Gift Great Memories with an Exceptional Experience

By Helen Olsson | December 10, 2019 | Lifestyle Feature

Marie Kondo says we need less stuff in our lives. This year, bring joy to the people on your list by giving experiences instead of things.

FOR THE ASTRONOMER
JOIN A STAR PARTY

Want to get away? How about a tour of the universe? Banker-turned-astronomer Bryan White hosts private star parties for groups of up to 10 at various viewing spots around Aspen. Gazing through White’s 22-inch Obsession, the world’s largest computer-controlled portable telescope, you’ll see galaxies 100 million light years away, planets, star clusters, nebula and supernova remnants. Just seeing the rings and moons of Saturn through the telescope can cause an emotional reaction, White says. Star parties last two to three hours, and start times depend on sunset times. White brings coffee, hot cocoa and snacks, but the real treat is the view. $1,000, various locations, starpartyllc.com

FOR THE CHOPPER-LOVING POWERHOUND
HELI-SKI AT SILVERTON
This once-in-a-lifetime experience starts with a 45-minute chartered flight with spectacular views over nine different wilderness areas. An A-Star B3e heli whisks up to four guests from Aspen to a remote cabin near Silverton Mountain in the San Juan Mountains. (Best. Commute. Ever.) Boot up fireside, and then head out for a day of heli drops with Silverton’s world-class guides in an exclusive 26,000-acre powder-filled playground. Guests stop for lunch at the cabin, followed by more fresh lines on Silverton’s notoriously steep terrain before returning to Aspen on the chopper. $17,990 for four, Heli Ski Aspen, 6226 State Highway 110, heliskiaspen.com

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Silverton Mountain's heli-skiing operations are accessible in a day from Aspen.

FOR THE DISTANCE RUNNER
HUT RUN HUT
No snow? No problem. You can just run from hut to hut. This noncompetitive summer tour spans six days, 100 miles, five huts and 22,000 feet of vertical along the Continental Divide from Aspen to Red Cliff. Hut Run Hut is the brainchild of former 10th Mountain Division hut-keeper and trail worker Rickey Gates. His motto is “fun over fast.” The route features between 12 and 22 miles daily. At night, runners refuel on dishes like Moroccan lamb with curry leaf rice and red-wine-braised short ribs with polenta prepped by a private chef. Aug. 23-29 & Sept. 20-26, $2,500 (2019 pricing), hutrunhut.com

FOR THE LARGE-LUNGED UPHILLER
ASPEN HAUTE ROUTE
Sure, there’s that famous ski-touring route in Europe. But on this side of the pond, you can ski hut to hut with Aspen Expeditions’ Aspen Haute Route. This high-Alpine ski-touring trip (April 8 to 12) starts in the ghost town of Ashcroft and links three different huts in the Alfred A. Braun system, traversing over three 12,000-foot mountain passes, including Star Pass. With spectacular views of Castle, Cathedral and Pearl peaks, you won’t notice the exertion of the skin up. And there are plenty of long descents and opportunities to tick classic lines off your must-ski list. Price includes all needed Alpine touring gear and backpacks, as well as food and private huts for the week. $1,600 per person, Aspen Expeditions, 133 Prospector Road, aspenexpeditions.com

FOR THE UPWARDLY MOBILE
HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE
As the sun rises, take flight in a hot air balloon and drift for a lazy hour high above the ground. Above It All, which has been floating over the Roaring Fork Valley for 23 years, offers public flights, but you can also charter a private trip for up to seven people. From an altitude between 1,000 and 2,500 feet, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the Elk Mountain Range. When you touch down, mingle with the pilots as you celebrate with a Champagne brunch of fresh fruit, pastries, sausage, cheese, crackers and chocolate-covered strawberries. Private balloon for $3,100, for public flights adult for $295, children 6 to 12 for $225, (plus 20% gratuity) Snowmass Recreation Center, 2835 Brush Creek Road, Snowmass Village, aboveitallballoon.com

FOR THE HUNGRY MOTOR HEAD
SNOWMOBILE TOUR
T-Lazy-7 Ranch, a working cattle ranch, moonlights with snowmobile tours complete with lunch. On the three-hour Klondike Lunch Tour, travel along narrow winding trails through aspens to a rustic late-1800s mining cabin tucked in the woods. With your toes warming by the wood stove, enjoy locally sourced grass-fed beef burgers with views of 14,025-foot Pyramid Peak. Weather permitting, the tour will also offer opportunities for selfies with the Maroon Bells. $270 for a single rider, $390 for double riders, 3129 Maroon Creek Road, tlazy7.com

FOR THE STARSTRUCK, PART 1
SKI WITH KIM
Local superstar Kim Reichhelm shepherds skiers on trips all over the globe, from Sun Valley to Niseko to Greenland. But she’ll also be doing private guided ski trips in her own backyard this season (Jan. 13 through 16; March 23 through 26). These experiences are customizable: Choose from snow-cat skiing, early lift access, après at Cloud Nine, live music at Belly Up and catered dinners. The experience can be an exclusive one-on-one or groups of up to six. Reichhelm blends ski-town culture, group camaraderie and ski progression into unforgettable trips tailored to each skier. From $2,000 per day (two-day minimum), skiwithkim.com

FOR THE STARSTRUCK, PART 2
SKI WITH DAV
Longtime Aspenite and two-time World Extreme Skiing Champion Chris Davenport hosts his Superstars Ski Camps in Portillo, Chile, each August, but, in wintertime, you can book a day to ski with him in Aspen. You’ll sign up through the ski school and a private instructor will ferry the group to the front of the lift lines. We’re assuming Davenport doesn’t need any pointers. $1,500 plus the cost of an all-day private lesson, aspensnowmass.com/lessons; chrisdavenport.com

FOR THE ARTISAN
SPIRO LYON GLASS BLOWING CLASS
Give the creator on your list a glass-blowing class, and, next year, you might get a delicate glass ornament in your stocking. Spiro Lyon, a glass-blowing studio in El Jebel, offers half-hour workshops on Saturdays through the holidays. You can also hire out the studio for a private three-hour group session with your own personal gaffer. What could be better than playing with a ball of hot molten glass over an open flame? The studio’s artisans will show you how they work with hot cast glass to make furniture and architectural glass tiles with bas relief textures. $150 per person, 17283 CO-82, Carbondale, spirolyonglass.com

FOR THE COOL CAT
JAS LABOR DAY EXPERIENCE VIP PASS
Treat the music aficionado on your list with a VIP pass to the three-day Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience. Choose from silver- or gold-level VIP passes for entry to all performances (naturally), but also luxe perks like standing-room-only stage access, elevated viewing platforms, premium open bars, hors d’oeuvres, live cooking stations and desserts. You’ll enjoy on-site parking and private bathrooms. And a portion of the hefty price tag is tax deductible. The 2020 event is slated for Sept. 4 to 6. Past festival artists include John Mayer, Sting, Stevie Wonder and Keith Urban. $2,000-$3,000 (2019 pricing), Snowmass Town Park, jazzaspensnowmass.org

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FOR THE INNER MONET
PRIVATE ART SESSION
Watercolor artist Sarah Uhl works in a studio housed in the Carbondale Historic Jailhouse, where she hosts three-hour creativity workshops and private art sessions. She also takes budding artists on plein air hike-and-paint workshops, an opportunity to connect to nature through art. Paint Aspen’s aspens with artisanal Greenleaf Blueberry watercolors handmade in Grand Junction from natural minerals. Private session participants get to take home a mini set of the paints and a moleskin journal. Workshops $75-$125, half-day private session $550, full-day private session $750, Carbondale Historic Jailhouse, 499 Weant Ave., sarahuhl.com

FOR THE CLASSICAL MUSIC BUFF
ASPEN MUSIC FESTIVAL AND SCHOOL GOLD SEASON PASS
Each summer, world renowned classical artists and educators gather in Aspen, along with rising stars, for more than 400 events in the Aspen Music Festival. The Gold Pass grants pass-holder admittance to all regularly scheduled AMFS events, including classical music concerts and recitals put on by the Aspen Music Festival Orchestra, the Aspen Chamber Symphony and the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra. The pass also gets you into master classes with guest artists. One key advantage of the Gold Pass is the ability to get free same-day seat reservations for regularly scheduled events. The 2020 season runs July 2 to Aug. 23, and the lineup will be announced in February. Spoiler alert: The docket will feature Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in celebration of the 250th anniversary of his birth. $1,250, 960 N. Third St., aspenmusicfestival.com/events/passes

FOR THE EPICURE
PRIVATE CELLAR DINNER
Find six friends who’ve been very good this year and invite them to indulge with an exclusive dinner in the subterranean wine cellar at The Little Nell. The vibe is speakeasy (the cellar is informally known as the Red Light Lounge), and the culinary experience bespoke. Prior to the event, guests work with the executive chef to curate a customized menu and with sommeliers to find the perfect wine pairings from the cellar’s 20,000-bottle collection. $500 minimum on food and drink, 675 E. Durant Ave., thelittlenell.com

FOR THE WHISKEY AFICIONADO
DO-IT-YOURSELF DISTILLING
Forget Etsy. The ultimate DIY experience can be had at Marble Distilling Co., a zero-waste distillery in Carbondale. In Marble’s DIY six-day course, groups of up to six distill whiskey and learn processes like mash billing and fermenting. The price includes ingredients, barrels, bottles and labels, and warehouse aging. Choose your recipe; mix your mash; hydrate your barrel; then take a break to go fishing or hiking. Next, you’ll strip grains from the mash, working on a 500-gallon still. The final day is spent distilling and “making cuts” on a 250-gallon finish still. The final spirit goes into the 53-gallon cask you selected and is taken to barrel storage. You take home a 3-gallon cask to taste while it ages. Three years later, return to Marble for bottling—and handsign your very own 250 bottles. That’s a lot of pours. $12,000, 150 Main St., Carbondale, marbledistilling.com

FOR YOUR 50 BFFs
CLOUD NINE HAPPY-HOUR BUYOUT
Known for fondue, raclette, apple strudel—and the ubiquitous pop of Champagne corks—Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro is legendary at Aspen Highlands. Choose a sunny spring day to rent out this Euro-style cabin for your own private 4-7pm après-ski party (max 50 revelers). Guests will be greeted with Champagne flutes and can linger around the fire pit. Inside, an in-house DJ spins tunes. You’ll work with ASC Catering to choose the menu, maybe passed appetizers or seafood and fondue stations. Beer, wine or cocktails can flow freely because at the end of the night, your guests and their gear will be transported downhill via snowcat. From $16,000, Aspen Highlands, asccatering.com

FOR THE JOY-SEEKER
THE MALA CREATION AND RIVER BLESSING
Remède Spa at The St. Regis Aspen Resort has partnered up with Alexa Webster—a yogini, spiritual guide and founder of Seeds of Remembrance—to create an indulgent and empowering next-generation wellness experience designed to fulfill mind, body and soul. The Mala Experience begins with a one-on-one intention- and mantra-setting session. A mala bead necklace is then handcrafted, and a ritual is curated specifically for the guest, including an intimate river-blessing ceremony and qigong meditation. In winter, guests will bless their custom mala necklace under the light of the moon near the glow of a campfire, either at the hotel’s mountain plaza or by taking a sleigh ride to nearby Northstar Preserve. The Mala Experience is completely customizable. From $2,500, 315 E. Dean St., marriott.com

FOR THE STRESSED OUT
VINEYASA
Vineyasa is the invention of sommelier, yoga teacher, mindfulness coach and Mindful Vine founder Marisa Hallsted. A guided mindful journey of the senses, Vineyasa starts with a 90-minute private yoga class—either vinyasa or hatha. Next, Hallsted leads guests through an immersive wine and bites tasting, with the intention of transforming your life beyond the table. The idea is to awaken the palate and heighten the sensory experience in order to fully enjoy the pleasure of the food and the wine in the culinary moment. Hallsted will bring Vineyasa to you or find a space in Aspen to host the event. Maximum of 10 participants. $897, themindfulvine.com

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Mindful Vine combines wine, yoga and sensory awareness in a private setting.


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Photography by: Heli-ski photo courtesy of Silverton Mountain; JAS Labor Day photo courtesy of Jazz Aspen Snowmass; Vineyasa photo courtesy of Mindful Vine