By EILEEN OGINTZ
ASPEN, CO — Does it get any better than this?
We’re atop Ajax—as Aspen Mountain is known—with just a handful of others for “First Tracks” at 8:15 a.m.—before the Mountain has opened. The runs have just been groomed. It’s a blue-sky day. Even a fair weather skier like me has nothing to complain about—
especially when we stop for a hearty breakfast at Bonnie’s, an iconic spot that’s been serving up oatmeal pancakes, strudel, and white bean chili as well as omelets since the 1960s.
Because we’re staying at the Limelight Hotel that’s owned by Aspen Ski Company, we are invited to go to First Tracks with out any charge. There’s also a free breakfast and shuttles back and forth to the other three mountains. Nice!
In the afternoon, rather than ski, I opt for a top of the mountain snowshoe in the White River National Forest with ACES—the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. This $50 trek is also complimentary for guests at the Limelight.
We’re at over 11,000 feet and the views are stellar—snow covered mountains, soaring fir trees, animal tracks—snowshoe hares and ermine. Our affable guide, Samuel Hinkle, makes sure we learn as we go. I didn’t know there were 50 miles of tunnels dating back to mining days under the ski mountain. I didn’t know that Aspen provided 1/6th of the U.S supply of silver in a boom that lasted just 20 years—from 1873-1893. When the U.S. returned to the gold standard, silver mining towns like Aspen collapsed, going from 40,000 people to just 500.
“This is a wonderful experience,” said Gloria Icardo visiting from Los Angeles.
“Great to get into the back country,” said Brittany Thimons, here from Dallas with her husband Steven—their first trip away from two young children.
“If I lived here, I’d do his every day,” said Steve Thimons, a fireman.
Me too, I think.
This is our first ski trip in recent memory where we’ve opted for a hotel rather than a condo. After all, the kids are grown now and aren’t conking out at the end of the ski day. No one has to buy groceries or plan meals, much less cook and clean up. Going out to dinner with grown kids—we actually ate delicious pizza at The Limelight last night—is a pleasure, not a chore.
And there is so much Limelight history. Originally it was the “Ski and Spur Bar,” by the 1950s renamed The Limelight. One family owned the place for the next several decades, expanding to the Lime Light Lodge. In 2005, it was a 126-room hotel and by 2010, Aspen Skiing Company bought the property, renaming the Limelight Hotel.
The hotel is modern and hip with a relaxed vibe. Its après ski is offered in the hotel lounge, the longest in town, from 3-7 p.m., complete with specialty cocktails and hand tossed pizzas cooked in the wood oven. Kids are completely at home, coming down in their PJs to roast s’mores around a fire pit outside. There’s a large outdoor pool and hot tubs. The hotel is even pet friendly and is just across the street from a pet-friendly park.
Inside Tracks is an amazing amenity too—a complimentary ski-ride program that allows you to ski all day with a pro — not for a lesson, but to explore Aspen or Snowmass with someone who knows the mountain well. Older kids might like to “sweep” the mountain with the ski patrol at 4 p.m., enabling them to have the mountain to themselves for one last run.