Aspen Recreation

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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Fly Fishing Near Aspen — It’s About the Fishing Not the Catching

Mel-Yemma-with-guide-Trevor-Clapper-in-the-Roaring-Fork-River-300x225It’s fishing, not catching! I’m standing  on a rock in the Roaring Fork River in Aspen early in the morning wishing for a cup of coffee—where there is supposed to be some of the best fly fishing in Colorado but I’m not catching anything.

Sure I’m a novice.  I’m certain my casting leaves a lot to be desired.  It is beautiful—no one but us, the water crystal clear, mountains around us.  We had to slide down on our butts to get to this fishing spot, suited up in waders with neoprene booties and waterproof boots.That’s part of the adventure I’m told—clamoring down the steep incline to the river, over rocks, holding on to tree roots for support.

But no fish.  “It’s about the experience,” says our guide Trevor Clapper from the Little Nell Adventure Shop, which offers trips that end in Basalt, about 20 miles downriver.  Clapper says of everything people want to do in the summer or fall when they come to Aspen—off road jeep tours, guided hiking trips, white river rafting—fly fishing is the most popular.  “It’s something different,” he explains.  “And something you can only do certain places.”

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Vail, Breckenridge & Aspen Flourish As Year-Round Desinations

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsThis is a great article from the Vail Daily about the increasing shift of mountain communities into year round destinations.

There was a time when mountains were enough — when skiing down or hiking up forested slopes, fishing and rafting rivers or biking or riding horses through the hills provided enough entertainment to last a week. As mountain resort communities grow and compete with one another for tourism dollars, the mountains simply aren’t cutting it. Visitors want more.

Ziplines. Trampolines. Alpine coasters. Extreme mountain bike trails. Paragliding. Ropes courses. Slacklines. Mini golf. Disc golf. Rock-climbing walls. Whitewater parks. Terrain parks. Skateboard parks.

Growth in visitors and sales tax revenues proves that ski towns are real communities no longer serving the very narrow niche of winter sports. The in-your-face overload of countless activities doesn’t stop with recreation. Summer events and festivals are filling up the calendars, giving guests from far and wide all the more reason to find their Rocky Mountain high. Event planning has taken off in the mountain region, and in many cases the public sector has its hand in it like never before. The mountains have become everything from a foodie’s paradise to a place to unwind to a spa or golf destination. Festivals focusing on music, art, food and dance plump up weekends that used to be desolate as recent as a few years ago.

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Colorado’s Big Shortcut

Photo by Tom Roche

Photo by Tom Roche

Men’s Journal hit the nail on the head with this great article about the trail between Aspen and Crested Butted. The bottom line is…it belongs on the bucketlist.


More than 100 miles of winding road separate Aspen from Crested Butte. That number drops to ten when you ditch the asphalt and step onto the trail snaking up and over 12,480-foot Maroon Pass. As lovely as the drive may be – and it is certainly lovely – the hike is far more memorable. Fortunately, the folks at Aspen’s Limelight Hotel are happy to give visitors a lift to the West Maroon Creek trailhead (as well as a SPOT Personal Tracker device meant to reassure hikers worried about losing the path). What follows is in equal turns rigorous and scenic.

The hike starts with a photo op. The crisp, clear waters of Maroon Lake perfectly reflect the 14,000-foot Maroon Bells, creating a scene so fetching that locals insist its the most photographed view in Colorado. Two miles up the trail, which winds through the White River National Forest, aspen groves give way to reveal a view of the lush glacial valley carved between the Maroon Peaks and the 13,000-foot Len Shoemaker Ridge.

At tree line, wildflowers take over – purple, red, yellow, white, and waist-deep. The final push to the pass rises along a goat path that cuts above the floral scene along a headwall. At the top, a large rock formation shields hikers from the wind so they can enjoy a killer view (and a hotel-packed lunch). Total time to the top is roughly four hours for about six uphill miles. By comparison, the descent on the other side feels easy – four fast miles on singletrack through meadows. The views are constantly changing for the better so the hike goes much faster without a camera.