Although Snowmass and Aspen are only about 20 minutes apart by car, they are two very different places to visit. Snowmass is more family friendly and Aspen is more geared towards adults. As a 17-year-old, I was somewhere in the middle.
Resorts have been continually trying to create ‘teen programs’ to make the teenage years easier on the parents. However, they forget that these years are also hard on the teenagers going through them. I don’t recommend these programs. They are awkward and not fun for the kids.
Instead, parents should let the kid bring a friend, or go with another family. I happen to be lucky and get along with my mom—handy when your mother’s a travel writer and you are stuck with her on a long trip. However, on this particular 2004 trip I was there with my friend Christina and her mom. Having a friend along made me see just how much it helps to have someone your own age travel with you.
Time On The Mountain
The skiing (or snowboarding in my case) at Snowmass was fabulous. The first day I was there, it was snowing constantly so the powder was amazing. That day Christina and I were supposed to have a lesson. Unfortunately, she is a skier and I am a snowboarder but we both decided to take snowboard lessons. Our skill levels on snowboards are pretty different so we were in different classes. If you do take a friend, make sure that person is at your ability level.
The mountain was not the most challenging mountain I’ve skied—I normally go down the blue intermediate runs, but at Snowmass I was doing expert black diamonds without a problem. This is something to keep in mind if you and your kids are very accomplished skiers. I didn’t attempt any double blacks, but I’d assume that they’d be pretty hard, so if your family has a lot of variety in their ability levels, this is the mountain for you.
Ski & Snowboarding School
At Snowmass, they have a kids lesson program and a teens lesson program, so if you’re a teenager learning to ski you aren’t stuck with a bunch of 4-year-olds. This is a great feature because teenagers are often scared to try lessons in a new sport because they are afraid of looking stupid. When you’re with a bunch of other people your age and your level, it’s not so bad.
If you’re still learning the basics of a sport, I highly recommend a private lesson. When you’re just starting out, you need the most personal attention to make sure that you’re doing everything right. My friend Christina ended up getting a private snowboarding lesson because no one showed up, and she said it was very helpful. Even the teen program has a very wide age range; yu could be a 17-year-old with a group of 13-year-olds with the same skill level. This can be humiliating so, once again, private lessons have their benefits.
As a high intermediate snowboarder, I met up with my group for the lesson. It was the strangest lesson I’ve ever taken—we didn’t get any coaching. The instructor took us up to the top of the mountain to the good powder and we boarded around for a few hours until the lesson was over. It was like snowboarding with someone who knew the mountain—not having a lesson. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but if your kids are good enough to ski or snowboard by themselves on a blue run, maybe they really don’t need a lesson.
Snowmass Village and Lodging
Snowmass Village hosts a few ‘Teen Nights,’ teen movie night and paintball night. I didn’t go to any of these, but I talked to a 15-year-old who did, and she didn’t like them. I got the impression it was a bunch of adults trying too hard to get teens interested in something they didn’t want to do. The Snowmass Village is small but cute, and has some fun shops. If you’re staying in Snowmass, I’d suggest taking a shuttle over to Aspen Village . We stayed in Snowmass—I recommend the Destination Resorts (www.destinationrockies.com) where we stayed since all their condos are literally ski-in/ski-out. They have many different condos in the Snowmass areas in different price ranges and sizes.
Time On The Mountain
If you go to Aspen you’d better know how to ski or snowboard. There are no green beginner runs and people there speed down the mountain. It’s a very different feel from Snowmass; there weren’t many teens when I was there and almost no little kids. There is also no children’s ski school in Aspen . The skiing is nice—runs are groomed more since the mountain is smaller and my mom really liked it. Although the runs were nicely groomed (and easier on my mom’s legs), they were also icy—which I hate if I’m on a snowboard. (You lose control more easily.) I also didn’t like how fast people skied there. I know that if you can go that fast, you have to be good at skiing, but it’s still scary when people going twice as fast as you are swerve around you. This is definitely the place to be if you’re about 18 and older and are an experienced skier.
If you aren’t as experienced a skier, Aspen still has a lot to offer. The town of Aspen is very fun to wander around in. It has some very expensive stores (I saw a $3,000 belt), but it’s really fun to check out. In addition to expensive stores, there are some moderately priced stores, some restaurants and cafÃ©s, and quite a few rental shops.
While wandering around Aspen Village with Christina, I think the thing we saw the most of was fur. It appears to be a necessity here. Either alive (my preference) in the form of a dog—Retrievers are common, although I saw a Newfoundland —or dead in the form of coats and stoles. This isn’t just for girls—those guys wearing ‘manfur’ are just as hip and stylish (in Aspen at least). The fun thing about Aspen in that you can wander around the town for a long time because just when you think you’ve seen the craziest outfit, out walks a lady in her 60s in a bubblegum-pink snow jumpsuit with fluffy white earmuffs. (Yes, I saw one like her).
If you’re sick of Aspen village and don’t want to ski, you can always go get a facial or one of the numerous treatments at the Aspen Club and Spa. My mom and I went to get a facial. I think it was the nicest smelling facial I’ve ever had. Afterwards you can hang out there in their hot tub, steam room, or sauna and that’s just in the locker room. They have all kinds of other things too, like massages, exercise classes, a swimming pool, and a childcare program.
Like in Snowmass, Aspen will be much more fun for teenagers if they have a friend with them. That way families can split up and check out different shops, or ski different places, and everyone can do what they want and have a good time.
It’s important to note that boys would probably not have as much fun in the town of Aspen —when I was there I couldn’t help but think how bored my 16-year-old brother would be. There were no videogame shops or arcades and not a whole lot of movie theaters. Also, Aspen is a small mountain and, although it’s challenging, it would get boring if you stayed there for too long.
The Food at Aspen & Snowmass
The on-mountain food at both Aspen and Snowmass is very, very good and it has a lot of variety—not just pizza and hamburgers (although they have those, too.) If you do have little kids and want to go to dinner in Aspen , Boogie’s Diner is cute. It’s got basic diner food and there’s a shop downstairs with clothes for (rich) teens. Also, The restaurant at the Little Nell Hotel has the best pancakes I’ve ever had. They make them with a hint of lemon zest and they’re out of this world. If you finish your daily skiing at Aspen a little early, ski to the bottom of the Gondola and sit on the patio at Ajax ’s Tavern. They have fabulous hot chocolate and amazing Parmesan and truffle oil fries (much better than it sounds, I assure you).
For more information, you can call Snowmass at 800/923-8920 or Aspen at 800/525-6200 or visit www.aspensnowmass.com
Madeleine Linares is a 17-year-old from Santa Cruz, California.
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