This is the fundamental question that helps Aspen Snowmass ski and snowboard pros triangulate the best possible itinerary for clients seeking a “Guided Experience,” the newest four-mountain offering for winter guests.
It’s a question that shapes the flow of the day, determining whether the group heads for a freeski of Highland Bowl, some skill building on the moguls of Bell Mountain, a casual afternoon on the groomers of Snowmass or a (very) early aprés at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro.
“Guided experiences are for people who don’t necessarily want a lesson,” says Ryan Watts, Aspen Highlands Ski and Snowboard School Manager. “A lot of times people just want to know where the best possible snow will be.”
We met up with Watts at the base of Aspen Mountain in search of just that — the best possible snow. Conditions, however, were less than optimal.
With minimal snowpack in mind, Watts focused on three main things: finding out where the snow would be best, knowing what runs to hit at what time, and always keeping in mind that bumps in the trees stay soft, even during the afternoons.
We headed for Ruthie’s to catch the corduroy while it was still fresh and chatted about the program’s inception. It really boils down to one point of contention: the typical ski vacation is burdened with questions.
What kind of skis should you rent? What type of terrain is appropriate? Which runs will provide the best snow? Where are you going to stop for lunch? Will the whole family enjoy skiing Snowmass, or would they be better off on Aspen Mountain? The list goes on...
“Long-term guests often want someone to just make decisions for their family,” says Watts.
“We help them understand their skiing and ability in order to choose the best terrain, and if they’re renting through Four Mountain Sports, we make sure they’re on the right setup.”
Some pros go as far as requiring that guests leave their cell phones at home, ensuring they are able to unplug from their typical routine and get as much out of their ski day as possible. This however, is fully at the guest’s discretion and direction.
Our day on the slopes isn’t as… disciplined. Ruthie’s, as Watts predicted, is perfectly untouched, the corduroy still grippy and the run nearly deserted.
We loop back over to the gondola, before heading for some bumps on Ajax Express. The morning is topped off with pancakes at Bonnie’s, soaking in some early-January sun on the patio. The mountain is quiet but the skiing is good; even with minimal snow, we got just what we were looking for.
1. South Castle to Lucky Strike 2. No Name off of Olympic Bowl (right before Deception) 3. Ozone (right down the middle of Highlands Bowl)
Top Three Runs on Aspen Mountain
1. Back of Bell Mountain 2. Ruthie’s 3. Blondie’s (get your bump legs in shape!)
Published January 2018
About the Author
Celine Wright is a Colorado native whose writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times and Colorado Springs Gazette, among other titles. During the day she can be found marketing brands in the outdoor industry at Carbondale-based Backbone Media and after hours (dependent on season) she can be found biking, skiing, and hiking in the Aspen area.