See the Snowmass night sky in a new way |

See the Snowmass night sky in a new way

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Lance Ammerman, co-owner of Aspen Stargazers, looks at the night sky through binoculars earlier this month. Aspen Stargazers leads a discussion and star viewing on the patio of the Timberline Condominiums.
Jill Beathard/Snowmass Sun |

Have you ever peered through a telescope and seen Saturn’s rings? Did you know that the North Star is actually not the brightest in the night sky?

Aspen Stargazers is sharing those experiences and much more on the patio of the Timberline Condominiums. The family-friendly evening also includes dinner and dessert at the lodge’s restaurant, The Edge.

With little to no light pollution, Snowmass provides a location where people can stargaze in a way that many of them, especially visitors, have never been able to, co-founder Billy Zukoff said.

The company, owned by Zukoff and Lance Ammerman, began offering the tours this summer. The astronomy enthusiasts are armed with a high-powered telescope, a pair of astronomical binoculars that guests can move and position as they please, and an astronomical laser pointer that they use to direct guests to constellations.

The activity is not simply about viewing, however. Zukoff and Ammerman, who have taken astronomy classes at Colorado Mountain College, also discuss the science of stars as well as ancient cultural beliefs about each constellation during the tours, which last about 45 minutes to an hour.

“Our goal is to spark people’s interests in the stars and to show them a fun and family-friendly activity they can do throughout their life,” Zukoff and Ammerman said.

Dinner starts at 8:30 p.m., although it will start earlier as the days get shorter. The dinner menu offered with the package includes tapas and entree options created by Edge chef James Mazzio, named a “Best New Chef” by Food & Wine magazine. There is also a kids menu available.

Stargazing begins around 10 p.m.

Tours are available seven days a week, depending on weather. If guests come for dinner and the skies cloud over, they can come back to stargaze on the next clear night. However, Zukoff and Ammerman typically know by about 7 p.m. if the skies will be clear enough and don’t collect payment until guests arrive for dinner.

Aspen Stargazers provides blankets to guests but encourages them to dress warm. Drinks, including specialty cocktails made with Colorado liquors, can be purchased at The Edge bar and brought out to the patio.