Aspen from A to ZG: A Newcomer’s Guide |

Aspen from A to ZG: A Newcomer’s Guide

David Stillman Meyer for the Aspen Times Weekly

All images courtesy the Aspen Times

Power of Four
Aspen Times file

Moving to a new town is an ordeal. There is trial. There is error. There is the making of new friends and the hanging out with new people you don’t really care for. Eventually one figures out where to locate groceries, gas, haircuts, prescriptions, etc. Beyond that, Aspen is a weird town. Beyond the quotidian, there is an almost endless well of insider customs and traditions that no one really explains to you when you arrive. One is meant to just sort of figure it out. Having recently been a newcomer myself, I thought I might share a few pearls to help hack life in the world’s greatest ski town. May the snow be frequent and the tips prodigious. Here’s to another season in paradise.


AABC: Located across from the airport, the Aspen Airport Business Center is Aspen’s version of a “suburb” with a mix of condos, houses, gas, grocery, liquor, a few restaurants, an office park and some very light industry and storage.

Ajax: A popular nickname for Aspen Mountain, they once toyed with making it the official name. That did not fly.

Anderson Park: Earth sculpture garden on the Aspen Institute campus named after Robert O. Anderson, (no relation to Anderson Ranch) who ran the petroleum conglomerate ARCO and was the second president of the Institute.

Anderson Ranch: An artist’s paradise, New York art critic Jerry Saltz described the Anderson Ranch Arts Center as “that place my aunt would go to work on her pots.” A rather glib description, but that’s about the short of it.

Annie’s: Commonly referred to as “The Old Annie’s,” it was the popular locals’ bar and restaurant where Clark’s Oyster Bar is now.

ACES: The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, a free and peaceful spot to sit by Hallam Lake. (Located behind the Post Office, Hallam Lake is more a large pond, but a serene little secret.)

ARC: The Aspen Recreational Center is essentially the local YMCA, but like all of Aspen’s public amenities, substantially nicer.

Aspen Animal Shelter: You can “borrow” a dog and take it for a walk.

Aspen Country Day: K-8 Private school

“Aspen Extreme”: A must-watch 1991 movie set and filmed in Aspen.

Aspen Meadows: The resort branch of the Aspen Institute campus, they offer tennis courts, a gym and a pool (available to locals in winter).

Aspen Music Festival
Aspen Times file

Aspen Music Festival: Summer-breaking conservatory students, professional symphony orchestras, touring artists and a mini-opera company putting on some 600 concerts. You’ll hear a lot of “Don’t Stop Believing” arrangements on the Hyman Mall.

Aspen Institute, Ideas Festival & Security Forum: Think TED Talk meets think-tank meets political summit meets Las Vegas convention.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet: Ballet company based in Aspen, shared with Santa Fe.

Aspen Center for Physics: The name is pretty self explanatory. They have talks open to the public at the Wheeler Opera House if you’re in the mood to feel exceptionally stupid.

Aspen Words: Writers — famous, aspiring and delusional — come for networking, workshopping and readings.

AVSC: The Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club grooms Olympic skiers. Their average 9-year-old skis better than you ever will.

APCHA: The Aspen Pitkin County Housing Authority is tax-payer subsidized housing and possibly the longest-running socialist experiment in America.


Bar Menu: Select items from the main menu served only at the bar, usually priced cheaper for locals.

Belly Up: Music venue slash dance club with some pretty amazing DJs and musicians.

Boot Packing: Volunteer team who ready the Bowl pre-season to earn a season pass.

The Bowl
Paul Conrad | The Aspen Times

The Bowl: 1) Take the Loge Peak Lift. 2) Stop by the ski patrol station to buy straps for $10 cash. 3) Whether you take the snow cat about one-third the way up or just start from there, make sure to unzip as you will get hot on the hike and then immediately cold at the top. 3) Opens usually around 10:30/11 and closes around 2 p.m. The deeper the fresh snow, the longer it takes to open.

Breakfast at Bonnie’s: Restaurant on Ajax where it’s all about the pancakes.

Bell Mountain Buck-off: Casual ski race down Bell Mountain on Ajax closing day, led by ski gang the Buckaroos.

Burlingame: Housing complex across from Buttermilk.


Capitol Peak: Nearby 14er with an insane “razor’s edge” and tricky descent that has claimed many a local’s life.

Caribou Club: Posh members-only club nicknamed “the Cougar Club.” They open their plaid-carpeted rooms to the public on Halloween. Do check out the rare Warhols by the toilets.

Cathedral Lake: This rigorous hike to a pretty mountain lake gets its name from the surrounding cliff walls that give it a cathedral-like majesty.

Cemetery Lane: Residential neighborhood to the north of 82 in between Maroon and Castle Creeks with a suburban vibe and a golf course.

Centennial: Blue-roofed subsidized housing named after Colorado’s nickname, the Centennial State.

Cloud 9: Mountain restaurant at Aspen Highlands where dancing on tables and Champagne-spraying is not just encouraged, but mandatory.

Conundrum: Popular camping trip or long day hike to high alpine hot springs.

The Couch: Slow-moving quad on Aspen Mountain.

The Crowns: Chicago family that owns the Aspen Skiing Co. (which also owns The Little Nell and Limelight hotels). Their fortune comes primarily from General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense corporation.


John Denver

Denver, John: Enormously successful “Rocky Mountain High” singer who has sold over 33 million records worldwide. He lived in Aspen until he died in a plane crash in 1997.

Devil’s Punch Bowl: Popular cliff-jumping water hole up Independence Pass. Literal death trap until the water levels recede later in the summer.

Ducky Derby: Rotary Club charity event where many thousands of ducks float the Roaring Fork. One could theoretically win $1 million, although that reality seems dubious.

The Dumps: Where the miners used to dump dirt and rocks and whatnot, now excellent Ajax powder runs.


Eagle’s Club: Salt of the earth private drinking club.

El Jebel: Along with Willits, Basalt and Carbondale, these Aspen “bedroom communities” spread out along Highway 82 between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.


Fourteeners: Colorado’s 53 peaks over 14,000 feet.

Fryingpan: Popular fishing river in Basalt.


Gay Ski Week
Aspen Times file

Gay Ski Week: 2,000ish gay guys (and a few girls) ski and party for a week in January.

Glory Hole Park: Not as fun as it sounds. Just a little park off Original Street.

Gondy: Nickname for the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain.


Highlands Closing: Biggest party of the year on closing day at Aspen Highlands.

Hunter Creek: Somewhat confusing, Hunter Thompson lived in Woody Creek. Hunter Creek, no relation to the writer, is the drainage between Red and Smuggler mountains. It is also the name of a large residential complex nearby.


The crowd enjoys music at the JAS Labor Day Experience in Snowmass VIllage on Saturday, Aug. 31.
Lynn Goldsmith / Special to The Aspen Times

JAS: Abreviation for Jazz Aspen Snowmass, producer of big summer festivals and winter JAS Café series.

J-1: The temporary work visa often associated with a friendly young person with an accent.


Mawa’s Kitchen: Not so much secret as out of the way, amazing lunch and breakfast spot at the AABC. Mawa recently opened a crêpe restaurant in Snowmass.

Moonlight Skiing: Everyone skins up Buttermilk under the full moon and parties at the top.

Mountain Club: Private club next to the Sundeck with a six-figure initiation fee.

Mountain Valley: Neighborhood just east of town along Smuggler Mountain.

Mine Party: A relatively new staple to the Food & Wine Classic festivities in June, there is a “silent disco” and people drunk in a mine.

MLS: Ask a real estate broker.


Todd Cassan and teammate Steven Phillips out of Boulder fist bump in the final leg of the Grand Traverse race on Saturday morning.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

Power of 4: SkiMo race in March that starts at Snowmass, covers all four mountains and ends at the Gondola Plaza, also a summmertime biking version.


Replay Sports: Secondhand sports equipment by the post office. Great for selling and buying just about anything sports related.

Roaring Fork Swap: Facebook group for apartments, rooms and cheap stuff for sale.

Roundabout: Traffic hub at 82, Castle and Maroon Creek Roads. More importantly, a socio-psychic boundary that demarcates “Aspen” from “the valley.”

Ruggerfest: A not-small rugby tournament held in September.


Ski Swap: The big sale of gear at Aspen High School in October. Best deals of the year for all your winter gear.

A group using skins to uphill
Aspen Times file

Skins: Special sticky strips that allow one to walk up the mountain in skis and then ski down.

Snowmelt: A snow prevention technology that pipes warm water underneath sidewalks and driveways so the snow doesn’t get a chance to accumulate, thus not needing to be shoveled.


Hunter S. Thompson
Aspen Times file

Thompson, Hunter: Famous writer who lived in Aspen for many years and once ran for sheriff on a “Freak Power” platform.


Ute Trail
Aspen Times file

Ute (Trail / Tribe / Mountaineer etc.): The Ute Indians were the indigeous people in the valley. “The Ute” is a punishing trail up Aspen Mountain that will get you in shape quickly. Ute Mountaineer is a gear shop downtown.


Woody Creek: Neighborhood and surrounding wilderness downvalley most famous for Hunter Thompson living there and the Woody Creek Tavern.


ZG: Old license plates that means they have lived in Aspen for a long time.

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