A powder storm, a cat and a girl named Nell

Photo: Steve Goff

As Colorado’s favourite son, John Denver, said, some days are diamonds. SnowsBest hits Aspen’s back country in style on The Little Nell cat.

As first world problems go, I’ve got one. My legs are shattered from skiing what many are calling the best day of the Aspen season in years from first powder tracks to last, well, to my last tracks which were straight into a tree about half an hour before the lifts closed.

But I have woken to a bluebird day and I have a coveted seat on The Little Nell cat so my legs don’t get a vote. If you’ve been to Aspen then you know all about The Little Nell, the swankiest hotel in town and the only five diamond five star ski in ski out property in town. If you haven’t been to Aspen, well, now you know.

Let’s be honest if I was paying from my own pocket I would be staying in the YHA (private room of course, I think I could afford that) but someone has to do  my job so it might as well be me, right? On days like this I am jealous of myself.

Guests at The Little Nell get certain ‘exclusives’ for Little Nell guests only. First tracks with the hotel GM, Simon Chen, is one of them. I did that yesterday with a private Aussie instructor, Glenn Maddocks, and Andy Docken the American head of the ski school which made up our crew of four including Simon. First tracks turned into all day tracks and the tree incident, but you knew that already.

First tracks on Aspen's Ajax Mountain. Sigh.
First tracks on Aspen’s Ajax Mountain. Sigh.

Guests also have the opportunity to do the final ski patrol sweep of the day with the ski patrollers to pick up stragglers hanging from trees like me and ensure the mountain is safe for shut down. They can choose to do a grooming tour of the mountain and there’s also the complimentary two hours behind the wheels of a 2015 Audi A8L TDI or Q7 TDI  to drive around them there hills to your Mark Weber content.

Then there’s the cat. An entire cat from Aspen Powder Tours dedicated to Little Nell guests only, every Friday. The GM, Simon Chen and his trusty wing man, Pete Hayda, host ten guests who pay US$465 per person for the privilege.  In-cat catering is from The Little Nell’s Element 47 restaurant with intricate cut club sandwiches with slow roasted lamb, lunch is served in a backcountry hut with a selection of wines from the hotel’s award winning cellar.

Did I mention Francisco, The Little Nell man with the magic hands? Well, I should. He’s there to soothe away muscle knots and tension from skiing hard, fast and wild in the powder.

We have a fun crew on board. Murray is our guide and Steve is our tail guide, both seasoned powder veterans and lovers of all things accessed by helicopter, cats and ski touring.

There’s a Billy Bob Thornton look and sound a like who is an Aspen local though I constantly look twice, three times and even more to ensure he’s not wearing a vile of Angelina Jolie’s blood around his neck the resemblance is that uncanny.

Add some folks from the East Coast, some Little Nell team members and a Brazilian with his own private ski instructor on board and I reckon we’ve got most socio economic parties covered. Oh and Glenn, my instructor from the day before who couldn’t believe his luck when we had an extra seat.

Avalanche danger is high so we stick to cruisier slopes and some steeper stuff amongst the trees. Either way the snow is pure magic, hero snow that makes powder skiers look good. After one run I have turned into an American, whooping, and screaming and yeeha’ing down the slopes into high fives, fist pumps and bumps.

If I wore my pants lower I’d say the day was epic with twelve runs that even included a Chinese downhill and a powder eight competition.

Don’t hate me just salivate over the gallery from The Little Nell’s ski valet, Steve Goff, who twilights as an adventure photographer above instead. It’s a better use of that energy. In with love out with hate.

Read more: Beating the Colorado blues

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Rachael Oakes-Ash AKA SnowsBest @misssnowitall was a guest of The Little Nell, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado Ski Country and Ski Max Holidays.

Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.


  1. The Nell also does an amazing Breakfast Buffet. Great service and a wonderful way to start the day. The omelette with the works is a winner. And no need for lunch just ski straight thru to last ride. Try it. Regards Kiwi Mike, Johnny and Tim.


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