Rupert and I headed off for this year’s Ski Safari adventure again in April, this time to focus on the smaller western resort towns in Colorado. After a night in Denver to break the journey (Tip: Jet-Lag…don’t fight it!) we were on the road for 4am. I love these road trips now as much as the skiing. Watching the sun rise over the Rockies with Moose-Deer, horses and other wildlife grazing in the fields is a very special experience.
First stop: Crested Butte
We arrive in the quaint resort of Crested Butte at 9am and on the slopes at 9:30! We pretty much had the mountain to ourselves for the next 3 days, with sunshine and perfect snow cover. There were spring conditions yet it remained cold and even though there could not have been 50 people on the whole mountain, the groomers were immaculate!
The resort has a special groomer which chops up the top six inches of the snow, then smooths it off behind – just perfect especially when you have them all to yourselves – woo hoo! You could tell how much pride the locals have of their home as even at the end of the season, there were smiles everywhere, all the staff were genuinely happy to be there and it really left us with a happy glow when we left.
Crested Butte is a smallish mountain yet has amazing variety for all levels of skier/rider. The steep double black diamond areas are definitely amongst the most challenging in North America, plus a big acreage for so few people riding it. The town is an easy free 10 minute shuttle from the resort base and really cute. This is where the true mountain people go.
Next up: Telluride
We then moved on to Telluride which was a lovely three hour drive through ranches, canyons and pretty towns (like Gunnison). Telluride is spectacular, both in terms of its stunning scenery, luxury mountain village and its historic old town – where Butch Cassidy robbed his first bank! The town strives to retain its rustic charm and new houses can only be built in the “old style”. It has a really laid back western charm, shunning the glitz of some other Colorado resorts.
The Alps of Colorado
The mountain range is within a 'box canyon' so the mountains are much newer than most Colorado areas making them steeper and more dramatic – hence it’s nickname, the “Alps of Colorado”. We stayed at The Peaks Hotel in the mountain village which was fantastic – amazing facilities and jaw-dropping views from the veranda with your après beer.
The mountain has amazing and easily accessible truly advanced terrain – the closest to Couloir skiing in Colorado at least. The groomers for intermediates and beginners are also really varied and as there are no nearby cities, you rarely find a lift queue even at holiday times. The highlight though was the on-mountain dining. Having Chablis and Fois Gras at the top of the mountain at lunch in the sunshine was just amazing!
Last stop: Aspen/Snowmass
Then to finish off we drove onto Aspen/Snowmass. It’s a long four hour drive in good weather…but the scenery along the way and the route via Black Canyon is amongst the best I have seen on these mountain road trips. Going back again has just reaffirmed Aspen Town is one of my favourite places in The World. It is a World Heritage Site and manages to blend the old western style with a glitzy and funky vibe – yet in a relaxed and friendly way. I guess you have to go to understand!!
The hotels here are smaller and more 'boutique' than other resorts, so you need to understand this when comparing it to other resorts stays. We stayed in the newly renovated Hotel Jerome. Wow! This is the oldest hotel in the USA and the $20+ million refurbishment has allowed them to get the perfect mix to retain that heritage with designer touches and a unique luxury feel. For any couple looking for a something special – look no further!
We had two days of amazing spring skiing in Ajax and Highlands mountains, zooming down magnificently quiet groomers. Rupert hiked the bowl again, though I still have nightmares of the last time I did it with a hangover…yikes! The last day we had 6” of fresh snow and we moved to Snowmass (only a 20 minute shuttle ride) to re-discover what an incredible mountain this is! The trail map does not do it any justice! Really long wide groomers, with trees scattered throughout and loads of secret gullies to nip into – then a quick whisk back up the hill on their empty high speed chairs. While it has plenty to offer the advanced skier, this is an intermediates paradise and perfect for families and the more timid skier.
More than a ski holiday
Overall we have an amazing time and I really recommend this type of adventure as it makes for much more than a ski holiday – more of a ski experience! It can work out slightly more than a standard holiday but the memories it will leave you with will last forever.
14 nights starts from £1,650pp. Based on 2 adults travelling, includes accommodation, flights and hire of an SUV. Subject to availability.
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