There are few if any ski resorts as famous as Aspen. Let’s start off by noting that Aspen’s original name was Ajax. Many locals prefer this name. Aspen is one of the best resorts to highlight the small community of skiing professionals that built up and popularized the most iconic resorts in the Rockies. Aspen was founded by a wealthy businessman, Walter Paepcke in 1946 and ran by America’s greatest ski racer at the time Dick Durrance. Members of the 10th Mountain Division, America’s original Mountain winter warriors, also deserve special mention. Members Fritz Benedict, Friedl Pfeifer and Pete Seibert, helped build early Aspen. Frits was a landscape architect who studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright and worked in Aspen where he designed over 200 buildings. Seibert was an early ski patroller at Aspen and went on to found Vail Ski Resort. Friedl is simply legendary. He learned to ski in St. Anton under the tutelage of Hannes Schneider. He founded and ran the ski school at Sun Valley, then came and did the same at Aspen. He was instrumental in developing the resorts of Aspen and Buttermilk.
Ski towns are almost always a long drive from civilization. If you’re interested in any more than an occasional reminder of the modern world, you rarely find it in a ski town. Aspen is different. The world comes to Aspen and has since the 1950’s. Mover’s and shakers from all over the world congregate at Aspen, attend conferences and generally conspire and aspire to address the World’s challenges. There are billionaires (Kochs, Simons, Bass’s, Doerr’s and Geffen’s) and celebrities (Nicholson, Costner, Hawn and Bar) and lots of people in between. What they share is a passion for life and a desire to make the world a better place.
The international think tank, Aspen Institute calls Aspen home. Its mission is “fostering enlightened leadership, the appreciation of timeless ideas and values, and open-minded dialogue on contemporary issues.” Aspen is also home to the Aspen Music Festival and School. Each summer they hold as many as 400 classical music events. Aspen really is out to change the world!
It should be noted that Aspen once belonged to the Plains Indian’s known as the Utes. They controlled massive amounts of land in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico. They were moved to reservations and have never been invited back and offered any significant ownership interest in the town.
Back to skiing.
Aspen is small. It’s only 673 acres. Let’s emphasize that for a moment. Most of the major resorts in North America are 2,500 acres plus. At 673 acres, Aspen is the smallest resort of any major resort. Aspen may be small, but it’s mighty.
Aspen / Ajax Expert Skier Experience
Aspen is a great expert mountain: it’s ridge skiing at its best. Aspen has four major ridges providing access to six skiable ridge faces.
Gentleman’s Ridge / Gent’s Ridge
From Gent’s Rudge chair or the top of Aspen you can access some of the deepest and steepest runs at Aspen; Walsh’s, Hyrup’s, and Krisiti. You can also access a series of marked and unmarked runs off the Gentleman’s Ridge Run including Glades #1, #2 and #3, Jackpot and Bingo Glade.
Ridge of Bell
Skiers right are Back of Bell #1 and #2 and Keith Glenn; Skiers left you’ll find Hanging Tree, Face of Bell, Bell Meadow, Shoulder of Bell and Nose of Bell.
International (Below Ruthie’s Run / Ridge)
International runs a bit below Ruthie’s Run and allows you to drop into a bunch short, steep, glade runs like S1, Short Short, Zaugg Dump, Perry’s Prowl, Last Dollar, the Cones, Spar Dumps, Ray Burns and Silver Queen.
The T’s, 1 – 6, all fun, short, well-spaced glade runs.
Snow Hunting at Aspen
Below Shadow Mountain chair is an East facing slope that holds some of the best snow at Aspen. It also offers some of the steepest skiing on runs like 1A Lift Line, Super 8 and Corkscrew.
There are shrines all around this mountain. Ask a guide, instructor or local to point you toward a few. The gated terrain includes Traynor, Rayburn’s, Bingo Glades and Cone Dumps. All of these areas when open are fun challenges. Check with Patrol. After a dump, these are not to be missed areas. Under the Silver Queen Gondola, the Aspen Mountain’s Guest Services usually let you hide your gear under the benches. Aspen offers tours, take them. Your at ground zero for America’s skiing tradition.