| AspenTimes.com

‘Slowmass’ got me again

Anyone who knows me knows that I start to get a bit itchy when I go past the roundabout, particularly if it's going into a family-friendly suburb where there are a lot of children.

But it's especially if I am going to Snowmass. I am fine once I get on the mountain, because it is a spectacular ski area and town officials and developers can't screw that up too much.

And they certainly have, in my mind, when it comes to the first phase of Base Village.

I had some friends in town who rented a suite in the Capitol Peak Lodge last week. So, their presence forced me into the village a few days. I tried to adapt, but I just kept getting mad at every turn.

A friend and I decided to check in for the rest of her family before their arrival on New Year's Day. It took at least three phone calls to figure out which company was in charge of the condo they rented and then driving in circles trying to find the central check-in.

How can there not be a central check-in that is easy to find in a massive building that serves as one of the largest lodging properties in Base Village? Ridiculous.

We were told via phone to drive through the Treehouse drop-off and into the 30-minute parking area next door. It was there we found a guy standing in the snow waiting for us to unload groceries and luggage from my double-parked vehicle. Dumb.

After loading the bell cart, we were taken to a side door where it was so narrow the luggage rack hardly squeezed through. That just seems stupid when you have a massive building to work with.

We got to the elevator where I noticed a sign that has double-etched lettering on glass, which is mounted on stone with a light cast on it — making it appear like you have double vision. It's even worse when you are drunk.

But it gets even worse: The building's property management company doesn't replace the sign's black letters that have rubbed off so incomplete sentences are staring down the guests. One reads, "In –ase of f—e do not use ele-ators use stai-." Unacceptable.

We arrived at the top floor, got out of the elevator and were hit with a massive waft of Pine Sol. Ick.

The penthouse was nice but upon further inspection, there is a door that leads to an industrial stairway from the master suite. Weird.

Also, for a family-friendly resort one would think that one of the three bedrooms would have two beds instead of a queen. Strange.

Plus, the occupants (friends) say the pillows are flat and need to be replaced. Please.

It's hard not to rant about the bus situation or the garage at Base Village.

I took the bus from Aspen, which went to the mall and ended. Apparently, that's as far as that direct from Aspen to Snowmass was going. Thank you to the driver who made an exception and brought me to Base Village.

But then I stepped into the garage and had no idea where I was going because there is no easy-to-see, visible sign telling me how to get to the actual village. Really?

I ended up in some stairwell that was advertising "One Snowmass" and signs saying sorry about the construction. Whatever.

I finally made it to meet my friends at the new Limelight Hotel, where I eventually calmed down. That, the new Collective building next door, the Crepe Shack and the ambience of the ice rink area are game-changers for Base Village.

That all appears to be working really well, so thanks to the Aspen Skiing Co. for understanding that logistics matter.

As a colleague recently said, "Logistics are the Achilles' heel of Snowmass."

I think many people can relate.

A brush with celebrity, Aspen-style

As is tradition, I was taking a few gondola laps with the mayor for a year-end interview last week.

He had told me during our chat at the Sundeck that one of the most surprising things about being the mayor of Aspen was the "celebrity" of it. I, of course, reminded him that he is just Steve Skadron from Minnesota, a fact he acknowledged and chuckled at.

We took a fast cruiser down Spar Gulch and met up at the top of the Little Nell run. We both looked, horrified, at the number of people on the slopes and their general inability to ski Aspen Mountain.

"I just want to get off this mountain," he said.

"Me too," I responded.

At the bottom, we clicked out of our skis, stepped off the snow and he asked, "Do you see anyone?"

"You mean celebrities?" I replied.

Yeah, no, I don't and I don't care.

Then a second later, Paris Hilton comes strutting her stuff past the Ajax Tavern. She made a slight left turn into the patio area and her backpack with the word "ICON" embroidered on it brushed against the mayor, almost knocking his poles out of his hand.

"By the way, that's what celebrity looks like and you just had your brush with it," I said with a laugh.

We said our goodbyes, happy New Year's and all that jazz. I went home to prepare for my own celebrity lifestyle weekend that lay ahead.

When I was invited to a box seat at the Avalanche-Blackhawks game at Pepsi Center and a seat on a private jet to get there, I jumped at the chance.

But it wasn't just because I was getting the celebrity treatment. If there is any reason to get out of town and the crowds — and away from that celebrity scene — I am there.

I wouldn't have cared if I had to drive in a snowstorm and sit in a regular seat at the hockey game.

But luckily, I didn't have to.

Now that I'm back in A-town, I will ski some freshies to ring in the new year and take stock in the fact that I know some real celebrities — the people who make this town tick, strengthen the community and dish out generosity.


Let the training begin for Summit for Life

It's been awhile since I've hiked the "big hill," so when my friend asked me last week to go up Aspen Mountain, I was a bit reticent.

But I have grown so bored of Smuggler, the Hunter Creek Loop and Sunnyside that I agreed to go do something different.

I once again became reticent to go when I looked out the window last Thursday early morning and saw it puking snow. But we went anyway.

We didn't take the typical summer route via the Ute Trail that then follows the Couch chairlift to the top. We went the winter route, which is up the gut.

You forget about that grunt at the beginning, trudging up the Little Nell ski run. It was extra special because a fresh layer of hay had been thrown down and it was covered with freshly fallen snow. Hay is slippery, and so is snow. We had the forethought to bring ski poles for stability but we opted — for some dumb reason — to not put stabilizers on our feet.

But we are mountain women so we were able to deal with it just fine, although the descent was a pain and took longer than I wanted. It takes precision to walk down snow-covered rocks.

About halfway up the ascent, my friend announced that she wants to keep hiking Ajax with me, which I was amenable to. Then I realized there was an ulterior motive: She wants a friend to train with to do the Summit for Life together in December.


It's not that I don't support Olympian and liver transplant recipient Chris Klug, whose nonprofit puts on the fundraising event that has participants hiking Ajax at night to raise money for organ and tissue donation.

It's that I am not really that much of a joiner, especially with foot races. I used to run and train for marathons more than a decade ago and that suited me well back then for what I was trying to accomplish.

Plus, I really hate exercising at night. The one time I did do the Summit for Life several years ago, I sucked wind and hated everyone passing me.

But I do have a hard time saying no and I do love my dear friend. And I also could get my butt in better shape.

So, consider this is an official acceptance to the offer of trudging up the Big Rock for the next seven weeks in the cold, dark mornings. Sounds awesome!

You are on, Kim Allen. Let the training — and the fundraising — begin.

I can already taste that celebratory drink at the Sundeck when the hell is over.


Aspen snow count was tough, but ski season still was pretty sweet

For the past five months, I've been listening to the people around me talking smack about this ski season's lackluster snow. I wish it had snowed more, too. And I wish I had gotten out there more. But the times that I have gone up have been quality experiences.

Even when I went to Vail to catch up with old high school friends over Presidents Weekend it was a fairly quality experience (those blackout dates on the Epic Pass work pretty well).

But there were still hundreds of people standing in the lift line at the base, and 20-minute waits on the mountain. So in order to hang with my friends, I had to abandon my policy of not standing in lines (except for a Widespread Panic show or a Pronto Pup at the Minnesota State Fair).

My overall skiing experience in Vail was a positive one. I forget how vast those bowls are. Vail also has public decks at various places on the mountain, some with grills so you can B.Y.O.M.

But at the end of the day, nothing can beat the skiing here. Our product is vastly better than anywhere else. And we owe that to Aspen Skiing Co., its stellar snow management crew, ski patrol and just our general way of life here.

We are spoiled with hardly any lift lines and on-mountain crews who bend over backward to accommodate us. Last Friday, Skico kept the lifts running until 6:30 p.m. on Aspen Mountain. I was one of the lucky ones to get fresh corduroy at 4 p.m. on Upper Buckhorn and North American. And with no lift line at chair 3, I was lapping it up. Thanks for doing that, Skico.

Earlier this year, on one of the few powder days there were, I made an unprecedented decision to stop for free "powder pancakes." I went into the Sundeck to get some around 10:45 a.m. The website said they were available until 11. The look of disappointment on my face when I learned they cut that off at 10 a.m. was enough for the guy in charge to buy my friend and I lunch. He didn't have to do that, so thank you.

I've been to three cabin parties on Ajax this year, and the accommodations given by patrollers have been above and beyond. They schlep food and drinks down to the Buckhorn Cabin via toboggan, then take your trash, and sometimes intoxicated guests, with them.

The nighttime snowcat drivers also will pluck up a random drunk skier when the party went a little longer than it should have. These on-mountain professionals don't have to do these tasks. So the next time you see one of them, thank them for going out of their way to make our experience better than anywhere else.


#AspenOnTheHill-Saturday, April 15

Sending off our On The Hills for the season on this Saturday here on Aspen Mountain. Anna Stonehouse enjoys the spring slushy conditions in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill-Thursday, April 13

Spring conditions are in full force on Aspen Mountain. Anna Stonehouse heads up and enjoys the sunshine, groomers, and slush. See for yourself in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill – Hot spring

Happy Wednesday, Aspen! Spring-like conditions exist today on the hill, with temperatures in the high-50s to low-60s, slush and some bare spots over on Shadow Mountain. This is it, folks; time to soak in the finals days of an awesome winter season.

#AspenOnTheHill-Tuesday, April 11

Anna Stonehouse was just cruising along this morning up on Aspen Mountain. The sun was shining with fast conditions this morning with spring slush this afternoon and warmer temperatures. See for yourself in today’s edition of #AspenOnTheHill.

#AspenOnTheHill-Monday, April 10, 2017

“Wooo hooooo; let’s go for a ‘shoe! Testing Eva, the world’s first EVA foam snowshoes on Maroon Creek Road,” says Erik Skarvan, local athlete and owner of Sun Dog Athletics.

#AspenOnTheHill – Friday, April 7

Happy Friday, Aspen! It’s a beautiful, quiet day on Ajax, with temperatures in the low-60s and overall awesome conditions for the end of the season. We recommend sticking to the top half of the mountain for the best snow. Get on out there and enjoy it while you can; closing days are upon on us. Erica Robbie has your #AspenOnTheHill report today.