Colorado Skiing in a Pandemic: Know Before you Go in the 2020-2021 Ski Season
Just like our Escape — To Nowhere series, we want to help you create the ideal Colorado ski trip during a pandemic year. We’re including where you can stay in your own cabin/condo and cook for yourself if you choose plus activities you can do outdoors. There’s a lot to tell, so look forward to a four-part series.
But first… Did you know Norwegians are rated as the happiest people year after year? Here’s one big thing that lends itself to their happiness… friluftsliv (pronounced free-lutz-eev), which means outdoor living, or outdoor activity. We want to help you get more friluftsliv in your life! Now, here’s the second stop on our Colorado tour…
Aspen is widely known as a ski mecca of North America, sending the second most winter Olympians behind Steamboat Springs. It has a reputation for being a bit bougie and that all started with a family of German immigrants who came to Aspen in the ‘40s after World War II and found Aspen to be the ideal place for mind/body/spirit perfection. They started an art institute and other cultural entities that would draw a high value family to town.
But before that, in the 1800s the area was known for its silver mining. And even after the mines were shut down, the hearty families that were left took their shot at potato farming and became quite successful.
Now Aspen has developed a reputation for great skiing and enjoying the highlife.
Like other ski resorts, Aspen is making small adjustments and modifications for a ski season during a pandemic, but they are so minor that you might not even notice. At the time of writing this article, Aspen Mountain is the only one open but Highlands is set to open very soon and Snowmass is right next-door with Buttermilk. Note that Aspen Mountain only services blue and black runs.
Before you’re ready to ski, reserve your ski rentals at Four Mountain Sports which is just across from the main gondola. Make reservations online ahead of time so you can easily scan your barcode and get in line for a quick service. You can also obtain your lift tickets here.
The Silver Queen Gondola heads straight up the mountain and, due to the pandemic, you only ride with your party. Other modifications on the mountain include dining at the Sundeck restaurant located at the top of Aspen Mountain, where they can only seat up to 25% capacity inside. They have added a tent outside to accommodate more diners. There, you can fuel up with typical ski mountain grub such as hamburgers, hot chili and slices of pizza. #refuel
In terms of dining, the majority of Aspen restaurants are primarily offering takeout.
Meat and Cheese has developed a great reputation in town and offers a variety of Asian-infused dishes such as rice dumplings, mushroom risotto, butternut squash gnocchi, ramen and various meat and cheese boards. If you’re traveling with a large family or a group, this is a great option to order family-style takeout and let everybody try some of their delicious dishes.
Another option for takeout comes from the famous Little Nell hotel whose restaurant is offering what’s called New Nourish offering their famous cuisine to go. After a day of skiing, enjoy lobster mac ‘n cheese, a delish cobb salad, hearty soups like chicken noodle or chicken tortilla, truffle fries or baked salmon. Again, order family-style and enjoy bites of everything The Little Nell has to offer.
If you’re looking for a dining option with a winter patio, check out the adorable Creperie du Village owned by an Austrian/French couple who have enclosed the patio for comfortable winter seating, complete with blankets and posh pillows. They’ve also added a chalet outside on the street for socially distanced indoor dining. They’re known for their cheese fondue which pairs amazingly well with a bold red wine in the winter.
Jimmy’s offers both in-restaurant dining (25% capacity) and takeout. As their adorable website reads, they want to be here for your next anniversary, break-up, lost job or average Tuesday night dinner. They respectfully ask for you to limit your dining time to 1.5 hours for a party of two and 2 hours for a larger party, in order to accommodate other guests. Their wine list is extensive, although the least expensive bottle of red is just under $100. Enjoy their warm, dark paneled walls and cozy atmosphere, paired with a delicious meal. Order a comfort food choice after a day of skiing with their meatloaf and mashed potatoes or chicken madeira. You also can’t go wrong with their daily special. Salads and kids choices are also available.
Where To Stay
As we know, the way to go for getaways is to rent your own condo and we recommended Fasching Haus (unit 7) for its location, layout and comfort. It’s part of the Frias Properties of Aspen. Just a few blocks walk from the gondola and from the main part of town, it’s really an ideal location for your visit to Aspen. This unit sleeps 10 with three bedrooms and has a back door that leads straight to the community hot tub. You’ll love the modern and sleek interior design.
Downstairs, you’ll find one bedroom with a queen and a second bunk bedroom with four bunks plus a fold-out futon. There’s a bathroom in between the two bedrooms. Upstairs, the open concept kitchen, living room and dining room has a full wall of windows looking out on the snowy road. The master bedroom is also upstairs with an en suite bathroom.
If you’re looking for an activity that is not skiing, try the snowshoe tour with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES). You’ll meet your guide at the top of Aspen Mountain and enjoy two hours of a great work out filled with interesting trivia about the history of the area, the mining industry of the past, local trees and animal prints.
A walk through the town of Aspen promises many Instagram worthy images. Aspen is known for its impeccable art sophistication. Pop into Eden Fine Art to check out some colorful and modern pieces or LIK Fine Art Aspen to view the gorgeous photography from Aussie Peter Lik.
Know Before You Go
Aspen Snowmass will sell tickets onsite at lift ticket windows, but pre-purchasing online is highly suggested to guarantee access. Rental, retail stores and restaurants will have capacity limitations to maintain social distancing in accordance with state and local guidelines. Additional outdoor dining and grab and go options will be available across all four mountains and guests can use the Aspen Snowmass app to order food to go. Aspen Snowmass passholders do not need a reservation at this time, but Ikon pass holders will need to make a reservation before their visit. The Aspen Highlands snowcat will not be operating this winter. Specific COVID-19 information can be found here.
New for winter 2020-21
Aspen Snowmass has replaced the quad Big Burn lift at Snowmass with a new $10.8 million high-speed six passenger lift. At Aspen Mountain, 28 new state-of-the art energy efficient snowmaking guns will allow for top-to-bottom snowmaking for the first time this winter. Snowmass will also welcome snowmaking to 28 acres, offering more reliable early season skiing and riding conditions. Two new restaurants, High Alpine and Alpine Room, replace longtime Snowmass favorite Gwyn’s offering market style options at High Alpine and sit-down dining, including breakfast, at Alpin Room. For additional information, visit www.aspensnowmass.com.
Cover photo courtesy Matt Power
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. You can find her “escaping” to Colorado at least once a year. You can hear her “Weekend Trip Tips” on the statewide NPR show, Texas Standard.