Aspen Recreation

Aspen Food & Wine Classic Nearly Sold Out

imagesTickets to this year’s 31st annual Aspen Food & Wine Classic will likely sell out in early April for the first time since the Great Recession hit.   Only a handful of tickets are left for this year’s event, which runs June 14-16, according to Lori Lefevre, a spokesperson for Food & Wine. Tickets originally went on sale Dec. 12. The festival is a three-day event hosted by Food & Wine magazine and it offers over 80 individual seminars including cooking demonstrations, wine lectures, panel discussions and tastings, in addition to daily grand tastings.

Food & Wine issues about 5,000 tickets annually falling under categories including general admission, trade group passes or press passes, Lefevre said. Organizers do not release the breakdown of how many tickets are issued in each category, she said.

Historically, the success of Food & Wine ticket sales directly correlates with the state of the economy and whether the country is in a recession, Lefevre said. During the event’s early years, tickets sold out in May, but in the late 2000s they began to sell out earlier, Lefevre said. In 2007 and 2008 Food & Wine had record-breaking seasons when the event sold out in February.  After the recession hit, ticket sales slowed and the event didn’t sell out until the week it occurred. In response, Food & Wine sold day passes ranging in price from $250 to $395 each. Sales have slowly picked up again with the event selling out in the third week of April last year, according to Lefevre.  Food & Wine anticipates the sellout will happen earlier this year due to the economy turning around, she said.

Bike-share System Pedals to the Fore

imagesBy June, Aspenites making a quick trip to the grocery store or heading to Smuggler Mountain for a lunchtime hike will have a new option to get there through a fledgling bike-share program, the Pitkin County commissioners were told Tuesday.

WE-cycle co-founder Mirte Mallory said 100 bikes placed at 12 stations in the city from Smuggler to Aspen Valley Hospital are expected to be ready by the end of May.

Residents will be able to rent a three-speed, 50-pound bike for various lengths of time, ranging from a 24-hour pass for $7 to $55 for a season pass.

The program is designed for short-duration trips around town, Mallory said. Passes will allow users 30 minutes on a bike at a time before prohibitive fees, designed to dissuade people from keeping the bikes for long periods, kick in. Those fees are still being established.

“Individuals seeking to ride bikes for longer trips will be encouraged to rent a bike at a local bike shop,” according to a memo to the commissioners. “WE-cycle will be reiterating that bike share is not bike rental on system materials, and bike-shop locations will be featured on the WE-cycle maps.

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Colorado Fun!

Alpine Slide-LEADWhen it comes to winter thrills, Colorado ski resorts offer nearly everything snow lovers crave. But just because skis and boards have been mothballed for the summer doesn’t eliminate reasons for visiting slope-side resorts.

Here are 33 summer adventures to be found around Colorado’s top ski communities. Like the trails and terrain, we’ve categorized activities by difficulty—family-friendly easy greens, more-challenging intermediate blues and adrenaline-infused advanced black-diamonds. Pick a pursuit and have some fun.

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Skiers, Riders Line up for Highland Bowl

imagesSkiers and snowboarders showed up to Aspen Highlands in force Tuesday after a massive snowstorm created some of the best conditions of the season.  The parking structure at Aspen Highlands filled up quickly causing city officials to direct motorists back to Aspen to take the free bus.

Photos of the 12,392-foot Highland Bowl circulated in social media showing an impressive procession of skiers and snowboarders snaking up it with wisecracks about town being empty because all of the locals were seemingly hiking and skiing the bowl. Other locals shared photos of an avalanche that slid sometime Monday night in nearby Maroon Bowl, which is out of bounds.

Aspen Highlands was originally scheduled to shut down for the season this Sunday but the Aspen Skiing Co. has decided to reopen the mountain the following weekend, April 27 and April 28, in appreciation of their customers and the bountiful April snow.

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Cycling Fans Invited to Create Poster for Pro Challenge

imagesAs Aspen and Snowmass Village gear up to host the USA Pro Challenge cycling race for the third year, professional and amateur artists have been invited to submit designs for the official commemorative poster.

The contest opened on April 15, and the deadline for entries is May 5. A panel of Aspen and Snowmass residents will select the winner from a pool of finalists. The winning design will be printed as Aspen/Snowmass’ official poster for the event, which will be available for purchase during the summer across Aspen and Snowmass and featured on Aspen Chamber and Resort Association, city of Aspen and Snowmass Tourism social-media platforms.

Aspen is the only city to host two stages in this year’s challenge, with the first on day one, taking place between Aspen and Snowmass Village. Artists are encouraged to highlight Aspen/Snowmass’ natural beauty, cycling terrain and outdoor-adventure culture.

Winners will be announced May 20. Each winner will receive a pair of VIP passes to the hospitality tent at one stage finish as well as recognition and exposure for his or her artwork.

Bowling Alley to Open in Snowmass

imagesIt’s been decades since the upper valley had a bowling alley but that’s about to change as a local man is in the midst of creating one in Snowmass.  Mark Reece recently signed a lease on a roughly 6,000-square-foot subterranean space below Venga Venga, situated along Fanny Hill, said commercial real estate agent Ruth Kruger, who brokered the deal.  “We’ve been working on [finding a space] for three years,” she said. “It’s hard to make financial sense in doing a bowling alley.”  But Reece and the owner of the building, Lance Hool, have reached a rent price that apparently will pencil out for the start-up business.   He said he’s been eyeing the space, and negotiating with Hool and his representatives, for almost three years.  “I was trying to capitalize on the right price for that space,” Reece said. “We couldn’t make ends meet. … We were willing to pay [a price] and they were willing to come down.”Reece said he has received zoning approvals from the town of Snowmass Village and will soon submit a building permit application. He said he hopes to be open by the summer.

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January Approaches 20-Year Record for Frigid Days in Aspen

imagesThis month will grab honors as one of Aspen’s most frigid Januarys in at least 20 years if the mercury plunges below zero again in the next 10 days.  This month has chilled skiers, frozen pipes, tortured cars and chattered teeth with lows at or below zero on 10 days so far, according to records tracked at the Aspen Water Plant.
This cold snap featured two periods with consecutive subzero days — Jan. 3 through 5 and Jan. 12 through 16. Subzero weather isn’t unusual for Aspen in January, but it doesn’t usually strike for this many days. Records from the observers at the water plant show that since 1994 only two years came close to matching this icebox performance. There were 11 days with temperatures at or below zero in January 2008, including five in a row. There were nine days with the super-low temperatures in 2007, according to the water plant’s records.  Last year there were only four days of subzero temperatures in January. In 2005, there was none.
The first half of the winter will be remembered as much for being dry as it was for being cold. The snowpack in the upper Roaring Fork River basin fell below 40 percent of average Monday, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The snowpack is measured at an automated Snotel site near Grizzly Reservoir, roughly 15 miles east-southeast of Aspen. It should typically have 8.7 inches of water in the amount of snow at this time of year. The snow-water equivalent was only 3.4 inches Monday, making it 39 percent of average, according to the Snotel site.  The total amount of precipitation — snow and rain — at the site is only 53 percent of average since Oct. 1.

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An Epic Hike From Crested Butte to Aspen in Colorado

On-the-trail-near-the-Maroon-Bells-outside-of-Aspen-200x300Some vacations are about relaxing; some are about sightseeing and some are about accomplishing a goal—climbing a mountain, becoming a certified scuba diver, visiting as many ball parks as you can in two weeks. I’d always wanted to do the famous hike between Crested Butte in Southwest Colorado and Aspen –12.2 miles along the West Maroon trail, crossing the Maroon Pass which is 12,500 feet high. And in the year since— as we get ready to meet up with family for a week at a Portico  Club  rental house in Snowmass, up the road from Aspen–I’ve thought  a lot about that hike.

That I was able to do it has not only given me confidence to push myself in other arenas but has made me smile when I’m feeling low.  I treasure the memory, most of all because I shared the hike with my husband and 21-year-old daughter Mel, an avid hiker and backpacker who led the way.

This would be no walk in the park.   We were at high elevation hiking over a mountain pass. Many people backpack here.   I’d first heard about this hike years ago when we took our kids to ski at Crested Butte, one of my favorite mountain towns. Crested Butte is an old western town with an entire downtown area that is on the national historic register and a five minute free bus ride from the mountain (and the condos) and so safe we felt comfortable letting young teens wander. At many other ski resorts, you are 20 minutes or more from downtown if you stay on the mountain.

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Conundrum Hot Springs

conundrumThree dozen people, about a third of whom seem to have forgotten to pack their swimsuits, are soaking at 11,200 feet in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, near Aspen. They hiked 8.5 miles to get here, and the 103-degree water bubbling from below does miracle work on sore legs. But just as the party is getting going, the weather turns. People laugh when the rain starts, then cover their heads with towels and bags of wine when it begins to hail. A few claps of thunder are enough to send most scrambling for their tents.

The rain never lets up, and the party must wait for another night. And there will be another night, another party, at what is quite possibly the most crowded wilderness locale in Colorado: Conundrum Hot Springs. It’s a natural wonder in a stunning setting, quite possibly the last of its kind in Colorado, hot pools on public land with free, unlimited access. How long it stays that way remains to be seen. The U.S. Forest Service says it’s being loved to death, and officials are studying options to address the overuse, including an alternative almost unheard of in Colorado: reservations to visit a national forest.

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No Snow Necessary: Ski Resorts Deliver Summer Fun

1374235970000-4x4Tour-1307190814_4_3“I came for the winter, but stayed for the summer.”

It’s a well-worn cliché employed by one-time ski bums who quickly grasped the appeal of ski-town living after the snow melted, the temperatures rose and the wildflowers bloomed.

In recent years, top ski destinations have beefed up their warm-weather offerings to lure visitors. Most large ski resorts offer world-class golf and mountain biking. Many are adding bells and high-altitude whistles like man-made whitewater parks, ziplines and much more. The bonus? Bargain rates at some of the region’s swankiest spots.

“In the summertime, travelers can experience the same luxurious lodging and dine at the same world-class restaurants for a fraction of the price,” says Dan Sherman of, which sells mountain vacation packages. “We have found that travelers can snag deals with savings of up to 85-percent off the most expensive travel times in winter.”

Wow, you say? That’s what we thought, too.

Here are some places to spend a spectacular summer in the mountains.