DAY 6 — There is a light dusting of fresh snow when we board the Silver Queen Gondola to ski 2 ½ miles down Aspen Mountain before it is officially open for the day.
Beautiful! Fresh snow and no one on the mountain.
Even better there’s no charge. On Thursday mornings, Limelight Lodge (www.limelightlodge.com), where we are staying and which is newly owned by the Aspen Skiing Company (www.aspensnowmass.com), offers the tour (also offered with advance reservations if you are staying elsewhere and with a valid lift ticket).
We ski down with a ski instructor and the new GM of The Limelight, Richard Stettner, himself the dad of two young skiing kids.
The 126-room Limelight—including six suites with full kitchens (www.limelightlodge.com) is a great bet for families who want to be in the middle of Aspen rather than a 15 minute drive away in Snowmass which is designated family central. Teens can wander freely—and safely—in downtown Aspen. Parents who are foodies can feed their kids fresh-baked pizza après ski at the Limelight, get a sitter and walk to any variety of restaurant. And the place is pet-friendly—we saw several pooches on site and playing in a large field across the street.
Did I mention complimentary breakfast complete with home-baked banana bread and granola? Another plus: with well-appointed rooms starting at under $300 a night, The Limelight Lodge is significantly cheaper than other Aspen digs like the Little Nell and St. Regis if you don’t want to stay in a condo. (Great for a couples getaway too!)
There are complimentary shuttles to Aspen’s other mountains and a new Inside Tracks ski program offered n Mondays and Fridays to ski all four mountains with a Ski School Pro (but you’ve got to be 18 and an intermediate skier.)
This place has a lot of history—until Aspen Skiing Company took it over, it had been owned by the same family for some 50 years. In the past two years, it has been totally rebuilt to a contemporary lodge with a comfortable lounge with fire place, bar and live music après ski several nights a week. “We want it to be a cozy place for guests and locals,” Stettner says. “And we’re Aspen’s best value!”
Though this is a busy week—following President’s Day weekend—there are no lift lines at Aspen Mountain and it feels like on some runs we have the mountain—famous for its glades, bumps and steeps—to ourselves. If you want a day off from skiing, sign on for a two-hour guided snowshoe tour with a naturalist from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (www.aspennature.org ) that departs from the top of the gondola.
I also love the gate system that allows us to pass through automated gates with a Radio Frequency activated plastic lift ticket in my pocket (no more lift ticket flapping around on my ski jacket). We can also link a credit card to the lift pass —good for rentals at any Aspen Skiing Company owned business like restaurants and ski school—no need to carry cash or a credit card.
I’m in favor of anything that makes a ski trip easier, and that includes Black Tie Ski Rentals (www.blacktieskis.com), which in many cases rents equipment for less than a shop. At an appointed time, someone arrives with our skis and fits them to our boots. When they didn’t have the skis my husband wanted, they returned with them later. Even better, if there are any problems, we’re told to just call them for slope side service (ditto if we want to swap skis to try something else). They now have 14 locations at 27 ski areas across the West.
When we are done skiing the last day, all we have to do is phone and say where the skis will be. Nice!
The Thing about Aspen—besides four mountains—is a town that is steeped equally in history and celebrity. No, I haven’t seen any movie stars –yet anyway—but it’s fun to think of who I might run into having a burger at the historic Hotel Jerome (which opened in 1889 and is now a RockResort) or buying sunscreen at the drug store.
I’ll be on the lookout.
Next: New digs at Snowmass Village