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During the high season, chain hotels in nearby Carbondale offer affordable rooms, while neighboring Basalt is home to no-frills motels. However, by the time spring rolls around, great deals can be found in both Snowmass and Aspen. Look out for specials at the Snowmass Inn or the newly remodeled Limelight Lodge in Aspen. Get 10% off lift tickets when you buy them online a week in advance. From now till closing day at Aspen Highlands (April 24), adult lift tickets are only $49.
Aspen has an excellent public transportation system and buses stop at each of the four mountains: Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. You can park for free at Buttermilk and take the bus to any of the other resorts. Parking is also free at Aspen Highlands if your car is carrying four or more passengers.
The Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands showcases some of the steepest, most extreme “inbound” skiing in Colorado. And those who have experienced it understand its magnetic pull. When the resort received a 13-inch dump of fresh pow overnight in late March, over 50 giddy skiers and boarders were already lined up the next morning at Exhibition lift to snag first tracks in the bowl.
First, there’s the journey. A snowcat at the top of Loge Peak lift drops you at the top of the Temerity glade, home to slotted tree skiing, and the bottom of Highland Bowl, offering access to hundreds of acres of blissfully wide-open terrain. Next, there’s the hike up a narrow, two-foot wide ridge. It will take you about 40 minutes to reach the summit, but the breathtaking views of the neighboring fourteeners, Pyramid Peak and Maroon Bells, make it worthwhile. The snow at the summit (the North-facing “G-zones”) is usually the softest, but you can drop in any time. Quick tip: if you’re not skiing with a pack, stop in the patrol shop at the top of Loge lift. For $8, you can buy a strap to carry your skis on your back, and proceeds benefit Highlands ski patrol. Stash it in your jacket pocket to use next time.
Aspen is teeming with gourmet restaurants, but who can afford them? Thanks to bar menus, you too can indulge in some of the best food in Aspen for a fraction of the price. L’Hostaria and Ellina restaurants in downtown Aspen both offer discounted bar menus and signature cocktails in a classy atmosphere. If you want to keep it real, head to Zane’s in Snowmass for a Philly Cheese Steak— comes with sweet potato fries or onion rings for $9.50. Local favorites like 520 Grill and Johnny McGuires offer cheap burgers, subs, and a greasy breakfast burrito to cure any hangover.
Nothing comes free in Aspen…except yoga. Everyday from 9:30 a.m., you can participate in a free yoga class at the Sundeck restaurant at the top of the Silver Queen gondola on Aspen Mountain. Strip down to your base layer, get your zen on, and then hit the slopes.
After hitting Bell Mountain and Trainor’s at Ajax, unwind at Bonnie’s—the original mid-mountain restaurant. Bonnie’s wood-paneled cafeteria is cozy and rustic compared to the much newer Sundeck, and their famous desserts can’t be beat. Try the homemade pumpkin pie with extra whipped cream (they’ll spoon the extra whip into a bowl for you if you ask). Then, grab an affordable $15-$20 bottle of chardonnay from the fridge (hey, it’s Aspen), a few glasses and toast the bluebird day on the spacious deck.