Celebrity slopes in Aspen

Aspen has an aura about it. Even as you turn out of Denver's new international airport and down Interstate 70, at the wheel of the Jeep you need to hire to negotiate the icy roads, you feel you are heading for a different, more exclusive world. As others turn off the highway towards, say, Crested Butte or Copper Mountain, you feel a warm glow of superiority as you go on to what must surely be a better place. This feeling of affluence is replaced by one of total inadequacy as you pass Aspen's airport. There are very few vehicles in the car-park. The runway, on the other hand, is cluttered with tiny planes. If you really want to cut a dash, forget about the four-wheel drive; you need your own wings.

The slopes at Aspen are littered with celebrities. Not that you can possibly tell who's who under all the hats and goggles. But you know they are there because every morning the Aspen Times tells you they are. Many of them apparently have no idea how to ski. Last month, the country singer Lyle Lovett joined in a race, at the end of which he admitted he'd never been on skis before but had found it pretty similar to motocross. So if you want to blend in, don't worry that your inability to do a perfect parallel turn will let you down. There is only one thing to remember: the dress code is fur - round your head, round your neck, or trimming your ski jacket. Political correctness has yet to impose man-made alternatives on the Aspen dress code.

There are plenty of places to buy an appropriate outfit if you need one. Aspen flourished in the late 19th century as a supplier for the gold and silver mines which were set up during Colorado's mining boom. Most of the centre of town has survived, although the Victorian homesteads on the surrounding hillsides have been destroyed to make room for the vast new mansions owned by the rich and famous. But the old buildings in the town centre now contain shops selling ski gear, antiques, and very expensive clothes.

There is one supermarket. Nothing else here gives the impression that it has anything to do with normal life. Anyone who comes to Aspen is here to ski and be seen. The people who work in the town can't afford to live here - they commute from the surrounding countryside.

Lyle Lovett and his ilk apart, plenty of people come here for some serious skiing. The resort consists of four mountains. The facilities are run by one company, so the same lift pass can be used everywhere, and all the slopes are linked by a continuous free bus service from Aspen's main square. So a family or group with widely differing skiing abilities can all share accommodation in the centre of Aspen and be within easy reach of a mountain whose slopes match their talents.

The downtown ski area is Aspen Mountain, renowned for its expert slopes, and completely unsuitable for beginners. One of its pistes, Ruthie's Run, is used for World Cup downhill racing. This is the place to come for Aspen's most challenging skiing, although some regulars feel it has been overrun by people who are simply out to make an impression. They prefer instead to go to Aspen Highlands, which is quieter but almost as demanding. Beginners and intermediates will find more gentle slopes at Buttermilk or Snowmass. The real challenge here is not the skiing, but avoiding the snowboarders who make up about half the people on these mountains, practising the fastest-growing winter sport in America and the latest Winter Olympic discipline. Both Buttermilk and Snowmass can be reached by the Aspen bus service although there are hotels at the base of both mountains, providing ski-in/ski-out facilities for anyone who is less bothered about having the attractions of Aspen just around the corner.

The standard of teaching is good, in keeping with the American expectation of value for money. Since the amount you will have to pay is high, you can expect improvement in technique. And since you are likely to be videoed as you do it, you will be able to see this for yourself.

Hot-buttered rum is the trendy apres-ski drink. The place for this high- calorie, high-octane concoction is the terrace of the Ajax Tavern at the foot of Aspen Mountain, from where you can watch the last of the day's skiers making their way more or less stylishly down the home straight. To evade the biting cold, and to join an altogether smarter set, take tea around the log fire at Little Nell's or the Ritz-Carlton. You will need ski clothes - tight-fitting, fur-trimmed, but probably not the outfit you have actually been skiing in. You also need a fistful of dollars.

Those of us who booked before the pound plummeted to an 18-month low against the dollar have to shop around when choosing a place to eat or drink. While the trendiest restaurants, such as Pinon's, are booked nights in advance, others often have special offers, particularly mid-week. So look out for half-price Chinese meals after 9pm at Eastern Winds, two main courses for the price of one at the Smuggler Land Office, and, best value of all, a steak the size of a small state for $8 (pounds 5.50) at Mezzo. If you think you can manage a starter too, order the chicken wings - the nearest most Brits will get to flying in Aspen this winter.

Cathy Packe paid pounds 310 (including tax) for a London-Denver return through Flightbookers (0171-757 2000). She rented a Jeep locally through Avis (pounds 300 for two weeks) and paid pounds 400 for a fortnight's bed and breakfast at the Snowflake Inn (001 970 925 3221).

Aspen Convention and Visitors' Bureau: 001 970 925 2773.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game