| AspenTimes.com

Finding New Paths with the Lost Forest

Steve Sewell believes the Lost Forest will be a game-changer for summertime in Snowmass.

"It will offer interesting and fun activities for families," the mountain manager said, "and I think it's going to give people a reason to stay in Snowmass a couple more days."

Consider Sewell a reliable source when it comes to Snowmass and its affairs on the hill – he started working on the Snowmass ski patrol in 1977 and has been the mountain manager since 2006.

In case you haven't been following or this is your first time here – in which case, welcome – Aspen Skiing Co. in June 2017 started building a $10 million, on-mountain adventure center at Snowmass Ski Area.

With an extensive plan that called for amenities such as an alpine coaster, zip-line, ropes course, climbing wall and more than 15 miles of new bike trails, Skico wasted no time in realizing its dreams of building an adventure park at Snowmass.

The U.S. Forest Service granted the skiing company final project approval June 20, 2017, and construction started the next day, Skico director of business development Peter Santini said.

The Lost Forest is based just up the gondola at the Elk Camp area, which Skico hopes will serve as a social hub in the summer months.

Skico debuted its 5,700-foot "Breathtaker Coaster" – the only part of the Lost Forest open year-round – in time to ring in the ski area's 50th anniversary.

Sewell said the alpine coaster, which opened mid-December, was well received by locals and visitors through the winter.

"It was an overwhelming success," Sewell said. "Everybody loved it. It was a really good winter activity."

Along with the coaster, Skico completed about 7.5 miles of the total 15.1 miles of added bike trails.

This summer, it will knock out the remaining 7.6 miles of new trails along the Elk Camp side of the mountain and "open those just as soon as we complete the trail and it's ready to ride," Sewell said.

For Skico and White River National Forest offi-cials, the Lost Forest has been a long time coming.

Snowmass was the fifth ski resort in the White River National Forest to pursue a summer recreational plan since Congress passed the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act in 2011.

But the conversation was spurred at least a decade ago, according to Roger Poirier, a mountain sports program manager at the White River National Forest.

Poirier recalled when Vail Resorts submitted an application for an alpine coaster at Vail Ski Resort in 2006 or 2007.

"At that time, we didn't have any direction to make a decision," Poirier said. "The White River National Forest didn't have direction that spoke to these types of activities."

White River National Forest representatives spent the next few years crafting a policy and determining what would and would not be appropriate on its lands.

The key, according to Poirier, "is really just to try to find the right blend of activities for each resort that still maintain a National Forest setting."

Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin are the other ski areas under the White River National Forest, which hosts more visitors for recreation (more than 10 million annually) than any other national forest in the country, to add summer attractions to their resorts.

"We went from 0 to 60 at Vail and Breckenridge, so we've learned a lot of things and been able to apply some of those lessons learned to Snowmass," Poirier said. "We're really excited about what Snowmass is looking to do, and we're up there a lot this summer making sure the construction is going well."

For tickets and more information on Snowmass' Lost Forest, www.aspensnowmass.com/plan-your-stay/lost-forest

 

 

 

 

The Streets are Alive

Aspen often touts the Power of Four, as in the power of its four ski mountains.

But in summer, a different "power of four" can be found — four downtown city blocks, with four different characters holding court, all doing their shtick in the same four-hour window.

These are Aspen's street performers (and yes, there are more than four of them), and they are much of what makes Aspen, well, Aspen.

"The downtown experience is an essential part of why visitors and locals alike enjoy Aspen," says Julia Theisen, vice president of sales and marketing for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. "During the summer months, the clowns, magicians and music students bring music and vibrancy to our historic and charming downtown, creating a welcoming atmosphere for those out for a stroll or dining al fresco. We love to see our pedestrian malls alive on a summer night adding to the vitality that Aspen offers."

Of course, for Merlin the Magic Man, who sets up shop on the Hyman Avenue Mall every summer, it's really about freedom.

"My only question — how free can you be if you are a slave to anything?" he says.

His fellow buskers seem to share the sentiment. Here are a few of their stories.

 

A DIFFERENT TWIST

"Do you want a heart? A unicorn? A princess heart, maybe?" asks Cory, the balloon man, who's parked himself and his cart of brightly colored balloons on a brick wall by the Wagner Park playground.

The young girl standing before him can't decide; she wants them all. In every color. But finally she chooses the latter — a pink heart on a long, lavender wand.

Cory twists the first balloon; it makes a farting noise.

"Oh, excuse me," he says, making the clown hat atop his head bob around wildly.

The girl giggles softly, and then begins to laugh — loudly. And so do her older sister and mother.

Everyone loves a balloon animal, it seems.

"It's a good gig," says Cory, who lives in Arizona and is studying greenhouse technology management but travels in summer to help support his three young children. "I've been doing this for 25 years and it's a great way to make money."

In fact, Cory has circled the globe twisting balloons and entertaining crowds. In Europe, where he spent 10 years, the profits were greater. But now, as a family man, he's chosen to stay closer to home. This marks his fourth summer stint in Aspen.

"I used to go to Boulder, to the Pearl Street Mall, until the police started cracking down; it's like balloon guys become felons down there.

"But I do love Aspen."

Part of the reason, he says, is the money (of course), but also the freedom it offers him.

"When my family comes out, we rent a condo in Snowmass; otherwise, I just go where I can. And then, when the season is over, I go back home," he says. "It sure beats $8 an hour doing construction in the blazing Arizona weather."

The busker life in Aspen: "No fuss, no muss," Cory concludes.

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK

You can't miss Daniel Mooncalf on the downtown malls — or anywhere for that matter. And that's by design.

When Mooncalf (yes, it's a stage name) first began his street performing career, he needed to capture the crowd's attention. Kansas City, where he is from, didn't have a pedestrian mall where a crowd could easily congregate.

"I needed something, and this orange outfit was on sale," he says. "And it worked."

And from that point on, Mooncalf has worn orange — from head to toe (including some crazy pointy shoes and a matching bucket hat).

Exchange just a few words with Mooncalf and his affinity for all things different — and dramatic — is quickly apparent.

His name, Mooncalf: "It means fool; it's from Shakespeare."

His favorite trick: "The Professor's Nightmare" (three ropes that appear to continually change length).

His home: "My van, of course."

His other wardrobe: "Well, I have a long-orange coat and pointy hat for the Renaissance Festival."

And when Mooncalf opens his trunk of tricks, filled with magic of all sorts, his offbeat sense of humor charms the crowd.

"I've always been a theater person; I've always been a performer," says Mooncalf, who first came to Aspen upon the advice of Jeep, a beloved Aspen street performer who now plays bigger stages in bigger cities.

Of course, Mooncalf didn't set out to be a busker, but his first profession — as a nurse — just wasn't suited for him.

"It was depressing. You're supposed to learn to turn off that part of yourself that is devastated when someone is sick or dies," he explains. "That's not me; I like to be happy. I like to make people happy. Being a performer gives me the freedom to do that."

DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?

Ask Merlin the Magic Man what he does and his reply is as esoteric as he is: "I exist."

By that, Merlin — who has worked the Hyman Avenue Mall for a dozen summers — means he sets up a small table, with a deck of cards, and entertains passersby with some serious sleight-of-hand.

"Pick a card," he says, with a glean in his squinty eyes, which are hidden behind rimmed glasses and flanked by a long white beard and black hat, topped off with an emblazoned flowing jacket.

A card is chosen and mysteriously disappears from the deck; it reappears in his pocket or behind an ear or out of thin air.

"How did you do that?" people ask.

"Yup, that's what they all say … and I say I live by magic," Merlin says, choosing to reveal little about his life, except that after three months of "work" he takes the rest of the year "off."

"It's my way of doing things. I do OK and I live from the heart."

Merlin is also a wordsmith. His book of poetry sits beside his magic tricks; he'll happily recite any of them at any time.

"I love to make people happy; magic and poetry make people happy," he

says, going on to read the poem "Freedom."

"That is what it's all about, my friend," he says, wrapping up that moment's performance.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC

On Trinidad, steel drums create a distinctly Caribbean beat. It fits; Trinidad is, after all, a Caribbean island.

In Brooklyn, the sound is replicated. It fits, though differently; it is Carnival weekend and celebrations with an international flair are everywhere, after all.

In Aspen, the music from one steel drum rises above the din. The Hyman Avenue Mall, near the Dancing Fountain, is alive with sounds. But this one is new.

"When you have a lot of these together, the sound is outrageous, infectious," says Russell Fisher, an NYU student who studied percussion with the Aspen Music Festival and School.

So Fisher wants others to hear the sounds and experience the joy of this music. It works — people come out of their downtown offices to listen, a wide-eyed boy politely asks if he can try (and Fisher obliges), tourists throw a few bucks in the open drum case beside him.

"This has been an amazing experience … the music school, playing on the mall," he says.

Which is exactly the point.

"A great thing students take home from their experience in Aspen is a sense of how much the community values them. A person walking down the street in New York carrying a cello doesn't get much notice, much less encouragement, but in Aspen, someone is likely to stop them and say something welcoming," says Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival and School. "This is even more memorable when that student sets up a music stand and plays — the feeling of being appreciated and even honored is very precious."

It is also an amazing gift to Aspen's summer scene, as the sounds of music — from classical to Caribbean — can be heard on almost every street corner.

"This works both ways, as passersby are reminded how much the musicians do for Aspen's summer feeling and economy," Fletcher says. "The sound of wonderful music being made fills the town, not just the tent. Kids will associate the sound and sight of musicians with Paradise Bakery, which is definitely a good thing for the future of classical music.

 

Five Free Things

Aspen is notorious for its ultra-luxe, ultra-expensive lifestyle. And indeed, that exists. But take it from us full-time, hard-working locals, there is a way to enjoy all that our resort town has to offer on a dime — or even for free.

The best known of the free offerings — aside from the great outdoors — is probably the music: Thursday night concerts in Snowmass, Bluegrass Sundays atop Aspen Mountain, the lawn outside the Benedict Music Tent, to name a few. But there are plenty of other free — or nearly free — activities to enjoy.

Here are five of our favorite penny-savers:

 

PHYSICS CENTER BBQs

The Aspen Center for Physics isn't just for scientists. In fact, the center's “Physics is for Kids” Family BBQs are always packed with plenty of fun for the whole family. The Wednesday night BBQs feature a free outdoor picnic for families complete with liquid nitrogen ice cream, hands-on science demonstrations, experiments and games, with brief lectures by visiting scientists tailored to families and school-age children.

WHEN: Wednesdays, June 6 to July 25, 5-7 p.m.

WHERE: Aspen Center for Physics campus, 700 E. Gillespie Ave.

INFO: aspensciencecenter.org/programs/physics-bbqs/

 

ASPEN SATURDAY MARKET

It might cost you to shop at the Market, but strolling the streets is free and an excellent way to begin your summer Saturday.

The 19-year-old market features nearly 100 local vendors selling products — from farm-fresh vegetables and locally sourced meats to handcrafted clothes and one-of-a-kind art pieces — that are all made, grown or produced in Colorado.

WHEN: Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Saturday through early October (hours shift from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. after Labor Day)

WHERE: Downtown Aspen (the market makes a U-shape from the corner of Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue to Hunter Street and back to the intersection of Hyman Avenue and Galena Street)

INFO: http://www.aspenpitkin.com/departments/clerk/aspen-saturday-market/

 

YOGA — IN THE WILD

There are plenty of studios to get your yoga fix while visiting Aspen. But for a true Rocky Mountain experience, we suggest getting outside. While not "free," the classes offered by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and Aspen Skiing Co. are well worth the small price.

Aspen Skiing Co.: Open-air yoga with local studio Aspen Shakti at the top of Aspen Mountain.

WHEN: Monday-Friday, June 19 to Aug. 25, 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Top of Silver Queen Gondola

COST: $5, paid to instructor (note: must have foot passenger ticket to ride the gondola)

INFO: http://www.aspensnowmass.com/plan-your-stay/summer-activities/yoga

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies: Outdoor yoga along the edge of Hallam Lake.

WHEN: Tuesdays, June 20 to Aug. 15 (no class July 4), 5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: ACES' Hallam Lake, 100 Puppy Smith St.

COST: $10, suggested donation

INFO: http://www.aspennature.org learn/programs/wild-yoga-17

 

TUESDAY CRUISE DAY

You won't find this in the official tour guide to Aspen, but it's free, fun and a uniquely local community event. Join some 100-plus bikers as they cruise through town, with the ultimate destination being a cold one at Aspen's only local brewery.

WHEN: Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: The rides begin and end at Aspen Tap, 121 S. Galena St.

COST: Free, but a bike is mandatory

INFO: http://www.aspenbrewingcompany.com/events/tuesdaycruiseday/

 

ASPEN ART MUSEUM

For a small mountain town, Aspen boasts a top-notch art museum. And admission is totally free, as are drop-in spotlight tours (led by museum staffer every Saturday and Wednesday at 1 p.m.), exhibition Opening Receptions, regular Artist Talks, Movies at the Museum and more.

WHERE: Aspen Art Museum, 637 E. Hyman Ave.

WHEN: Open Tuesdays to Sundays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

INFO: http://www.aspenartmuseum.org.

Critic’s Picks

ART

Alison Knowles: "Proposition #2: Make a Salad" July 15, Aspen Art Museum

The museum is celebrating the third iteration of its ongoing "Ritual" exhibition with a performance of one of contemporary art's most influential and historic participatory events. Knowles debuted the work in 1962, asking participants to literally make a massive salad together. It has been performed (and eaten) in recent years at the Tate Modern in London, on the High Line in Manhattan and at Art Basel in Miami. The Aspen event will be a "plein air variation" on the original concept.

Larry Bell rooftop sculptures at Aspen Art Museum, June 1-Dec. 16

Nina Katchadourian's "Twitchers and Cheaters" at Aspen Art Museum, June 1-May 2019

Chris Erickson at The Art Base, June 8-July 6

"Freak Power: Hunter Thompson's Campaign for Sheriff" at the Wheeler/Stallard Museum, opening June 20

Jay DeFeo's "The Ripple Effect" at Aspen Art Museum, June 29-Oct. 28

Cheryl Donegan's "GRLZ + VEILS" at Aspen Art Museum, June 29-Dec. 16

Tara Donovan at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, July 12

David Notor at The Art Base, July 13-Aug. 3

Ajax Philips' "The Palace of the Beast" at Bird's Nest Gallery, opening July 13

Francis Alÿs, Sophie Calle, David Hammons, and Ana Mendieta in "Ritual" at Aspen Art Museum, opening July 17

International Artist Award Honoree Ai Weiwei at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, July 18-19

ArtAspen at Aspen Ice Garden July 27-29

"Name Unseen" silent auction at The Art Base, Aug. 10-18

Brad Reed Nelson at The Art Base, Sept. 14-Oct. 5

 

DANCE

An Evening with Joyce Yang and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet: Aspen District Theatre, Aug. 10 and 11

This astounding program was the cultural high-water mark of last winter in Aspen, featuring Yang on live piano with the dancers of Aspen Santa Fe performing Jorma Elo's "Half/Cut/Split," Jirí Kylián's "Return to a Strange Land" and Nicolo Fonte's "Where We Left Off." A revelatory marriage of music and movement, this encore performance is a can't-miss for Yang's passionate local following in the classical music crowd and for dance enthusiasts.

"Readymade" by ka·nei·see collective at Aspen Fringe Festival, Aspen District Theatre, June 8

World premiere by Bryan Arias at Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Aspen District Theatre, July 7

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Aspen District Theatre, July 21

Pilobolus at Aspen District Theatre, July 28

 

CLASSICAL MUSIC

"A Decade in Concert" Presented by Disney Animation and the Aspen Music Festival and School: Benedict Music Tent, July 30

An opportunity for kids as young as 3 to see their first orchestral concert, and for symphony regulars to loosen up with some popular entertainment, this world premiere concert event will showcase clips from nine Disney movies from the past decade – "Frozen" among them – with live music conducted by Disney's Richard Kaufman. It is expected to tour the globe after the Aspen premiere.

Yeethoven at Aspen Ideas Festival, June 27

Jupiter String at Harris Concert Hall, June 28

Pianist Conrad Tao with the Aspen Chamber Symphony at Benedict Music Tent, June 29

Pianist Yuja Wang with the Aspen Festival Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent, July 1

Daniil Trifonov piano recital at Harris Concert Hall, July 10, and with the Aspen Festival Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent, July 15

"The Barber of Seville" at the Wheeler Opera House, July 12-16

Premiere of Anders Hillborg's "Homage to Stravinsky" by the Aspen Festival Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent July 22

Premiere of Stephen Hartke's cello concerto by the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent, July 25

Harris Concert Hall 25th Anniversary with violinist Robert

McDuffie, July 28

"Trouble in Tahiti" and Charlie Chaplin's "A Dog's Life" at Harris Concert Hall, Aug. 2

"An American in Paris," Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent, Aug. 15

Seraphic Fire at Benedict Music Tent, Aug. 17 and Harris Concert Hall, Aug. 20 and 22

Vocalists Tamara Wilson and Ryan McKinny with the Aspen Festival Orchestra at Benedict Music Tent, Aug. 19

 

MUSIC

Leslie Odom Jr.: The Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience, Benedict Music Tent, June 22

The Tony- and Grammy-wining vocalist, who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the groundbreaking Broadway musical "Hamilton," also has two solo jazz albums to his name (and those ubiquitous Nationwide insurance commercials, though it's doubtful he'll sing the jingle as he headlines Junefest). The concert marks Odom's Aspen debut in a post-"Hamilton" moment when he is red-hot and in-demand around the world. A bonus: he'll perform with student singers from the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Xavier Rudd at Belly Up, June 3

The Flaming Lips at Belly Up, June 8

The Drunken Hearts at Snowmass Summer Concert Series, Fanny Hill, June 9

Ziggy Marley at Belly Up, June 18

Gomez "Bring It On" 20th-anniversary tour at Belly Up, June 19

Brother's Keeper with Jeff Pevar at American Renewable Energy Day, Fanny Hill, June 21

Grace Kelly at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, June 21

A-Trak at Belly Up, June 21

Leslie Odom at the Jazz Aspen June Experience, Benedict Music Tent, June 22

Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience, Benedict Music Tent, June 23

Mary Chapin Carpenter at Belly Up, June 24

Laila Biali at the JAS Café, Little Nell, June 28 and 29

Kiari "Offset" Cephus at Aspen Ideas Festival, June 28

Ray Charles Tribute with Take 6 and special guests at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Experience, Benedict Music Tent, June 30

Thievery Corporation at Belly Up, July 4 and 5

Glen David Andrews at Snowmass Summer Concert Series, Fanny Hill, July 5

The Hot Sardines at the JAS Café, Cooking School of Aspen, July 6 and 7

moe. at Belly Up, July 11

ZZ Ward at Belly Up, July 13

Scott Tixier Quintet at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, July 13

Igor Butman and Fantine at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, July 14

Ann Wilson at Belly Up, July 15

Michael McDonald at Belly Up, July 19

Django Festival All-Stars at The Temporary, July 21

The Spin Doctors at the Aspen Deaf Camp Benefit, Fanny Hill, July 21

Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening at Belly Up, July 23

Beats Antique at Belly Up, July 25

Melissa Etheridge at Belly Up, July 26

Chris Isaak at Belly Up, July 28

Muskateer Gripweed at Snowmass Summer Concert Series, Fanny Hill, Aug. 2

Sammy Miller and the Congregation at The Temporary, Aug. 4

Nicki Parrot Tribute to Peggy Lee at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, Aug. 10

Allan Harris with the H2 Big Band and special guests Carolyn Leonhart and Shirazette Tinnin at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, Aug. 11

The Bronx Horns: Tribute to Dizzie’s 100th at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, Aug 16

The Kills at Belly Up, Aug. 16

Dianne Reeves at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, Aug. 18

Matt and Kim at Belly Up, Aug. 18

Christian McBride, Benny Green and Russell Malone at the JAS Café, Aspen Art Museum, Aug. 18

The Temporary's First Birthday Party with Davina & The Vagabonds at The Temporary, Aug. 18

Lionel Richie at Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, Snowmass Town Park, Aug. 31

Boz Scaggs at Belly Up, Aug. 31

Jack Johnson at Jazz Aspen Labor Day Experience, Snowmass Town Park, Sept. 1

Gary Clark, Jr. at Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience, Snowmass Town Park, Sept. 2

California Honey Drops at Belly Up, Sept. 19

 

BOOKS

Mohsin Hamid: At Aspen Words, June 19

The author of "Exit West" and the winner of the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize will speak about his work and its social impact with new Aspen Institute President Dan Porterfield at the Aspen Words Summer Benefit. “‘Exit West’ is a novel about migration and how our world is changing and could change, how we are all migrants and how we might find an optimistic future together,” the Pakistani novelist said in April upon winning the prize.

Novelist Tom Perotta at Aspen Summer Words, June 17-22

Novelist Anthony Marra at Aspen Summer Words, June 17-22

"Hidden Figures" author Margot Lee Shetterly at Aspen Summer Words, June 17-22

Memoirist Bich Minh "Beth" Nguyen at Aspen Summer Words, June 17-22

Environmentalist and author Paul Hawken at Aspen Ideas Festival, June 26

 

THEATER

"Ragtime": Presented by Theatre Aspen, at the Hurst Theatre in Rio Grande Park, June 26-Aug. 18

The largest summer cast in the company's 35-year history brings this epic, Tony-winning musical to the tent stage. Based on the novel by E.L. Doctorow, the musical captures 20th-century New York with the intersecting stories of an upper-class wife, a determined Jewish immigrant and a Harlem musician.

"A Doll's House, Part 2" at Aspen Fringe Festival, Black Box Theatre, June 9 and 10

"Flight of Fancy" at The Temporary, June 23

"The Christians" at Aspen Chapel, July 5 and 8

Consensual Improv at Thunder River Theatre Co., July 13

"Godspell" at Theatre Aspen, July 14-Aug. 18

"Our Town" at Theatre Aspen, July 20-Aug. 4

The Aspen Golf Club: An Unmatched Municipal Course

It's nothing but the best when it comes to Aspen's recreational amenities. After all, it's how we maintain our world-class reputation. And that carries over to the resort community's municipal golf course, which has been ranked one of the best in the nation.

Located just west of the roundabout, the Aspen Golf Club is only 2 miles from downtown. It's open to the public and has fairly reasonable green fees, even though they may cause some sticker shock at the height of the season.

But when one considers the impeccable course maintenance, the 360-degree views with Pyramid Peak nearly always in sight and new GPS golf carts, most say it's worth it.

"It's a municipal course but it's maintained as good as the privates in the state of Colorado," said Steve Aitken, director of golf. "It's unmatched and is regarded as a gem."

There's also a full-service restaurant, the Red Mountain Grill, which is a favorite among locals for its consistent quality food and prices.

The club has highly skilled PGA staff for private instruction and clinics, along with a state-of-the-art golf academy and practice area.

The course is relatively flat and easily walkable, although it is one of the longest municipal golf courses in the state. From the back tees, the course measures just over 7,100 yards. There are four sets of tees, which can accommodate all types of players.

The track used to be a cow pasture, but architect Frank Hummel made it into a parkland-style course in 1978. It has undulating greens with water coming into play on many holes.

The greens are just as challenging — if not more — as the hazards. They are head-scratchers, to say the least. But here's a tip: They will always fall toward the valley. Once a golfer has mastered reading the Aspen Golf Club's greens, numbers will fall off the scorecard.

Nowhere was it more challenging to putt than on hole No. 2. The contours were so severe it was difficult to carry out a successful read.

"If you were on in two, you could be walking off with a bogey," Aitken said.

That's why the club, along with architect and consultant Rick Phelps, rebuilt it with a new design that still has slope, contours and character. It also comes with two new bunkers.

"We are extremely happy with it," he said. "In fact, all our greens came out of the winter in good condition."

The club has been a certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary since 1999, which was one of the first designations in the state.

Also new this year are drone flyover videos of each hole and an overview of the course. Check it out here: http://www.aspengolf.com/golf-club/course.

 

Pitkin County by Bike: On the Roads

Get your lungs and your heart pumping with road rides at Aspen's elevated altitude. Though the elevation will always add a challenge, the area offers rides at a variety of levels. No matter where you go, though, you're sure to be surrounded by stunning scenery. Don't forget your camera!

 Independence Pass • Aspen

Getting there: From Aspen, continue through town by heading east on Main Street. Remaining on CO-82 will quickly take you to Independence Pass.

Trail Talk: The pass closes for the winter, typically November to May, so make the most of it during the warmer months.

Distance • 10 miles

Difficulty • Difficult

The Dirt: "For locals being in town, it’s the Pass. It’s right there," says Tom Hayles, an accomplished cyclist who now competes in cyclocross races. He first rode Independence Pass when he moved to Aspen in the mid-1970s. And while there are other steeper and longer passes in Colorado, nothing beats Indy. "There are other passes, but they don’t descend into town."

Castle Creek • Aspen

Getting there: From the Aspen roundabout, turn onto Castle Creek Road. This will take you directly to Ashcroft.

Trail Talk: This ride ends at Ashcroft ghost town, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Admission is $3, and dogs are not allowed.

Distance • 11 miles

Difficulty • Intermediate

The Dirt: You'll climb about 1,800 feet over the course of this ride, which runs alongside the road's namesake creek. If you'd like to continue past Ashcroft, you'll find even more stunning views as you approach Taylor Pass. This ride is especially beautiful during the fall, as the leaves begin to turn color.

Maroon Bells • Aspen

Getting there: From the Aspen roundabout, take the Maroon Creek Road exit. Parking is available at Aspen Highlands ski area.

Trail Talk: This pair of mountains are the most photographed in the country, and it's easy to see why. Immerse yourself in the scenery by taking it in on two wheels.

Distance • 8 miles

Difficulty • Intermediate

The Dirt: If the uphill ride is too much, hitch a ride to the top of the climb with Blazing Adventures shuttle service. The ride back downhill will be a breeze.

Owl Creek & Brush Creek • Aspen

Getting there: From the Aspen roundabout, take CO-82 west for 1.4 miles, then turn left onto Owl Creek Road. You'll stay on it for 6 miles, and it turns into Brush Creek Road. At the next traffic circle, take the third exit onto Wood Road. There's plenty of parking around Snowmass Village. Alternatively, take the bus from anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Trail Talk: These trails are friendly for beginner to intermediate riders, and they still offer much of the beauty you expect on Aspen's more iconic rides.

Distance • 15 miles

Difficulty • Intermediate

The Dirt: This loop provides some challenge thanks to its combination of downhill and uphill. You'll climb 1,251 feet, with 1,424 feet of descent. Starting and finishing in Snowmass Village makes this accessible and perfectly positions you to take in the restaurant scene after the ride.

 

Owl Creek Trail

Distance • 5.5 miles

Difficulty • Intermediate

The Dirt: This trail is one of Aspen's easier rides. But don't let that fool you; there's still a fair amount of climbing, with 398 feet of ascent and 764 feet of descent if you ride in the suggested direction. Begin in Snowmass Village and end near Buttermilk Ski Area. There are also offshoot trails along the way.

 

Brush Creek Bike Path

Distance • 6 miles

Difficulty • Easy

The Dirt: Switch bikes and this route with some of the mountain biking trails, such as Rim Trail, Highline Trail and Tom Blake, for even more adventure.

The Owl Creek Trail is one of Aspen’s easier rides. But don’t let that fool you; there’s still a fair amount of climbing.

 

Scene Stoppers

 

If you haven't visited Aspen since last summer, welcome back and buckle up! Locals can tell you that much has changed on the restaurant scene, but change is good — trust us.

While a handful of beloved haunts are gone forever (R.I.P. Peach's, bb's, Over Easy, Justice Snow's), plenty of new joints are poised to transform downtown. There is a pair of recently minted brewery taprooms, fresh options for coffee and breakfast, Asian fare galore, one hard-rock cocktail bar, a celebrity chef residency program, plus a girl-gone-wild speakeasy opening soon.

Where the Beer Flows

Last fall, Aspen Brewing Company (ABC) announced the closing of its postage-stamp-sized taproom. One block over, Peach's Corner Café closed abruptly. Panic ensued — until ABC owner Duncan Clauss revealed that Aspen Tap would open in the former Peach's space.

Nearly three times larger than ABC's old tasting room, the plus is the prime patio seating with an Aspen Mountain view. The bar boasts 15 ABC brews on tap, many exclusively (including the summer seasonal Cougar, as well as wine, Colorado spirits, soda and kombucha).

From the kitchen comes bratwurst, bruschetta, beer-brined chicken tacos, kale Caesar and more, by chef Graham Williams (formerly of shuttered Town in Carbondale). Daily breakfast service at 8 a.m. features Rock Canyon Coffee espresso, Louis Swiss and Sweet Coloradough pastries, smoothies, and hot dishes.

The Aspen Public House now commands the bustling Wheeler Opera House space that was previously home to Justice Snow's. A downtown outpost of Capitol Creek Brewery in Basalt, the "New American upscale gastropub" serves apps, salads, burgers and entrees by chef Robbie Kostrba for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch, along with eight draught beers, wine and cocktails. Exposed 130-year-old brick walls and 30 feet of community tables lend a vibe fit for a vibrant late-night scene.

 

LIVING LOCAL

Helping to fill Aspen's caffeine cup is a cool coffee shop called LOCAL inside Maker + Place. Influenced by Amsterdam hybrid stores, where shopping and workspace converge with hospitality, LOCAL occupies a corner of the chic boutique that curates home goods, design ware, jewelry and gifts from craftspeople around the world.

Lounge on couches or at the community tables while sipping Carbondale's small-batch Cilundu Coffee and noshing on avocado toast, quinoa-veggie bowls, forbidden black rice porridge or Boogie's tuna melt. Following the Maker + Place philosophy, everything is made with ingredients curated from Roaring Fork Valley farmers, ranchers, and artisans.

Marble Bar Aspen, in the Hyatt, is shaping up to be rock steady. Made of stone from namesake Marble, Colo., the bar is a fitting spot to enjoy summer cocktails showcasing Carbondale's Marble Distilling Co. award-winning spirits. Sample infusions of seasonal fruits and herbs, plus newly released Fightin' Whiskey — made from triticale, an Italian wheat-rye hybrid grown locally.

Never been to Kemo Sabe? It's worth a trip for the impressive 1863 bar, imported from Denver, Pa., and installed upstairs when the Western outfitter moved locations on Galena Street in September. The cowboy mecca might sell custom hats, boots, jewelry, clothing, and vintage ephemera, but its new mission is to create a party.

 

ASIAN INFUSED

"We want to bring the island to the mountains," says Paula Rungsawang, chef and co-owner of Tiki Mana Island Grill, which has opened next door to her already popular Thai eatery, Bangkok Happy Bowl. Tiki Mana prepares Hawaiian poke bowls, grilled meats and fish, fish 'n' chips, and a plethora of island specialties — many vegan — for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A colorful happy hour daily (4-6 p.m.), features tropical drinks and coconut shrimp served by bartenders in flowered shirts, 'natch.

After a $1.2 million renovation by owners Charlie Huang and Frank Lu, Asie on Main Street has morphed into Jing ("gold" in Chinese). Focus is on Peking duck, lobster dumplings and Thai basil chicken, and there's a raw bar staffed by six sushi chefs. Two new dishes you gotta try to believe: Frank's Kale Fried Rice and Sushi Pizza.

Tanuki ToGo, a rock 'n' roll Southern-Asian street food popup operating from the kitchen of Bootsy Bellows by chefs Jonathan Leichliter and Adam Christopher Norwig, was easily spring's most popular new kid in town. Now Tanuki's back alley takeout and chef's table — an only-in-Aspen experience — is growing to feed the masses. House of the Rising Tanuki-San features a vegetable-centric menu of fusion fare and sit-down dining in the nightclub lounge, as well as ample sidewalk seating.

 

YOU KNOW THEIR NAMES

Toro, a Pan-Latin concept by celebrity chef Richard Sandoval, took over the flagship restaurant at Viceroy Snowmass, replacing Eight K and beloved chef Will Nolan (now at The Madeline in Telluride). Off to a solid start, Toro's menu reads as a slide show of Sandoval's travels through his native Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America, where Japanese and Chinese influence is strong.

Chef Matthew Accarrino of Michelin-starred SPQR in San Francisco will be in town as Chefs Club Aspen rolls out a new chef residency program in June. The innovative format allows visiting chefs more time in the kitchen to hone their menu — in this case, Accarrino's Californian spin on regional Italian cuisine.

 

IN THE WORKS

Want more? Aspen's long time local fave, Little Annie's Eating House, will be reborn as a Rocky Mountain outpost of Clark's Oyster Bar in Austin. And work continues on Main Street's Oakville Grocery Aspen. (This despite the passing of Napa Valley and Aspen food and wine magnate, Leslie Rudd, owner of Oakville Grocery, in May.) Partner David Roth, formerly of Peach's, is overseeing renovation of the 1884 Main Street Bakery building, closed since 2016.

And a couple of places are going underground. Bad Harriet, a subterranean bar in the old Aspen Times building next to the Hotel Jerome, plans to open July 4 with DJ music and saucy cocktails in honor of Jerome Wheeler's mischievous wife. Longtime Aspenite and Hollywood actor Roger Wilson has grand plans for 7908, a supper club with live entertainment that fills the hole left by Finbarr's, set to open in July.

Hungry yet?

 

Patio Perfect

Aspen comes alive in summer for a myriad of reasons: outstanding outdoor activities, amazing arts offerings and — at the top of the list — an unparalleled dining scene.

"Dining al fresco in Aspen is the quintessential summer experience," says Julia Theisen, vice president sales and marketing for the Aspen Chamber Resort Association.

Indeed, Aspen is home to dozens of restaurants and bars — many with outdoor patios that are perfect for summertime dining and imbibing.

"Aspen offers an array of outdoor dining options from the base of Aspen Mountain to our pedestrian malls or sitting upstairs with an elevated view," Theisen says. "And there are enough culinary options to please any palate and budget while enjoying our perfect summer climate and refreshing mountain air."

To help you navigate the outdoor dining scene, we've chosen a few favorites. Enjoy!

 

HAUTE HOTELS: A TASTE OF THE GOOD LIFE

Element 47 & Ajax Tavern: The Little Nell's restaurant patios offer primo seating all summer, with the award-winning hotel's chefs, sommeliers and servers at your service. At element 47, dine amid the gardens and Aspen's only living wall as you enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner al fresco. At Ajax Tavern, this sun-soaked patio is open for lunch and dinner daily, known for their French bistro fare and flavorful cocktails.

The Hotel Jerome: A drink at the historic — and newly renovated — Hotel Jerome is an Aspen must-do. And in summer, the experience is even more memorable with a loungy atmosphere on the garden terrace, as firepits and cushioned wicker couches and chairs create conversational seating areas for all to enjoy.

The Limelight: The comfy, casual outdoor spaces — both by the lounge and by the pool — at this locals' favorite are perfect for après-hike (or bike or shopping), dinner or late-night s'mores over the outdoor firepit. Plus, the Limelight boasts the longest happy hour in town, making it as affordable as it is enjoyable. "With sangria flights, rosé and refreshing beer, the Limelight patio is a great space to après casually after a day on the trails or in town," says Tucker Vest Burton, spokeswoman for the Aspen Skiing Co., which owns the popular hotel. "Bike and hiking gear is always acceptable après attire at the Limelight."

The St. Regis Aspen: Sipping a summertime specialty, such as the Espresso Martini, in the Fountain Courtyard at this ultra-luxe property is worth the price for a few reasons, but the best part? "Our Fountain Courtyard showcases Aspen's natural wonders with unobstructed views of Shadow Mountain. It's the perfect backdrop for a chilled glass of rosé or to experience our Champagne Sabering ritual that celebrates the transition from day to night," says Beverage Manager Ericka Briscoe. "Even more enticing are the fire pits. On a chilly night they create a magical, intimate mood that is enhanced by moonlight and music."

 

APRÈS ASPEN: WHERE TO INDULGE AFTER THE DAY'S ADVENTURE

Aspen Art Museum: The rooftop SO Café is unique among Aspen's patios. The views of Ajax are impressive, the prices are reasonable, the vibe is laid-back — and it's all situated atop the Museum. Check out an exhibit or two (for free) and then discuss what you saw over a glass of wine. Classy.

Fish Tales: For a land-locked town, Aspen does sushi pretty darn well. And, all three local sushi restaurants — Kenichi, Maru and Matsuhisa — offer outdoor dining in summer. There's nothing more relaxing after a long day spent exploring than sharing a sushi roll and cold sakè with friends.

Shlomo's: A slopeside favorite in winter, this locally owned joint has some serious summertime potential. Welcoming seating vignettes, happening outdoor bar and heat lamps set the scene for what will likely be a truly Aspen experience.

Jimmy's Bodega: Jimmy Yeager, proprietor of this popular downtown spot (and it's sister restaurant Jimmy's), sums up his philosophy on summertime dining and drinking like this: "Summer is fun. I want our patio to be the same — when you look across the tables you should see a sea of bright colors and smiling faces." Enough said.

The Mall: Anchored by Grey Lady on one end and Escobar on the other, Hyman Avenue is transformed into one giant outdoor patio in summer. Bar hop — with stops at HOPS Culture and Zocalito between the end points — for a picture perfect Sunday Funday, Aspen-style.

Restaurant Row: Hopkins Avenue between Mill and Monarch is rightly dubbed "Restaurant Row." Seriously, about a dozen locally owned establishments serve up their specialties in just this one block. Most have outdoor seating, and all are worth a visit.

 

OFF THE BEATEN PATH: JUST MILES FROM DOWNTOWN, BUT A WORLD AWAY

Oftentimes, the best-kept secrets are places off the beaten path. Aspen is no exception. Our No. 1 pick in this category: Pine Creek Cookhouse. Situated about 10 miles up Castle Creek Road just past the ghost town of Ashcroft, this stunning log-cabin restaurant has an amazing deck with expansive views of the surrounding Elk Mountain Range and Castle Creek Valley. At lunch, savor the breathtaking views while enjoying a shared butcher and cheese plate accompanied by a crisp glass of white wine from their extensive list. Or, for truly different (read: funky) experience: Woody Creek Tavern. Located past the "bump, dip and rumble strip" in Woody Creek, the outdoor patio of this iconic Roaring Fork Valley eatery is renowned for its margaritas, Mexican fare and colorful characters.

Getting Real with 14ers

After the deadly summer of 2017 on the high peaks and backcountry of Pitkin County, local officials are determined this summer to make sure people are armed with good information about what they are getting themselves into.

Five people died in six weeks in climbing accidents on Capitol Peak, widely considered one of the toughest of the state's 54 mountains above 14,000 feet. Two additional climbers died in separate accidents on the Maroon Bells. Another hiker died in Conundrum Valley when she suffered acute altitude sickness.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said it was the worst summer of his 32 years in Aspen-area law enforcement. He's determined to do something about it. His office is teaming with Mountain Rescue Aspen and the White River National Forest to undertake a "peak awareness" program that will create a blitz of information this summer about the dangers posed by the Elk Mountains surrounding Aspen.

DiSalvo said all parties agree that the campaign needs to be blunt, even if it chases some business away. They won't fall victim to the "Jaws syndrome" made infamous in the shark movie when tourism and government officials claimed the beaches were safe when they knew they weren't.

"I think we can make a difference," DiSalvo said. "We're all not afraid to say, 'This is deadly, this can kill you.'"

Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer concurred.

"We're doing our very best to reach out and educate people before they enter the forest," she said. "We want everyone to take these mountains very seriously and understand the risks they are taking."

Before the team could craft an information campaign they had to determine, or at least ponder, what happened last summer.

"Was it just a unique season? Was it our turn to have a bad year?" DiSalvo wondered.

Bad luck doesn't appear to cover the extent of it. Forest Service officials say there is anecdotal information that visitation to the high peaks and backcountry is higher than ever. Results of a survey are expected soon to test the theory.

Meanwhile, alluring video, pictures and descriptions of exploits on the big peaks are plastered all over social media and drawing more people to the backcountry — often unprepared. An estimated 311,000 people annually hike and climb the fourteeners, the name given to mountain higher than 14,000 feet.

While the numbers are lower for Capitol and the Maroon Bells than for most other peaks, these challenging areas are drawing some people who appear ill-prepared for the effort.

"In decades past, climbing had a very significant focus on mentorship. You got into it by climbing with more experienced people, who would gradually take you on more serious climbs and show you the ropes and help you in that process of becoming skilled," said Lloyd Athearn, executive director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to helping the ecosystems of the high peaks weather the surge of use.

"Nowadays, whether it's our culture of immediacy or social media there seems be this (attitude of) 'I'm just going to skip that apprenticeship period and just go straight into climbing harder mountains,'" Athearn continued. "I think that comes with some pretty serious risks. I'm not even sure some of these people know what they're biting off."

Mountain Rescue Aspen President Justin Hood has some insight into the tragedies last summer on Capitol Peak. He recalled his own initial trip up Capitol years ago when he was just 17 years old.

"I really recall total fearlessness getting up there, and then my nerves just feeling completely shot when I turned around and looked down across all the Knife Edge and all the way back to K2," he said.

Mental control, physical exhaustion or both become issues for some climbers after they reach the summit. Hood said some climbers are determined not to return the way they came. While they may have never read about a route from Capitol Lake up the face to the summit, they convince themselves it must exist.

That alternate-route thinking is believed to be the cause of three of the 2017 deaths.

"They start looking to the left and see the lake and they go, 'I bet there's a way down over here.' The rational thinking is changing fast," Hood said.

Capitol Peak used to be one of the last fourteeners that climbers tackled. Hood isn't sure peak-baggers wait and build up their experience any more.

"Now they're just going for all the glory," he said.

So, Mountain Rescue, the Forest Service and Sheriff's Office will fund education efforts aimed particularly at less experienced climbers and those unfamiliar with the notoriously "rotten" granite of the Elk Mountains.

The agencies enlisted two guide services, Aspen Expeditions and Aspen Alpine Guides, to make six presentations for climbers in the Front Range and two in Aspen this summer. While venues weren't secured as of press time, the idea is to go to the REI store in Denver, the American Alpine Club at Golden and possibly a sports shop or two to target the Front Range crowd, Hood said.

In Aspen, presentations will be at MRA headquarters and a gear shop.

In addition, the guide services will offer four courses each on mountaineering over the course of the summer. They will go over skills such as route finding, necessary equipment and skills needed on Class III and Class IV terrain, which is more difficult than Class I and II hiking and minor scrambling.

The events will be subsidized by MRA, the Sheriff's Office and Forest Service to keep the cost down to about $50 per person, Hood said. There is the potential to have 12 students per class, so they could reach more than 90 people.

MRA and the Forest Service also intend to place representatives at busy trailheads at times throughout the summer to engage with climbers.

It will be more about collecting information from the climbers after their experiences than grilling them about preparedness as they embark, Hood said. MRA wants to learn what people encountered and how it matched their expectations so that the awareness campaign can be tailored to needs.

The peak awareness effort also will include websites and pamphlets designed to get out information on key points of preparedness. Hood said sites such as 14ers.com, a well-respected place for intelligence about the mountains, always have been good about working with public agencies to get out vital information.

"Nobody wants anybody else to die in these mountains," Hood said.

In a separate education effort, Colorado Fourteeners Initiative will shoot a series of videos this summer to try to prepare people for climbing the big peaks throughout the state, not just in the Elk Mountains surrounding Aspen.

Athearn said he envisions six to eight videos of one to two minutes each. They will focus on topics such as route finding, proper gear, what's different on Class III and IV routes from the easier Class I and II routes. A video also will note the six peaks where history shows statistically the most injuries and deaths occur — Capitol Peak, Maroon Peak, North Maroon Peak, Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle.

"With 2017 being such a big year for 14er-related fatalities — especially on Capitol — it seemed the time was right to move forward on this video series," Athearn said.

The organization received funding from the Colorado Tourism Office, the Aspen Skiing Co. Employee Environment Foundation and a private funder to make the videos. Schroyer said her office will work with CFI to provide the permits necessary to make videos in wilderness. She is enthusiastic about using the videos as another tool to prepare climbers.

Athearn said it will take an ongoing effort to build peak awareness because there is constantly a new group of people becoming interested in hiking and climbing the big peaks, many of them from out of state. CFI's videos and the Aspen-based education effort must reach a church group coming by bus from Kansas, for example, or an individual traveling from Atlanta, he said.

One possible tool that won't be pursued is permanent markers of some type to delineate the route on the high peaks, where it is often difficult to discern a trail.

"Right now that's on hold," Schroyer said. "We'd like to try some of these other steps first. It's still not out of the question."

One potential downfall with permanent markers is people might be lulled into thinking all they have to do is follow the path. It might attract people who don't possess the skills needed for a difficult peak —  the opposite of what the peak awareness campaign is all about.

DiSalvo said he feels good about the effort the team is making to get the word out, but he acknowledged it is challenging to reach the intended audience and getting them to listen.

"I don't know how to get information to people who really have no business being up there," he said. "I can put that message out. I can't control how they receive it."

 

Once They Bite, You’re Bitten

Fly fishing has a tranquility to it that so few sports can match. That is, until you see the slight movement on the indicator floating in the water and the madness begins.

Bias aside, the Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the best fly fishing in the United States. Its namesake river originates on Independence Pass as a mere trickle before it becomes one with the mighty Colorado River near Glenwood Springs. Along the way it picks up the popular Fryingpan and Crystal rivers. Throw in a myriad of pristine alpine lakes, and we have fishing nirvana.

I experienced this for the first time in the spring with local guide Brandon Soucie. Growing up in Kansas, I've spent many a day trying to catch those underwater inhabitants, but mostly of the bass and catfish variety. A trout was a mythical creature I'd only seen in fishing magazines, and fly fishing looked like a good way to get painfully barbed in a place I'd rather not get barbed.

But with three winters in the mountains behind me — two in Aspen — I figured it was time to finally give fly fishing a try. Joined by staff photographer Anna Stonehouse, we were connected with Soucie through Boulder Boat Works, which late last year moved its headquarters to Carbondale and its easy access to the Roaring Fork River. Soucie took us out on one of their boats, which they claim are "the world's finest drift boats" and there is little reason to disagree. Fishing is certainly more enjoyable when you have the Rolls-Royce of fishing vessels to cast from.

Our float trip took us down a portion of the Roaring Fork River somewhere between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, which is littered with prime pockets for trout. Before Soucie handed me a fly rod that day, I never had touched one in my life. Maybe 10 minutes later I had my first fish on the line. I'm going to credit it to extraordinary skill, as opposed to having an expert guide and good luck on my side.

For the next few hours we drifted down the Fork, Stonehouse taking pictures from the back of the boat, Soucie constantly saying, "Mend, mend," from the center seat, and me up front bagging fish after fish. In my mind, I was already penning my resignation letter so I could turn pro in fly fishing.

For a time I let Stonehouse take the lead, and she bagged a few fish as well — the first one hardly counted as it was the size of my pinkie, but she was happy about it so we'll let it slide. My favorite catch came right at the finish line when I bagged a nice rainbow below a small waterfall on the far bank. It was like hitting the game-winning shot at the buzzer.

What came of this trip was an instant addiction. You'll see fishermen along the Fork all year long, but until you experience it you will never understand. Considering the amount of equipment and knowledge needed to fly fish, getting started can be daunting. However, the valley is home to dozens of shops, guides and outfitters who can make it easy.

As much of a natural as I may be, I probably wouldn't have caught many fish that day without Soucie's expert guidance. Checking with your favorite local fly shop before going out is the best way to ensure success.

Bias aside, the Roaring Fork Valley is home to some of the best fly fishing in the United States. Its namesake river originates on Independence Pass as a mere trickle before it becomes one with the mighty Colorado River near Glenwood Springs. Along the way it picks up the popular Fryingpan and Crystal rivers. Throw in a myriad of pristine alpine lakes, and we have fishing nirvana.

In my mind, I was already penning my resignation letter so I could turn pro in fly fishing.