ASPEN & THE ROARING FORK VALLEY, AN IDEAL WAY TO SPEND YOUR WINTER HOLIDAY!
Article by Kendall Houlton
Photography by Provided
Traveling to Chamonix, France was not feasible last year so my family opted for a ski vacation closer to home in Colorado! Visiting Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado can be an ideal way to spend your winter holiday! And yes, you CAN do it ALL during a winter school break!
As home to the world’s first world championships held outside of Europe, Aspen is renowned for its incredibly dreamy winter experiences and celebrity sightings. And this year is even more special because @AspenSnowmass is celebrating 75 years of skiing, offering guests four world-class mountains to choose from: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk. These mountains offer a wide variety of terrain perfect for everyone from beginner to expert and this year's celebratory events include Luminescence in Snowmass, Winterskol in Aspen, XGames at Buttermilk and so much more!
Runway to Slopeside in Minutes
Aspen is in the Roaring Fork Valley, southeast of Vail, and there are plenty of ways to reach the ski resort. Few mountain resorts have the airport proximity that Aspen Snowmass enjoys. Located just 5 minutes from Buttermilk (and 10 minutes from Snowmass and Aspen Mountain), the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport accommodates flights from major U.S. airports on United, Delta, and American Airlines
Other nearby airports include Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), which is west of Vail and east of Glenwood Springs, while Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) is about 125 miles east. Colorado’s largest airport, Denver International (DEN) is 220 miles east and north of the Aspen ski area so the most direct way of reaching the resort is I-70 west to CO 82 south through Glenwood Springs. One should expect about a three-and-a-half to four-hour drive.
The Epic Mountain Express (formerly known as the Colorado Mountain Express) offers ground transfers from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Denver International Airport and Eagle County Regional Airport. Just download the Aspen Snowmass App and you’ll be able to see parking lot status. We love this option!
As a group of ten, we opted to stay in an Airbnb home for 2 weeks outside of Carbondale between Glenwood Springs and Aspen. We chose this location as a home base because within 35 minutes we were either on the slopes at Aspen Snowmass or Sunlight Ski Resort, outside Glenwood Springs. With nearly 730 skiable acres and a 2,000 vertical foot drop, Sunlight offers big skiing at an affordable price. And you can enjoy the best après-ski fun at the world’s largest mineral hot springs pool, Glenwood Hot Springs Resort.
Because of our large group, we rented a Cadillac Escalade but some of us found that riding the local Roaring Fork Transit buses was very convenient when we wanted to get on the slopes earlier than the group. These buses run the entirety of the Roaring Fork Valley and can get you around easily and many (but not all) routes are free. Free routes include all City of Aspen routes and all Aspen to/from Snowmass Village routes. Seniors 65 and older and children 5 and under always ride free. The Village Shuttle within Snowmass Village is also free to ride. RFTA’s real time bus information is available in an easy-to-use mobile app called Transit.
Where to Stay?
When you’re looking for the perfect place to rest your head after a day on the slopes, look no further than Airbnb or VRBO for your accommodations — you’ll find an amazing selection of great places to stay in the Roaring Fork Valley, but our Airbnb called “AspenWood” - located between Aspen & Glenwood Springs - was one of our faves. Located on the banks of the Roaring Fork River, this 4 bdrm/3.5 ba home is a 35 min drive to Aspen/Snowmass Ski Resort and Sunlight Ski Resort in Glenwood Springs. This beautiful river compound was like our own tiny resort without the crowds. With unsurpassed views of the Roaring Fork River, 2 fireplaces in the Great Room including radiant heating, a gourmet kitchen with amenities fit for a professional chef, and an 8-person Sundance Optima hot tub overlooking the river, we wished we could have stayed longer!
For planning, you’ll want to check out how easy it is to drive to your accommodation because some rental homes are difficult to reach in wintertime if your rental car does not have 4-wheel drive. Luckily, our Airbnb was located down a regularly snow-plowed road and the rental property had “driveway snowmelt” making the home easily accessible during snowstorms. There was also a bus stop 2 minutes away and we could simply hoist our skis onto the exterior bus ski carriers, leaving the driving to someone else! And our Airbnb host offered to drive us if we didn’t feel like walking to the bus stop. We love a SuperHost!
Ski Resort Lift Tickets & Rental Gear
The Aspen Snowmass 2021-22 ski season runs from late November through early to mid-April, depending on the mountain. All four of Aspen’s mountains are open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, and one lift ticket gets you on all four mountains — sweet! Be sure to book 7 Days in advance and save between 13- 45% off. In addition to day and multi-day lift tickets, Aspen Snowmass offers a variety of season passes and participates in some of the industry's best multi-destination ski passes including the Ikon Pass, Mountain Collective Pass, and Colorado Ski Country's Gold Pass. If you need to rent skis or snowboards, Stapleton Ski Shop and Up Snowboard Rentals and Miller Sports is located in the heart of Aspen. Or better yet, reserve your skis/snowboards with Ski Butlers who deliver all your equipment rentals directly to your accommodations.
Luckily for us, we discovered @RaggedMountainSports, an outdoor gear store located in Carbondale that offered a plethora of unused (and used!) gear that residents donate from all over Aspen region. This was a great shop for friendly customer service vibes in the gear-head affluent ski world if you quickly need to grab a thermal base layer or a helmet.
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