How to Ski Aspen Mountain
An Informative Guide on Navigating Aspen's Ski Slopes
Aspen is home to a lot of expert terrain, it is in fact the only resort in the nation without beginner terrain, Aspen has an entire ski hill dedicated for that, check out Buttermilk if you are new to skiing. The strategy for Aspen is a little different than some other ski areas, since there is also not a parking lot you probably walked to the mountain from your hotel, in which case your legs are already somewhat warmed up. To get your day going you have two options; option 1 is to take the Silver Queen Gondola directly to the top covering 3,200 feet in under 15 minutes, option 2 is to sneak over to Lift 1A and approach the mountain from that side.
If taking the latter option you will want to keep heading up the Ruthies chair and access to get your legs warmed up, while this Ruthless is a blue run it is also part of the downhill course on Aspen, so yes we are calling it a warm up but be ready to make some turns. There are several options from this chair, everything from groomers to blue bump runs, including one of my favorites Roch Run. After you feel ready to step it up you can also access the Mine Dumps from this part of the Mountain. Legendary ski runs that are steep and perfectly sustained, the consistent pitch of these runs, and the name is from the mines that were dug here looking for Silver, the tailings of these mines evened out the slope perfectly, little did these miners know they would be contributing to Aspen being such a great ski mountain. The fist Dump, called Zaug is probably the most technical, and also access the legendary Jimmy Hendrix shrine, not going to tell you exactly where, you will have to do a little exploring, we don't want to just give away all the secrets. The Dumps get a little less steep as you continue down the mountain, with some amazing goaded terrain between Perry's and Last Dollar. The exception being Silver Queen, this is the last Dump and in addition to being the steepest it faces due north, so it holds the best snow. Once you have skied one of the Dumps you will be dropped out into Spar Gulch and will need to continue to the lower mountain, at which point you can head to the "gondy" or traverse back over to 1A where you started the day.
If you chose to start on the Gondola your best warm up is gong to be 1, 2 and 3 Leaf, these are nice blue groomers, they do go pretty quick and you will be at Chair 3 in no time. Once back to the top you have several choices, if the mountain is wind loaded to the east you may want to he'd right over to Walsh's. If you want to work on your bump technique Midnight to Pumphouse is ideal, you get two blue bump runs, the second be slightly steeper, back to back. A few laps on this combo and your hips will be swiveling like you are in Vegas.
In the mood for something a little longer pick any of the lines on Bell Mountain. The "Face of Bell is skiers left and takes you into Spar Gulch, the Shoulder is the line straight down Bell and lies directly beneath the Gondola, and the "Back of Bell" faces east and drops you into Copper Gulch. Which way you go depends on a few things. If it is a powder day, well go anywhere you want it is all going to be good! If it is not a powder day it depends on what time it is. The sun hits the Back of Bell first so if it is early we recommend starting there as it will be the sorters, the Face of Bell is better in the afternoon once it gets a chance to soften up. In the spring the timing of this is crucial, ski a run to early and it will be icy, ski it too late and it will be mush, learn the mountain and time is to the snow is just right! If you took the Back side you can head back to the top on The Couch, a fixed grip chair that gives you legs plenty of time to relax, or you can cut over to Blackjack and Bingo Glades for some more double black terrain. It the ability to link together consistently steep pieces of the mountain that make Aspen the legend that it is. There are literally not many mountains in the U.S. that you can ski expert terrain from top to bottom. Once you drop out of these you will have the choice of just cruising down Little Nell, which even thought is a blue run after that much vertical it will feel a little harder, or you can cut into FIS and Slalom hill to get some more bumps in to make the most of every vertical foot. This latter option is what the locals will be doing, especially if they are making some lunch turns and trying to make every minute count.
Your first day out you may only wan to ski part of the day or take a long lunch, the same thing that makes Aspen great, lots of accessible expert terrain, is also known for destroying legs and you don't want to spend all your juice first day out.