike tours, snowmobile adventures, hot-springs soaks and more, the Edge — inserted in the November 16 edition of Westword — will help you plan your vacation days, personal days, powder days and sick days from now until spring. Among the resorts now open: Aspen Snowmass.
Aspen Snowmass comprises four of the most incredible mountains in Colorado — Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax), Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass — all on one lift ticket. Aspen Mountain and Snowmass opened on November 23, and Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open on December 9.
Here are five things you need to know about Aspen Snowmass:
1. Snowmass is celebrating its fiftieth birthday on Friday, December 15, with 1967 lift-ticket pricing of a mere $6.50 paired with a retro party at the Elk Camp Restaurant, a screening of the new documentary Snowmass: 50 Years of Mountain Spirit, and evening fireworks. Look for details and discounts at aspensnowmass.com/snowmass50.
2. The resort’s future looks bright, too: The first phases of a ten-year, $600 million development project in the Snowmass Base Village are already under way, with the opening of the new Breathtaker Alpine Coaster in December featuring individual rider-controlled cars that zip down the mountain along a 5,700-foot track winding through the trees.
3. You’ll get two chances to see world-class snowboarding and freeskiing in Aspen this season. First up is the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix (January 7-14) at Snowmass, which doubles as the second of three U.S. Olympic team qualifiers for the halfpipe and slopestyle events at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games in South Korea. And then there are the X Games (January 25-28) at Buttermilk, featuring slopestyle, halfpipe and big-air events; snow bike racing and freestyle events; and concert performances by LCD Soundsystem, Marshmello, Martin Garrix, and Method Man & Redman. Most of the X Games finals are in the evening, so you can still get full days in on the mountain beforehand.
4. No getting around it: A trip to Aspen will cost you. Still, dirtbag ski bums have managed for decades. Just ask James Hogue, who reportedly lived in a plywood shack in the woods on the side of Aspen Mountain for years before his arrest last year. You can go half-Hogue by hitting up the free morning coffee, Clif Bars and hot cider at the bottom of each mountain, taking advantage of the free parking lot at the Snowmass Rec Center, or carpooling with at least three people to get free parking at Snowmass and Aspen Highlands. Look for discount lodging on Craigslist, where you’ll find fellow ski bums renting rooms and couch space in their trailer homes on the outskirts of Aspen and nearby Basalt and Carbondale. At the fancy restaurants the town is known for, step to the bar and ask for a menu: Locals know that most of the town’s hot spots offer much cheaper bar-menu versions of the same entree options served in the dining room.
5. For skiers and snowboarders on the move, check out the $489 Mountain Collective pass, which includes two days each at Aspen Snowmass, Telluride and fourteen other road-trip-worthy resorts including Taos, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley and Mammoth Mountain.
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