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Aspen Colorado

Ski & Summer Resort

This historic mining town -- situated at the head of the Roaring Valley -- is Colorado's top ski resort, and summer cultural center. The combination of antique buildings, chic shops, and social activities is hard to resist, and few - including the very well-to-do can resist.

In summer months, the resort busies itself with ballet, drama, music concerts, food and wine festivals and other kinds of arts and gustatory activity. In the winter, skiers from around the world come to enjoy the two major ski areas here: Aspen and Snowmass.

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With wilderness all-around, visitors have no reason for neglecting their favorite outdoor interests: fishing, hiking, and water sports. The rainy spring months are fairly quiet, but people flock to Aspen for the annual fall color display, in the huge aspen groves which surround the town. Fall is also a particularly good time to drive to Independence Pass, with many fine scenic vistas along the way.

What to See & Do

The Aspen Ski Area -- inaugurated in 1936 -- brought a very sleepy village back to life, after an up and down period since silver was first sighted in 1879. By 1880, the town had a population of more than 1,000. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad arrived in 1887. Aspen grew again, and by 1892, the town bulged with 12,000 inhabitants, but like all other mining towns, the ore ran out. By the early 1930s, the town had a population of only 700. The ski boom began after the end of World War II, and the town became a magnet for skiers from around the world. The Snowmass Ski Area is a more recent development.

Downhill skiing is Aspen's life blood, and the mountains which have runs cut into them are the most popular set of hills in the state. Three of the four skiing operations are owned by one company, the Aspen Skiing Company. These are: Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. The fourth ski operation is Aspen Highlands. Aspen Mountain (or Ajax Mtn.) looms 11,300 feet above the town, and the ski runs here are for expert and senior-intermediate skiers. The Silver Queen Gondola takes skiers to the top.

Buttermilk is two miles west of town, and has miles and miles of bunny hills, novice and intermediate runs., Cross-country skiers can receive telemark ski instruction at Buttermilk. Snowmass is located 12 miles southwest of Aspen, and is a well-rounded family skiing operation. There are four peaks within the ski area, and many runs, a majority of them intermediate. There is dining on the mountain, or at the base. For information on the three jointly-owned hills, call (970) 925-1220. Snowmass may also be reached at (970) 923-2000. Aspen Highlands provides a good mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced skiing. Highland's Bowl offers a large powder area for experts only. For information, call (970) 925-5300.

Cross Country Skiing

For cross-country skiers, there are groomed and backcountry trails at Aspen. The backcountry trails are mostly in the national forest. Groomed trails are available at the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center, in the little town of the same name, 12 miles from Aspen. There are 19 miles of groomed trails, warming huts, and food at the Pine Creek Cookhouse. The Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Trail System features almost 50 miles of groomed trails between the two towns, coordinated by the nonprofit Nordic Council. Use of the trail is free, and maps are available at the Aspen Visitors Center (downtown), the Wheeler Opera House, or in sports stores.

Summer Activities

Summer is a time for sight-seeing, and for the arts. The Aspen Music Festival stages its season from late June through August, with the music ranging from jazz to symphony, with seating in the famous tent, or on the grass. For festival information, call (970) 925-3254. Sightseeing is another favorite summer activity, including trips to view the peaks of the Maroon Bells. Fishing is best on the Fryingpan Lakes, the Fryingpan River, and Hunter Creek. There are golf courses in Aspen and at Snowmass. Conundrum Hot Springs are located at the end of a nine-mile hike from Forest Road 128. There are two pools (three and five feet deep), beside Conundrum Creek, near Triangle Pass. To get there, drive up Castle Creek Road from Aspen for about five miles, and turn right onto FR 128, driving one mile to the trailhead.

Cultural facilities in Aspen include the Aspen Arts Museum (on North Mill St.), featuring touring shows, as well as exhibits by local artists and crafts people. It is located in a park beside the Roaring Fork River. The Wheeler Stallard House Museum, a large Victorian home on West Bleeker Street, is operated by the Aspen Historical Society, and houses Victorian collections including clothing, children's toys, and room settings.

While aspen is known for its jet-setters, people on a budget can also enjoy the striking ambiance of the resort. Hotel rates are lower in summer, and there are several low-cost places to stay in town during the ski season.

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