Aspen Princess: The Collective and Base Village have upped Snowmass’s game
The Aspen Princess
I braced myself amid the chaos as the horde of older boys started winging plastic balls as hard as they could across the ball pit at The Collective in Snowmass Base Village. My 4-year-old son seemed oblivious to the chances of getting clocked in the temple as he submerged himself in the seemingly bottomless pit of grapefruit-sized plastic balls.
I felt my body jerk with a panic reflex. Could he breathe under there? Was he scared? Soon enough, I saw his face resurface, tomato red with effort and excitement, a huge smile on his face.
This is only part of the reason The Collective has become part of our weekly routine. Now that Levi knows about it, it’s over.
As soon as we’re done skiing, it’s off we go to into the depths of the Game Room. There, in our ski boots, we do our best to navigate hordes of kids in a cacophony of excitement that is not only palpable but seems to build as time goes on, until the walls seem to vibrate to the same beat as your temples. Soon that energy permeates your skin, rings in your ears and enlivens all your nerve endings, and not always in a good way. I can’t help but think of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” every time I go there; the place has an element of fantasy to it that feels somewhat boundaryless.
It is, without a doubt, pretty spectacular.
For starters, it’s free. This enormous game room facility occupies the entire lower level of the building on some serious pay dirt, front and central to the ice-skating rink where you can rent skates and use the ice — also for free. Upstairs, there’s a bar and a restaurant, mix6, where you can get really delicious, high-quality food for very reasonable prices. Downstairs is the Game Room, a virtual wonderland for kids.
Let’s be honest: “kid friendly” are not the first words that come to mind when people think of Aspen. Snowmass was always the family zone, sure, but now that this development is finally completed, it just upped the ante. I honestly doubt there are facilities like these for kids anywhere else in the world.
The artwork alone is something to behold. Elaborate murals are painted on every wall in kinetic explosions of bright color and bold graphics. Huge plastic bubble chairs hang from the ceilings with comfy upholstered cushions that are big enough for parents to lazily swing in as their kids play. There are many games: foosball, ping pong and vintage video games, all free. In one corner are huge flat-screen TVs for video games and piles of oversized pillows for kids to lounge on. There are oversized blocks, a coloring wall, and a wall that plays music when you touch it.
Then there’s the ball pit.
It’s huge, like an indoor pool. It has that chaotic quality of a bouncy house. The parents stand around trying not to look nervous or uncomfortable as they nurse the cocktails from the bar upstairs in plastic cups and try to maintain a scintilla of control over their kids as they silently pray that whatever altercations inevitably ensue aren’t their kid’s fault.
Many years ago, I sat under a big white tent on the grass of Fanny Hill sipping chardonnay and nibbling on crab cakes during a press luncheon about the elaborate plans for Snowmass Base Village. A decade and $600 million later, the Snowmass Base Village they promised has finally come to fruition.
I never understood, even before the completion of the project, why so many locals look down on Snowmass. The bubble people who never go past the roundabout complain that it’s too far. The skier-day-counters complain that it takes too long to get there. The hardcores say the terrain is too tame and doesn’t boast the steep-and-deep of Highlands or Ajax. The partiers say it doesn’t have a cool scene.
Even before I had a kid, I’d go to Snowmass and think, “Why have I not come here on a powder day before?” I love dropping into steeps of the Cirque, pinballing around the playful terrain of Hanging Valley Glades and riding the frozen wave of Sneakys (or what I like to call the longest left in the world that was put on this Earth for goofy-footers), not to mention the super-playful, always-buffed-out groomed runs off Elk Camp and Alpine Springs. Snowmass might not have the athletic prowess of hiking the Bowl or the contiguous vertical of Ajax top-to-bottoms (and the added convenience of the gondola) but it is pure fun.
Now, finally, that fun can be matched at the base.
If you’ve ever spent time in other ski resorts that didn’t have the benefit of careful planning and beautiful design, then you can appreciate how seamless, modern and sophisticated the design of these new buildings are. The Lumin, Snowmass One and The Limelight bring an element of luxury that’s been sorely missing here, at least since the early ’80s.
Ryan and I have had so much fun exploring, indulging in a boozy lunch and crab cakes at State 38, grabbing a cup of the best hot chocolate you’ve ever had at the Crepe Shack, or enjoying a beer while Levi runs around like Baby Tarzan, getting some of that frantic little boy energy out.
It’s true, we have to drag him out of there in his long underwear, kicking and screaming, arguing on the drive home about how we should have handled his meltdown better. I admit I wish the ball pit was moderated just a little bit, like most bouncy houses are. But as we drive home with our sleeping baby in the back of the car, his mouth flapped open, my heart is so full with contentment and joy, of living this dream, of raising my baby here.
Now we can celebrate with our boy this Aspen life — even in Snowmass.
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