No other U.S. ski resort destination caters to the refined, high end crowd like Aspen, CO. With 5 star hotels, private jets, celebrities, designer stores, award winning dining, beautiful people and nightlife, Aspen sounded to our team like it might be more exciting off mountain, than on. From town, the team stared up at the impeccably groomed runs. They thought about a leisurely ski day and looked forward to having plenty of energy to rally for Aspen’s big nightlife. But hold that thought because we were about to meet up with 2x World Extreme Skiing Champion and Aspen resident, Chris Davenport and ski “his” Mountain (known to locals as Ajax).
Exiting the gondola towards the Sun Deck Lodge (at an elevation of 11, 212 ft), there’s a display about Chris. Entitled “Skiing Colorado’s Fourteeners“, it’s a tribute to Chris becoming the first to ski all 54 of CO’s 14,000 ft peaks in less than a year. His book “Ski the 14ers” details the 363 day mission. In addition to pioneering big lines, he’s also a World Champion skier. Chris undoubtedly knows every steep line on Ajax. Chris also knows where to find the stashes. We were surprised to find so much untracked in bounds. After all, three days had already passed since early February’s winter storm Kayla. Granted, it dumped more than 3 feet in 3 days during the biggest storm since winter 2007-08, but we had expected 675 acres would be tracked out by now – especially, given how the high speed chairs and gondola made getting to them virtually effortless. This is perhaps the most efficiently designed steep, long mountain: 3,267 ft sustained vert. And without a doubt, it is the most well maintained – grooming and coverage is perfect.
It’s no wonder Aspen is home to such ski icons as Chris, and his friends Ted and Christy Mahon and is host venue for World Cup alpine ski racing, X Games (on nearby Buttermilk) and so much more. Speaking of Chris, Ted and Christy – this illustrious trio was recently nominated for National Geographic’s 2016 Adventurers of the Year award for becoming the first to complete successful ski descents of Colorado’s hundred tallest peaks in 2015 – an objective that was hatched while crushing our Pacific NW Ring of Fire volcanoes (15 of them in 14 days!). So skiing Aspen (and managing to keep up) with Chris is an exceptionally special experience. We thank you Chris for showing us Ajax’s best kept steepests – among them (and our team’s favorites): the gated Cone Dumps, Bingo Glades and Traynor runs. Watch the video and head for these same zones if you’re looking for the most challenging terrain on Ajax. You’ll come to understand why our stoke about Aspen was off the charts…and that’s without venturing into Ajax’s vast side or backcountry –nor experiencing their nightlife. Be sure to follow Chris on Facebook.
Tips: (1) if you’re looking to demo skis, treat yourself to some Kastle skis (Chris Davenport’s go to line of skis) at Hamilton Sports (middle of the block across from the Aspen Gondola), (2) avoid the morning traffic by staying in the town of Aspen or taking the very frequent buses which bypass stop & go traffic in their own dedicated bus lane, (3) we stayed at the new Element Hotel in Basalt (thumbs way up!) across from Whole Foods, with the VelociRFTA bus rapid transit (BRT) “Willits” stop half a block out front (these express, wifi-enabled buses run every 10 min. weekdays, every 15min. weekends – it’s 38min. (22 mile) $5 one way [or $3.50 if prepaid at the machine] to Aspen’s Ruby Park Transit Center, 2 blocks from the gondola) or Buttermilk, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands (for Snowmass or Highlands, change buses at the Brush Creek stop or the stop after Buttermilk & cross the street), (4) if you’re driving a camper RV, park free at the Buttermilk ski area’s main lot or Tiehack lift lot, (5) plan to spend at least 3 days – there’s so much to do and see.