Leave the hectic pace of Aspen behind — at Ashcroft
The skiing was so good at Ashcroft last weekend that I had to kick myself for letting so many years slip by between visits.
John Wilcox and his crew at Ashcroft Ski Touring have upped their game with grooming since my last outing there. The skate trail and classic tracks were freshly and immaculately tended. The thing about Ashcroft, though, at least for an infrequent visitor like me, is the scenery is too stunning to blaze through without stopping frequently to soak it all in.
I skied for a couple of hours Saturday while in the upper Castle Creek Valley to get a particular shot of the Ashcroft ghost town. The light didn’t cooperate in the gloomy, blustery weather so I had an excuse to return Sunday morning. I was greeted by partly cloudy skies that highlighted the massive peaks that form a horseshoe around the upper valley. I don’t know if there is a prettier place in the Roaring Fork watershed.
The River Run Trail provides a gentle climb in the subalpine fir, with Castle Creek burbling alongside through the ice and snowcapped rocks. The trail network east of Castle Creek Road winds far south of Pine Creek Cookhouse and north of Ashcroft town site, so there are plenty of options to keep skiers occupied. There also are dedicated snowshoe trails.
The trail network on the west side of the road provides options for all skill levels between the cookhouse and King Cabin, where you buy tickets and rent skis, if needed. Upper Fiske provides a great workout and exhilarating descent through aspen forests. Flynn travels through flatter terrain in the valley floor. The 10th Mountain Trail is in between, both in location and skill level.
Ashcroft checks all the boxes: Superb grooming? Check. Unbeatable scenery? Double check. Easy accessibility? Check. Lack of crowds? Check. Friendly staff? Check. Affordable price? Check.
A day ticket is $25. Yes, there are lots of cross-country skiing opportunities in the Roaring Fork Valley that are free, but none as unique as Ashcroft Ski Touring. The fee is well worth it.
It definitely won’t be years before I visit again.
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Highway 82 is closed eastbound for a second time Tuesday morning east of Aspen because of a semi-truck experiencing “mechanical issues” trying to go up Independence Pass.