Kelly J Hayes | December 25, 2020 | Lifestyle
If you’re up for a challenge and some incredible rewards, here’s how to ski the valley’s four mountains in a single day.
On most winter mornings, locals pick a path for the day. If it is a powder day, they may head for Highlands and the Bowl. On a sunny Saturday, the choice might be to meet friends at the Gondola for a social ski day. You get the picture.
But if you want to change it up a but with a different Aspen experience—one that has some challenge and a big reward—why not try skiing or riding all four mountains, top to bottom, in a single day? With a little planning and a little perseverance, it can be done.
Your magic carpet to complete the four-fecta is the free bus service that is a winter hallmark of the Roaring Fork Transit Authority. Called the Four Mountain Connector, these ski carriages roam the valley, picking up and depositing skiers and snowboarders at the base of all four ski mountains. Like everything else, the service closed because of COVID-19 last March, but with any luck it will reopen for the upcoming ski season. (If not, there is always a private car.)
Start your day early in town at Victoria and Co. Espresso & Wine Bar. You’ll need some sustenance, and there’s no better way to fortify than a little Aussie "brekkie" at this beloved local hangout. Try the glorious morning muffin and the flat white. Chat out the local papers, and get the lowdown on the day’s conditions.
When you’re ready, just amble across the street to the Gondola for the 9AM opening. No hurries, no worries; let the "Ski Dogs" fight for the first cars up the mountain. It's a 14-minute ride to the 11,212-foot summit. Once on top, you have an hour to ski. Try a trip down the iconic Ruthie's Run to Lift 1A, back to the top and then down the gut in Spar Gulch to the Gondola Plaza. It's 10:45. Time to catch the shuttle from Rubey Park to Highlands.
Your shuttle drops you at Base Village around 11:25AM. No time for a climb to the Bowl on a four-fecta day, but you still need to get to the top of the Loge lift. Exhibition lift to Loge, and you'll be at 11,675 feet in just about 20 minutes. How about a Broadway to Gunbarrel cruise, up the Cloud Nine chair, Kandahar to Loge lift, and then a top-to-bottom run? Easy enough, and you're back at the base by 12:45PM.
There area couple of ways to make the transition to The 'Milk, but the best is to catch the shuttle back toward town, but get off at the Aspen Recreation Center just down the road. From there, hoof it across the Terral Wade Bridge to Tiehack. This is easier in snowboarder boots, and the walk is slightly uphill. But it can be done. The alternative is to take the shuttle to Eighth Street in Aspen, exit, and take the Buttermilk bus to the parking lot.
Either way, take the lift to the top and stop at the Cliffhouse for a quick lunch on the patio with the iconic view of Pyramid Peak. Stunning. Boards back on, bust a move for the bottom, and pick up the shuttle to Snowmass.
If all goes well, you'll find yourself at the base of Snowmass—just enough time to ride the Village Express lift to the top and then drop down Sunnyside to the newly installed Big Burn lift. There's no better place to be at the end of a ski day than atop the Burn.
For your four-fecta finale, may I suggest a long cruise down the Dallas Freeway to Monkshood/Banzai back to the bottom? Head to the Limelight for a celebratory beer before catching the last bus back to Aspen. Congratulations—there won’t be any pins or medals, but you will have pulled off one of the best ski experiences in the West.
Photography by: Courtesy of Aspen Snow Mass