Wonder what all the fuss is about Aspen? We asked a 25 season Aspen veteran why he keeps going back.
Aussie, Nick Farr, is a long time Aspen fanatic, so much so he created Ski Aspen. We asked him why he chose Aspen over everywhere else.
How many years have you been coming to Aspen?
Since 1991 – 25 seasons in total now. I’m told I’ve finally attained “local” status which I’m honoured to have!
How has it changed?
Community wise it really hasn’t. I mean, it doesn’t seem to have to me, because over those years I’ve made more and more friends and coming to Aspen feels like being home. I do feel very fortunate to have that.
In 1991 there were 3 slow chairs that you needed to ride to access the top of Loge Peak on Aspen Highlands. It took 44 minutes and Aspen Highlands was on a separate lift ticket. Now it takes 22 minutes via 2 high-speed quads. That’s the best example of how the lift system has improved. The Gondola at Snowmass and the Deep Temerity lift are probably the biggest and most influential lift investments in my time.
Many restaurants and shops come and go. In 1991 there was a Hard Rock Cafe and a Planet Hollywood in Aspen! The manager of the Hard Rock Cafe back then is still a good friend of mine and he now runs Sam’s Smokehouse at Snowmass.
What made you return again and again?
That’s easy. The skiing. I’d never planned on visiting Aspen in 1991 – it just happened. Because all the ski movies of the day were being filmed in Canada that is where young Aussie skiers went. But when I got to Aspen I just thought “Wow”.
Four mountains, huge vertical, runs that were 8 kms long, and a real ski town that knew how to party. I was 24 back then.
But the snow quality, the consistently good weather and the awesome town made it a no brainer. Aspen (all of Colorado actually) is blessed by its geography in terms of snow. It’s altitude and being inland gives it an unfair advantage to coastal resorts. The snow is dry and they get plenty.
And back then when I started researching the idea of starting up ski tours for Aussies, Aspen Snowmass welcomed me with open arms. They worked hard with me back then and they still do. We wouldn’t still be running our tours 23 years later if it wasn’t for all the support we’ve received from Aspen Snowmass over the journey.
It’s a real partnership in that sense and I know our guests see that when they ski with us each season.
What’s your favourite run and why?
No way you can let me have just one! The Highland Bowl has no equal. You need to hike for 20 – 30 mins off after the Cat drops you off but it is really is the quintessential Aspen ski experience.
The fact Highland Ski Patrol can make this vast, steep terrain safe every year is testament to how good they are. And there are ways down from the top that very strong intermediate level skiers can handle so you don’t need to be an expert skier to experience the achievement of skiing The Bowl. But you should definitely go with a guide/group if it’s your first time.
After fresh snow advanced skiers must check out Mushroom on Highlands and Face of Bell on Aspen Mountain. Kandahar and Red Onion are fantastic long easy cruisers on Highlands that I love. On Snowmass try Powderhorn and Long Shot for great variety. And Naked Lady is everyone’s favourite cruiser on Snowmass.
I don’t want to leave Buttermilk out so I’m going to say anything under the Tiehack Express after fresh snow is awesome. People don’t gravitate to Buttermilk especially after fresh snow but it really is a gem of a ski area. Great cruising and some awesome off-piste with fresh snow.
Best place for coffee?
I’d have to say “Ink” is consistently the best. We work hard on getting the coffee selection right each year because Aussies need good coffee! Each year the barista’s in Aspen change so it’s important research for us when we get into town to see who is making it right. Ink is the consistent winner for us.
Hint: You need to have them add one shot to whatever size you order. To get a coffee close to what you’d have at home we order a short triple shot latte at Ink.
Best place for apres?
Best apres experience in all of Aspen is hands down Cloud 9 at Aspen Highlands! Watch the video!
At the base of Aspen Mountain head to 39 Degrees and/or Ajax Tavern – both are on our short walk home so it gets dangerous. Venga Venga Bar gets going at Snowmass but be careful because the bus ride will take 30 minutes plus back to Aspen and no toilet stops.
Espresso Martini at The Little Nell (that’s coming from a beer man)
Where do you get the best hot chocolate? At the Sundeck on Aspen Mountain. It comes out of a machine but they are the best!
Best for breakfast
Jour de Fete – Olivier and Emilio are awesome. 2nd place is Poppycock’s
Best for lunch
Ajax Tavern – make sure you get a side of truffle fries.
Best for dinner
Bar meal at L’Hostaria is possibly the best value dinner in Aspen. Hickory House (budget option) for ribs is both great value and a great experience. Pinions is hard to beat for fine dining.
Best off snow activity and why
For an awesome day off-snow drive 40 minutes down valley to Glenwood Springs and visit the Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Pool. Some great really cheap shopping in Glenwood too. Lunch at Doc Holliday’s Saloon in Glenwood for that wild west bar experience. Another good option is the Woody Creek Tavern for lunch – but it’s much more expensive than it used to be.
What don’t people know about Aspen?
That it is a real ski town with soul. And it genuinely caters to everyone. Better still, it warmly welcomes everyone.
The idea that Aspen is only for the rich and famous, movie stars etc. is a myth that has been perpetuated by lazy travel writers. And this publicity hasn’t helped Aspen Snowmass over the years.
Sure there’s plenty of wealth in Aspen but this is a town and community that doesn’t discriminate. If you’re on a budget, you can also have an awesome experience here. So people hear all about glitz and glamour and the skiing and terrain on offer barely rates a mention.
The skiing here is as big and challenging as it gets. Or as gentle and as cruisy as you want. The lift network is modern and fast. No lift-lines ever (only on President’s weekend at Snowmass!) Almost everyone that visits Aspen with us returns. Some are on their 10th plus trip.
Why did you start Ski Aspen?
I met an elderly gentleman in Whistler by my lodge fireplace in 1991. He was very worldly and had a regal presence. I remember he smoked a pipe. I had a plane ticket to Denver and I’d planned to visit a Colorado ski resort but I hadn’t decided which one. He told me all about his years in Aspen and I was fascinated.
Then he told me where to stay and it was dirt cheap. So just like that my decision was made. I regret to this day not keeping his details because I’ve wanted to thank him many times.
What does Ski Aspen do that no one else does?
We provide an instant social network from the moment you arrive. Our contacts in town become your contacts so you’re instantly part of our Aspen community. We get you sorted for equipment, clothing, groceries, grog, ski tuning and repairs, boot-fitting, restaurants, bars and even the gym.
We host a range of apres events to get you mingling and meeting new ski friends which always include plenty of free food and drinks. Aussies love free food and drinks after skiing! Our team are there for you on and off-snow 24/7.
This is the Ski Aspen difference and why we’re in our 22nd year.