It sure seems like it’s all glam and glitz, but don’t let this iconic ski town fool you.
At first glance, Aspen doesn’t seem like it would pack that mean of a punch. Young moms in yoga pants chauffeur toddlers in expensive-looking strollers, men in fur coats sip coffee, and the Prada store radiates in the morning light. Sounds fairly innocent, right? As far as I can tell, it’s all a ploy because leaving Aspen almost always necessitates a vacation to recover from my vacation.
CB is everything that makes a ski town rad, from locally owned restaurants and shops to coffeehouses filled with people who live for adventure.
I was at an eighth-birthday party this spring for the son of a friend I moved to Crested Butte with 15 years ago. The kids all played soccer while the “adults” drank PBR in the shadow of Crested Butte Mountain. Rowan, the birthday boy, approached the picnic table and asked his mom, “Can I open my presents?” One of the gifts was a Magic 8 Ball, a classic toy that’s been around since 1950. He unpackaged the 8 Ball with a throng of kids surrounding him. Then Rowan asked with heartfelt sincerity, “Will I be a pro skier?” He shook the ball.
Once the first chairlift started spinning in 1972, Telluride became the ultimate ski town. And that’s one reason we love it.
Back in the day, Telluride produced over $60 million of gold, silver, zinc, copper, and lead. Though the last gold was extracted decades ago, it seems wherever you go in Telluride, mining still gets in your face. Riding the gondola, one can scan east to west from the ginormous, treacherously toxic tailings pile to the pickax-stuffed museum in town. Me, I’m over the mining heritage. In the end, it’s just a bunch of rusted metal.
There may not be another community in the mountains that so deftly does the destination jujitsu of combining the thrill of outdoor athletics with the buzz of a booming urban environment.
(Photo: Jeff Cricco)
Pete Seibert, a veteran of the 10th Mountain Division, needed $1 million or so in 1961 to build his life’s vision of the ultimate ski resort. He put together a package for investors: $10,000 got you shares in the unbuilt resort and four lifetime season passes for the family.
Ski bums of all ages may be working three jobs to pay their way in this pricey resort town, but on a powder morning, you’ll find them in the Aspen gondola line.
Aspen. It’s one of the most riffed-on ski towns out there. From Aspen Extreme to Dumb and Dumber, Us Weekly to The New York Times, the widespread image of Aspen is a glitzy celebrity playground, where the billionaires pushed out the millionaires and where no regular Joe could possibly afford to live.
The ultimate steep and deep adventure in Black Iron Bowl.
» Location: Telluride, Colo.
» Getting There: Unload Lift 12 and click out of your skis. Shoulder them or use a carrying strap (ask patrol in the shack beneath the High Camp restaurant) or backpack. Head up the ridge to your left. Take your time. Enjoy the views.