ASPEN - Once, a long time ago, I tried to ride my mountain bike up the Government Trail, all the way across the face of Buttermilk and then toward Snowmass. I guess it's generally supposed to be ridden in the opposite, downhill direction, but I lived in Aspen so that's where I started, trudging up the trail and pushing my bike until I finally gave up.
I don't think I've ridden it since, though technically, I didn't do much riding then, either. In fact, I generally ignore Government until winter, when it morphs into one of my favorite outings on a pair of touring skis. I make a point of heading to West Buttermilk at least once during the season, parking at the lot there, skiing across the ski slope to the backcountry gate on the far side and then heading up the trail.
Here's the great thing about Government: Moments after I've left the ski area, I feel like I'm far from anything. Mostly, the trail winds through deep woods. It's a backcountry experience sandwiched between two ski areas.
On a recent weekend jaunt up the trail with a friend, we had the place to ourselves but for a trio of snowboarders who burst through the trees, having diverted off of Buttermilk at some point for some backcountry powder turns. We stuck to the trail, where the surface was nicely packed beneath some fresh cover, though the steepest stretches of the uphill climb were definitely taxing.
We didn't reach Snowmass, but turned around when we'd gone a sufficient distance, enjoying the return on what I consider the ideal downhill run through the woods on touring skis - steep enough to get some momentum, but not so steep as to scare the living daylights out of me.
It wasn't until we popped out at West Buttermilk that the solitude released us from its welcome grip as suddenly as it had taken us in.