Aspen Princess: We got it pretty dang good, even with these Ikonic visitors

Alison Berkley Margo
The Aspen Princess

My brother was just here visiting for a week from Steamboat and getting the goods with his Ikon Pass.

In Steamboat, Ikon Pass holders get unlimited access to their mountain, plus the 38 other ski resort partners (and counting) who are part of the Ikon Pass collective. The Ikon Pass is less expensive than a Steamboat season pass, so it’s a no-brainer. Steamboat locals are loving life because they now have access to a long list of resorts around the country, several of which are within a day’s drive from Steamboat.

On the flip side, locals at these premier resorts, like ours, don’t get unlimited access to their own mountains with the Ikon Pass. We get seven days. There’s no incentive for us to purchase an Ikon Pass then, unless it’s in addition to our season pass and we plan to live out our fantasies spending a whole winter season traveling to ski resorts all over North America in an Airstream with custom upholstery, luxury bedding, a kick-ass espresso machine and lots of down comforters and faux fur blankets.

It’s understandable that people are grumbling about the Ikon Pass and blaming it for the fact that (gasp!) they had to wait in a lift line at Deep Temerity for the first time ever or that the Bowl got tracked out in what seemed like five minutes. No one can deny the slopes feel more crowded this season than ever, but let’s get some perspective, here.

Unlike places such as Vail and Steamboat, where permanent boards have been installed displaying lift line wait times, the fact of the matter is we are incredibly spoiled when it comes to our lack of lift lines. Granted, I’ve never been the type to hop out of bed when it’s still dark to get a spot in the gondola line on a powder day. But I have almost never waited in a lift line here, not ever. Instead, I choose to roll up to Highlands around noon, park for free just steps from the base area (another thing we have going for us here) just as the hardcore skiers are starting to get fatigue from lapping Loge while they wait for the Bowl to open. Let’s just say I’ve had really good luck showing up for rope drops — not something you can plan for. That’s just another reason why I love Highlands so much and think the ski patrol there are especially sexy and hunky and cute and I thank them for accommodating my desire to sleep in.

Another trick for people who want to avoid the crowds is letting the hardcore types run up to the summit while Catherine and I get fresh tracks all day long on the west-facing runs that get overlooked by people who have something to prove. Oh, and by the way, Snowmass tends to have untracked snow all day long. I know it takes forever to get there, and you have to ride a few lifts. It really is tragic! You should definitely keep doing your two gondola laps a day and claiming you skied 100 days this season. Pat yourself on the back and say, “Good job!”

Lovers of Ajax know better than anyone that we have plenty of sneaker powder days when the snow report doesn’t quite match up to the amount of snow you find once you get out there. I’ve always wondered if the powers that be at Skico do this on purpose just because they love us so much. But those are the best days — no hype, no crowds, plenty of fresh tracks.

My very favorite are storm day afternoons when no one is around, and the conditions just keep getting better. There’s nothing like standing on the peak of Highland Bowl with no one but your friends and the ski patrol who are ready to start their sweep when it’s been dumping all afternoon, and no one really knows about it yet — at least not until you can post it all over social media and rub it in everyone’s face. So fun!

Love or hate the Ikon Pass, here’s the thing to consider: Skiing is insanely expensive. We’re so used to our season pass being part of our existence, the equivalent to a bus pass for people who live in the city. We probably don’t stop to think about the hundreds or thousands of dollars a visitor pays for access to our illustrious slopes. We got a taste of that when we visited Utah recently and ruled out skiing at Park City or Deer Valley because lift tickets were almost $200 a day. In Steamboat, we do more skinning than skiing for the same reason, though we still enjoy being at the resort, even if it means fielding comments from every kook who screams, “You’re going the wrong way!”

Speaking of Steamboat, Howelsen Hill offers free skiing every Sunday. We go every chance we get with Levi and love the old-school vibe, the history, the tradition, and the love for the sport. People come from all over the region to take advantage of that — people who might not get to experience the joy of skiing and snowboarding otherwise.

In many ways, the Ikon Pass does the same thing. Yes, I think it would be better received if Aspenites got more benefits than we do under the current program. Still, it allows us normal people to enjoy the sport we love at killer resorts all over the world. Listen, I have a 3-year-old and I know how hard it is to share, but let’s change the attitude channel. Let’s welcome our guests and show them what an amazing community we are and better yet, how spectacular our resorts are. Let’s share the wealth because let’s face it — Aspen has plenty of that to around. Let’s also try to share the love.

The Princess might not be able to get out of her driveway. Email your plow truck driver’s number to


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