The Crown Jewel: Ajax
Aspen Mountain sets the standard when it comes to combining world-class skiing with an authentic mountain town, leaving most resorts emulating. The mountain pulls no punches with its renowned skiing, legendary nightlife, fine dining, celebrated art scene, and authentic downtown atmosphere. It’s no wonder that Hollywood’s elite, Manhattan’s glitterati, and the ski world’s legends congregate in this mountain hamlet.
Aspen Mountain’s steeps and glades have been the favorite stomping and schussing grounds of iconic skiers since the mountain’s first season in 1947, from Fred Iselin and Dick Durrance to Klaus Obermeyer and Chris Davenport. While Aspen Mountain proudly doesn’t have a terrain park, some of the best snowboarders in the world—such as Gretchen Bleiler and Chris Klug—weave in and out of the trees on “Ajax.”
Once in downtown Aspen, it is impossible to ignore the omnipresent mountain. Ajax jumps off of Durant Avenue and quickly climbs 3,267 feet up to the Sundeck. After soaking in the stunning panoramic views from the top of the Silver Queen Gondola, you’ll find a myriad of descent options. Keep in mind, however, that Ajax is not the best choice for a beginner skier or boarder. There are fun, rolling groomers under the Ruthie’s and Gent’s Ridge (call it “the couch” if you’re speaking Aspenite) chairlifts, perfect for the intermediate skier looking to get a bit more vertical. Blue square skiers can link a leg-burning top-to-bottom run from the summit of the Silver Queen via Spar Gulch or Copper Bowl, both runs drop you right into downtown Aspen.
Loads of double black terrain colors the trail map, and it can take years to explore all of the mountain’s nooks and crannies. A good place to start is on Bell Mountain. Back of Bell in the morning, the Ridge of Bell at lunchtime, and the Face of Bell in the afternoon is the best way to catch the right conditions. The area collectively known as “The Dumps”—dating back to Aspen’s silver mining history—is a local favorite because of the deep snow that accumulates and steep, glade runs. For the extreme skier, Trainor’s offers some of the most challenging and exposed terrain in Aspen (bring your A-game if you’re so inclined).
There’s not a better town on the continent to rest your weary legs after a day on the slopes than Aspen. (We take our après-ski scene very seriously!) Clark’s is the spot, complete with oysters and martinis, music, and local revelers. Ajax Tavern, located a mere four steps from the slopes, is another hot spot. Regardless of where you après, you will inevitably see people dancing in their ski boots like the good ’ole days.
With a culinary scene that complements the ski terrain, there aren’t many bad options in Aspen. Fine dining is part of the Aspen experience; whether it’s sushi (Matsuhisa is fantastic), Italian (Campo de Fiori is delicioso), French (Cache Cache has a beautiful wine list to go with their Provencal cuisine). For more family-centric dinners check out Mi Chola (but be warned: “Chola” has a wide assortment of fine tequilas that beckon the masses after dinner time).
There’s an assortment of accommodations, and deciding on which one depends on what you’re looking for. Slopeside luxury at The Little Nell, family-friendly condominiums at The Gant, newly remodeled accoutrements at The Limelight Lodge, and historic comfort at The Hotel Jerome are just a few examples.
Long story short, Aspen does it all, and does all of it really well.
FYI… You don’t have to break the bank on your Aspen ski getaway. Here are three easy ways to minimize the damage, all within a five-minute walk of the gondola:
- Free Coffee: Every morning Aspen Skiing Company wheels out a cart of delicious brews in the Gondola Plaza (right in front of the gondi). Grab a free cup of joe and jump in the bucket.
- Cheap Lunch: Big Wrap has healthy and delicious lunches for prices that are hard to come by in Aspen. Wraps, salads, tacos, and smoothies will reenergize you for an afternoon shred session.
- Pub Grub: Nothing beats a warm dinner and a beer after a day on the slopes. Zane’s specializes in sports and beer, Philly cheesesteaks and tatter tots.