Starting with Aspen Mountain and ending with Snowmass, here's how to shred down Aspen's ultimate "Four-Fecta" in one day.
On most winter mornings, locals pick a path for the day. If there is fresh powder, 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 bit with a different Aspen experience 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 ride to complete the “four-fecta” is the free bus service that is a winter hallmark of RFTA, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority. The Four Mountain Connector buses are the best way to access the Aspen Skiing Company empire. These ski carriages roam the valley, picking up and depositing skiers and boarders within steps of the lifts of all four ski mountains. Like everything else, the schedule will be fluid. (Check rfta.com/routes/4-mountain-connector once the service reopens in November for the 2022 ski season for times and connections.)
A “Four-Fecta” Itinerary
Start your day early in Paradise. That would be the venerable Paradise Bakery where you can get a little sustenance in the form of hot coffee and fresh baked croissants and muffins. There’s no better way to get fortified for your day than at this beloved local hangout that has been feeding skiers since 1981. Order a fresh lemon poppyseed muffin to nibble on as you check out the local papers and get the lowdown on the day’s conditions. When you’re ready, just amble a block away to the Gondola for the 9AM opening. No hurries, no worries; let the “ski dogs” fight for the first cars up. 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 back to the Gondola Plaza. It’s 10:45AM. Time to catch your first Four Mountain Connector bus from the Rubey Park Transit Center to Aspen Highlands.
Your RFTA shuttle will drop you at Highlands Base Village around 11:25AM. No time for a climb to the Bowl on a “four-fecta” day, but you still can start at the top of the Loge lift. Take the Exhibition lift to Loge and you’ll be at 11,675 feet in just about 30 minutes. How about a Broadway-to-Gunbarrel cruise, up the Cloud Nine chair, then Kandahar to Loge lift, and then a top to bottom? Easy-peasy and you’re back at the base by 1PM.
There are a couple of ways to make the transition to the ’Milk. 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 the Tiehack lift. This is easier in border boots and the walk has a slight 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 main parking lot and the Summit Express lift. Either way, take the lift to the top and stop at the Cliffhouse for a quickie lunch on the patio with the iconic view of Pyramid Peak. Stunning. Boards back on, bust a move for the base of Buttermilk and catch the shuttle to Snowmass.
At 2:45PM, 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 of Sam’s Knob and then drop down Sunnyside to the superfast Big Burn lift. There is no better place to be at the end of your ski day than atop the Burn. For your “fourfecta” finale, may I suggest a long cruise down the Dallas Freeway to Monkshood/Banzai back to the bottom? Head to the Limelight bar in the Base Village for a celebratory beer before catching the last bus back to Aspen. Congratulations! There may be no pins or medals, but you did it.
Photography by: PHOTO BY HOLLY MANDARICH/UNSPLASH