Sean Beckwith: Don’t be fu-silly, all mountains offer something
January 23, 2019
The difference between this ski season and 2017-18 is like the difference between sauced and unsauced pasta; sure, with enough butter and Parmesan, any noodle can be good, but when you add a decadent layer of your preferred sauce, it keeps you coming back for seconds and thirds. I've been hammering back the powder buffet all season and my palate is starting to round into taste.
While one can certainly get their fill at any of the four mountains, each person has their favorite. I'm a linguine and clams guy myself but can appreciate a good pesto. Red sauce is OK until the heartburn begins. Each person's preference is their own.
This thing about ranking the four Aspen Skiing Co. mountains is you'll inevitably get pushback. From nicknames like "Slowmass" to condescending remarks about beginner terrain, there's no shortage of opinions.
I don't understand the point of demeaning someone for preferring one mountain over another. Can you imagine being berated over bucatini?
"Bowtie, huh? I remember my first plate of pasta." "More like fettuccine alfre-don't serve me that thick, white sauce."
So, instead of ranking the ski areas, I'm going to try to come up with each mountain's pasta equivalent in an attempt to highlight their best aspects.
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Snowmass: Classic lasagna
The largest mountain of the four deserves a dish that has everything. Like a person getting ready to delve into layers of flavor, it's best to prepare yourself mentally for a heavy workload. Overindulging is easy and pacing yourself is a must.
One bite might feature rich, silky ricotta (Sneaky's) while the next has meat and melted mozzarella (Cirque Dikes). Regardless of the current mouthful, you're always planning your next bite, trying to figure out which route to go.
There's a strategy to consuming lasagna and Snowmass. You're not going to just lap Bolognese Boulevard when there's so much more to explore. That's also the best part of Snowmass. High Alpine is great but sticking to that peak means missing out on all of the ingredients that combine to make the 20-pound pan of goodness that is Snowmass.
Aspen Highlands: mushroom Ravioli
Highlands is hard because it's such a unique mountain. It requires a lot of time and patience to master and, thus, enjoy. However, that's the same with assembling proper ravioli. Making a suitable filling that's not solely ricotta, handmade pasta and actually putting together the ravioli down to the crimp is a painstaking process that seems like a lot of work until you finally bite into that perfect pillow. A lot of work for perfection sounds like how diehard locals would describe a trip up and down Highland Bowl.
Besides the obvious mushroom correlation — there being a trail named "Mushroom" at Highlands — the fungi family takes some getting used to. Whether it's the texture or the funky flavor, for whatever reason it takes time to turn the taste corner. That being said, once you cross that threshold, it's a damn revelation that will have you asking yourself, "When can I have this again?"
Aspen Mountain: Linguine and clams
I thought about going with spaghetti and red sauce because that's what people think of when you say pasta night. After mulling it over, linguine and clams, which was mind-blowing the first time I ate it, is the perfect comp. A good red sauce takes time; it's a process. You can crush buttery, light helpings of linguine and clams without feeling weighted down, which is similar to top-to-bottom laps during a powder or bluebird day. The gondola lets you recoup for 15 to 20 minutes before diving back in, face first.
When grubbing a plate of the briny, spicy and beautiful pasta, you're forced to take your time to pick the baby clams out of their shells. That process may seem monotonous but setting up the ideal bite — like traversing to Bingo or the shoulder of Bell — is worth the effort. The first time I ate this dish, like dropping rope at Cone Dump 1 or 2, was an indelible experience that I try to replicate as often as possible.
Buttermilk: Mac and cheese
Before you assume I'm mocking the Powder Pandas or people who like Tiehack with a traditionally children's dish comparison, tell me the last time you had mac and cheese and disliked it. I'm not talking about watery Kraft mac and cheese from the blue box, either. (Even though I will eat that, too, but preferably it's in some sort of fun shapes.)
Macaroni and cheese can be elevated to appease more refined palates, just like a little more elevation (Tiehack) can be skied to please more advanced adventurers. A homemade batch of mac with breadcrumbs, bacon and jalapenos is still macaroni and cheese. Velveeta shells and cheese with some hot sauce and ground black pepper is still mac and cheese and it's still delicious.
Sean Beckwith is a copy editor at The Aspen Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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