Asher on Aspen: White Winter Bells
Snowmobile trip to Maroon Bells should be on everyone’s Aspen bucket list
Asher on Aspen
When drumming up an Aspen bucket list, there are a few items that simply can’t be missed. The following things are quintessential with the winter months in Aspen: hiking the Highlands Bowl, attending a champagne-spraying party at Cloud Nine, cross country skiing to Pine Creek Cookhouse, enjoying a pancake breakfast at Bonnie’s, après skiing at the base of Aspen Mountain, and finally, snowmobiling to the Maroon Bells.
On a recent Sunday afternoon in February, I was finally able to visit the Maroon Bells in all their white winter glory by way of a snowmobile. This specific tour (the Klondike Lunch Tour) was led and operated by the incredible crew at T-Lazy-7 Ranch. More specifically, our amazing guides Caleb and Matt. From having been on this tour before, I know that it’s not always an option to visit the Bells in the winter months due to weather. Today, however, was a different story. It was a beautiful bluebird day and there was nothing stopping us from seeing two of the most photographed peaks in North America.
T-Lazy-7 Ranch and the Deane family have been operating guided, scenic snowmobile tours in the Aspen area since 1968. The ranch is one of the oldest, family-owned, and operated businesses in Aspen and is currently being run by six generations of the Deane family. Hearing this always makes me wonder if the hit TV show “Yellowstone” was based on this legendary family and their ranch. Deanne sure sounds a lot like Dutton.
My nerves built as I secured my helmet and positioned myself on the sled. The afternoon sun bathed my fellow riders and me with its warm light. I took a deep breath as I turned the key to the right. The gasoline fumes instantly took me back to the days I spent four-wheeling and jet skiing at my family cabin in Nebraska. I slowly pushed down on the throttle, and we followed the riders in front of us through the trees and across a lush open meadow. Our anticipation and excitement grew as we knew the views would only continue to become more spectacular.
Along the way, we stopped a couple times to hear stories of Aspen’s unique history and fun facts about wildlife in the area. The guides insisted they take our pictures along the way, and with views like that, who could pass up a picture to remember the moment? After a smooth 30-minute cruise down Maroon Creek Road, we arrived at the base of the Maroon Bells. The panoramic mountain views instantly felt like something out of “Narnia.” Caleb led us up a grand staircase of snow-packed, man-made stairs that escorted us to the base of the majestic mountain peaks. This is arguably one of the best views in the country. It was breathtaking!
During our ride, we passed by several people and dogs on the trail. We learned that the ranch lays down a complimentary cross country ski track multiple times a week that is open to the public. The ranch loves rewarding the cross-country skiers, hikers and bikers in the community with a cup of hot chocolate, cider or tea. What a fun incentive to get outside, get some exercise, and earn your views.
After we gawked at the incredible beauty that is Mother Nature, we rode our sleds to our lunch spot destination — the Klondike Cabin. Ascending the stairs toward the cabin felt like we were climbing up to a giant Lincoln Log tree house fit for adults. The cabin itself was effortlessly cozy and quaint with its western cowboy charm and surrounding natural beauty.
Upon arrival, there was a man stationed behind the grill prepping lunch for our group of about 10 rosy-cheeked riders. We were served cheeseburgers made from grass-fed wagyu beef that was raised locally on the ranch. Sitting down on the patio, we enjoyed our lunch alongside stunning views of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Creek Valley.
There’s nothing quite like zooming through a snowy, dreamlike forest by way of a snowmobile. Being immersed in nature like that in the middle of winter is such a refreshing way to experience the colder months in Aspen. If you’re a local like me, and interested in participating in one of these tours, you’re in luck. Next weekend (Feb. 24-26), T-Lazy-7 Ranch is offering a 50% discount to all locals who live or work in the Roaring Fork Valley from Aspen to Rifle. Proof of residency or employment is required. Don’t miss this chance to cross off an epic Aspen experience from your bucket list!
“Without any exception the worst snow storm known since the advent of the railroad west of Leadville has been raging over the crest of the continental divide since last Thursday,” asserted the Aspen Tribune on January 31, 1899.