Experience Summertime In Aspen

Experience Summertime In Aspen

April 18, 2019

Known as much for its world-class culture and cuisine as its pristine, majestic surroundings, it’s easy to nurture mind, body and spirit in Aspen. The best- summer event is likely the Aspen Music Festival, which draws renowned classical musicians and top students for eight weeks of daily concerts, recitals, operas, master classes and other events.

Under the guidance of new music director Robert Spano, who previously oversaw the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the festival’s focus this year is “Made in America,” highlighting works by American composers and European immigrants. On Thursday nights, join Roaring Fork Valley locals who convene on Fanny Hill at the Snowmass ski area for free concerts programmed by Jazz Aspen Snowmass. The regional and national acts range from folk to funk. Pack a blanket and a picnic, and plan on buying a bottle of wine at the concert.

The Aspen Institute’s Ideas Festival brings world leaders in politics, science, technology, the environment, health, education, and the arts to town for lively discussions and seminars on today’s current issues. Passes generally sell out in advance, so plan ahead. And keep an eye out for familiar faces around town during the fest. You might spot Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton dining at an outdoor patio.

Aspen’s budding restaurant scene is continually evolving, with classics like Cache Cache, Matsuhisa, and Pinons joined by at least one newcomer each year. Among this year’s freshmen is Justice Snow’s in the Wheeler Opera House. The Colorado-inspired menu reflects the current trend for local ingredients. The extensive vintage cocktail list is part history lesson, part inspiration.

Finbarr’s Irish Pub has quickly become a local’s favorite since opening in late 2011, with updates on traditional pub fare like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips as well as specialties like curried prawns and potatoes. The Ajax Tavern at the base of the Aspen Mountain gondola has a well-earned rep as the see-and-be-seen place to lunch. A hip alternative is poolside dining at 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel, one block away. Pair the tuna wonton tacos with a Corpse Reviver 39 and while away an hour or so on a warm, sunny afternoon.

This summer’s hottest table—and most intriguing new concept—will be at Chefs Club by Food & Wine magazine, the brand-new restaurant at the St. Regis Aspen slated to open during the annual FOOD & WINE Classic. The seasonally-inspired menu will be created by select recipients of the culinary magazine’s annual Best New Chefs awards.

The town’s casual dress code extends to all facets of the town, as locals bike to Music Festival concerts, sip a margarita on an outdoor patio after rock climbing near Independence Pass or grab an early dinner on the way home from a hike. Classic Aspen hikes such as the ones to American or Cathedral Lakes or to the base of the Maroon Bells are justifiably popular. A favorite locals’ workout is to hike up the lung-busting Ute Trail, which starts off Aspen’s Ute Avenue and switchbacks up 1,700 vertical feet in the first mile, then snakes across Gentlemen’s Ridge on Aspen Mountain before connecting with ski-area service roads. Acclimated hikers reach the summit in about an hour and a half, though there’s no shame in taking longer. Save your knees and ride the gondola down for free. (Dogs are allowed, too.) For a mellower workout, take the gondola up to join one of the thrice-weekly yoga hikes—downward dog at 11,212 feet, anyone?

After hiking, Aspen’s biggest summer sport may be road biking. A veritable peloton heads up daily to the Maroon Bells and the Ashcroft ghost town, two of the most popular rides. To really get in your mileage, hit the Rio Grande Trail, a 42-mile multi-use path from Aspen to Glenwood Springs; other than a few-mile packed dirt section near Woody Creek, it’s paved.

With stores like Gucci, Fendi, Burberry and Louis Vuitton—along with longtime favorites such as Distractions, Nuages, and Pitkin County Dry Goods—Aspen can cater to the most sophisticated fashionista. But there’s more than designer labels to hunt down among the many boutiques within the town’s historic core. Two Old Hippies combines a comprehensive selection of guitars with an eclectic mix of home décor and fun clothing and accessories for the whole family—even the dog. Many of them embody the store’s motto: peace, love, and rock ‘n’ roll. 

Aspen women in the know go to Harmony Scott to stock up on delicate handmade jewelry with colorful gemstones and pearls. Don’t miss Souchi, which offers gorgeous women’s knits in silk, cashmere, linen, cotton and bamboo. All are hand-loomed in Portland, Oregon, where designer Suzi Johnson lived until recently when she relocated to the Roaring Fork Valley. A few blocks away, Danemann-Pure is the only U.S. outpost featuring the fresh, modern looks of German women’s wear designer Petra Danemann. The Little Bird has a carefully curated selection of vintage women’s clothes and accessories from every A-list designer you can think of, plus some new items.

The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore


The Dream Skiing Destination with 8,000+ Acres to Explore

February 26, 2019

North America’s biggest ski area has more than 8,000 acres of terrain that’ll take days to ski. The stats attributed to Whistler Blackcomb boggle of the mind. To wit: an average snowfall of more than 38 feet, a top-to-bottom vertical descent of a mile (on Blackcomb), 2,200 acres of expert terrain alone, 7-mile-long ski runs, year-round skiing on groomed glaciers, and a gondola between the two mountains that carries skiers and boarders 1,427 feet above the valley floor (by comparison, the Empire State Building tops out at 1,454 feet). For skiers and boarders in North America, Whistler is as close to a sure thing as can be found on the continent.


Superlatives aside, what makes Whistler truly special is its village, a compact, pedestrian-friendly town that handles the influx of winter and summer visitors with charm, elegance, and a good deal of mountain-people authenticity that draws thrill-seekers from around the world.

One could argue that its international vibe, outdoors-minded population—helped, no doubt, by hosting 2010 Winter Olympic alpine events—makes Whistler the closest Canada and the U.S. have to Chamonix, the legendary capital of adventure sports located in the French Alps.


Both amateur and experienced skiers can appreciate the grandness and variety Whistler has to offer. In addition to skiing and snowboarding, visitors can enjoy snowshoeing, tobogganing, and several other winter activities. Domestic and international travelers alike can seek adventure, relaxation or a combination of both in this versatile mountain town.


But perhaps Whistler Blackcomb’s most appealing attribute is access: The ski area is little more than a two-hour drive north from the international airport in Vancouver, British Columbia. Rarely does going this big come so easily. With only a flight and a short drive slowing guests down, it’s a wonder this little-known destination hasn’t quickly climbed the ranks in popularity.

Find Your Adventurous Side in the Colorado Mountains This Winter


Find Your Adventurous Side in the Colorado Mountains This Winter

December 17, 2018

There comes a point when the speed seems natural. Cruising through the open valleys, banking turns and floating through powder, the snowmobile no longer feels like a separate entity but merely an extension. And that’s when things really get fun.

Vail, the largest ski mountain in the U.S., has the kind of invigorating terrain that draws people back year after year, generation after generation. (And the fleet of non-stop groomers helps.) But beyond the ski runs is a whole Rocky Mountain playground for those who want to venture out of bounds. Snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing all have cult followings.

Whether you call them snow gos, snow machines or snowmobiles, the ones available for rent can fit two people — the driver and the hanger-on. There are advantages to both roles, and it’s easy to swap back and forth. 


Nova Guides is the largest touring outfit in the Vail Valley, and in this instance, bigger really is better. Headquartered at Camp Hale just a few miles down the road from the Continental Divide, they have a full-service restaurant in their lodge that dishes out hearty lunchtime fare, warm drinks and ambiance from a two-sided fireplace that is perpetually stoked. Though the point of snowmobiling is, in part, to get out there — really out there — it’s easy enough to hightail it back to the lodge if you need a warm-up drink or if you’re done with the adventure before the rest of your group is. Nova Guides has a secondary base camp on the outskirts of Minturn for shorter excursions, too.

There are a couple of ways to take to the snowfields: by-the-hour rentals for do-it-yourself touring, as well as guided tours with full and half-day options. Guided tours are a good way to get used to the machines, which have a kicky burst of power as soon as you rev them. They also eliminate the need for trail finding, as the guides know exactly where they’re going. And where is that, exactly? Why the top of the Rockies, of course.

“We’ve got 80 miles of trail to choose from,” says Drew Fortner of Nova Guides. “No two tours are alike.”

Guides take the pulse of the group as a whole — who’s gone where before, how fast people want to travel, what they want to see — and then create an itinerary. Camp Hale is a natural starting place, as it’s right out the front door and is a wide-open valley peppered with history. At Vail’s Covered Bridge stands a 10th Mountain Division ski trooper sculpture, replete with M1-Garand semi-automatic rifle, 7’6” skis and white ski suit. During World War II, American soldiers trained at Camp Hale so they could fight the Germans in Italy. They were known as the 10th Mountain Division, and they took the Germans by surprise at Riva Ridge. Though most of the infrastructure that was at Camp Hale is now gone, folks can still cruise by the ammunition bunkers, firing range and the foundations of the barracks. And for those who don’t have much of an interest in history, the endless views and jagged peaks provide some eye candy.

That same valley is an excellent spot for dialing in your snowmobiling technique. Though it’s fairly simple to turn the key, give it gas and make some turns, there is a bit of finesse that comes with experience, especially when you’re dealing with fresh powder. Just as you do on skis or a snowboard, snowmobiles float and swoosh in the powder. Given the size and power of the machines, it seems incongruous that they’d feel so light and airy, but that’s part of the draw. Tours dip up and down over the Rockies, peaking at 12,700 feet above sea level. The wind-scrubbed, open terrain is testament to how harsh the conditions are.

“There are often non-skiers in a group,” Fortner says. “And sometimes, this is the only chance they’ll get to see what it’s like above tree line.” Though the machine certainly does the lion’s share of the work, snowmobiling is more physical than one might expect. Because they respond to conditions, snowmobiles dip and lurch just like your muscles. It’s what makes it more interactive and fun. For those with itty-bitties in the group, or people who are sensitive to the cold, Nova also has snowcat tours, what they call “snow coaches.” Heated, the coaches allow for anyone to tour the highalpine Rockies, though they’re not as exhilarating as the snowmobiles.

Experienced backcountry travelers extol the virtues of the sheer distance the snowmobiles can travel in such a short period of time. From Camp Hale it’s easy to cruise over to Vail Pass or Shrine Pass on a snow go and check out the lay of the land. Mount Elbert and Mount Massive — two of Colorado’s tallest peaks — keep watch over the world. Mount of the Holy Cross, a talisman of sorts for Wild West settlers and adventurers, almost always holds snow in the cross, made by crevasses, on one side. Groups can end up in Red Cliff, a funky town at the end of the Shrine Pass road. Red Cliff doesn’t have any stoplights, but it does have dogs galore, a single liquor store and Mango’s, a multi-story restaurant that specializes in, of all things, fish tacos. And beer, or course. There’s also a rock in the middle of town, which played host to the entire settlement during the mid-1800s. Word of an Indian revolt to the east made its way to Colorado, and the town of Red Cliff ran to the rock, sleeping, eating and drawing water from the river below with a bucket on the end of some rope. The wild Indians never showed up, and eventually the settlers left the rock and went about their business. But the rock is still there, one of countless bits of history scattered throughout the White River National Forest.


Before skiing became a downhill sport, it was transportation. Scooting across miles and miles of snow, both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are time-honored ways to get exercise and cover some ground. In Norway, there are miles and miles of trails between villages, with little huts along the way that offer spiced wine and lunch, sometimes reindeer. In the U.S., the two activities are more specialized. As such, they require specific trails.

Many golf courses in Eagle County allow both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter months. Some of them, such as Vail, even cater to them. But inside the county lines there is no better place to fall into the groove than McCoy Park at Beaver Creek.

“Most ski resorts have their Nordic courses down in the valley,” explains Nate Goldberg, Beaver Creek’s director of hiking. “But McCoy Park is at the top of Beaver Creek. With a five-and-a-half-minute chair ride you’re there, and it’s so quiet and beautiful. You’ve got three mountain ranges to look at.”

Other than during the occasional snowshoe race, McCoy Park doesn’t see a lot of action. Located at the top of Strawberry Park Express, you can’t see or hear the interstate that runs through the valley, and there’s not much in the way of human company. It is, for the most part, a solitary activity along the crystalline paths that spiral out from the course’s center. A yurt along the way allows for shelter from inclement weather — or simply a rest stop to reapply sunscreen, stretch the hamstrings and relax. The trees are more sporadic up at the top of the world, and the occasional porcupine can be seen propped in those trees every once in a while. Bark eaters, porcupines are oddly comfortable in the snow, and have called Beaver Creek home for longer than the resort has been around. Foxes, weasels and snowshoe hares can also be seen at McCoy, though they often like to stay out of sight.

For those who have both the time and inclination, a morning, afternoon or full day at the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is unforgettable. Located at the base of Ski Cooper — the only ski resort in Colorado that is publicly owned, this by the town of Leadville — Tennessee Pass Nordic Center is a secluded network of cross country and snowshoe trails cut into a daddy-pine forest. Loops meet up with other loops, making the breezy 25 kilometers of trails feel like full-on backcountry, albeit with an easy escape. Rated green, blue and black just like downhill runs, folks can choose their own adventure. And anyone who eats, ever, should include a stop at the Tennessee Pass Cookhouse on the itinerary.

It was a picnic table that started it. Nothing special, just a wooden rectangle with benches where cross-country skiers would sit and nosh, taking in the wide-open views of the Sawatch Range across the way. But it got Ty and Roxanne Hall, owners of the Tennessee Pass Nordic Center, thinking about “expanding” the picnic table. And they came up with a gourmand’s yurt.

The Tennessee Pass Cookhouse has long been a local favorite for birthdays, anniversaries, and run-of-the-mill hoopla among friends. It’s the epitome of living large in Colorado: gorgeous views, alpine activity, good food and excellent friends. There’s even the possibility of a little live acoustic music later at the Nordic center.

“Part of it is our location — the view is exceptional,” Roxanne says. “But it’s also the yurt. It wouldn’t be the same if it were a cabin. It’s so quaint, plus we feel really far away.”

The Cookhouse serves dinner seven nights a week and lunch on weekends. Lunch is a la carte and has two seatings. The four-course dinner only has one seating. Both have cult followings.

“It’s scratch cooking,” says John Fulton, head chef at the yurt.

Though the Halls have a snowmobile that can run people out to the yurt, people are encouraged to get there on their own steam. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are the most popular choices, though lucky children have been known to be dragged in their sleds by parents with moxie (and energy) to spare. The most direct route from the base lodge to the yurt — Cooper Loop — is about a mile. There’s a 300-foot elevation gain. As often as not, though, folks opt to cruise around on some of the other trails, such as Larry’s Loop, The Woods or Griz, before sitting down to a cookhouse feast. Remember that law about food eaten while camping always tastes better? It seems to apply under these circumstances, too.

The feta-stuffed buffalo burger is a lunch highlight that will tempt even those who prefer to skip the red meat. At dinner, wild sockeye salmon is grilled on a plank, giving it a lightly smoked flavor. Colorado rack of lamb is roasted to tender succulence, while the elk tenderloin is seared and served with blueberries and sage. Roasted chicken and curried tofu are also on the menu. 

All the food and water used at the yurt is schlepped in by snowmobile. That means the “facilities” are two outhouses, riding high above the snowpack. Sometimes it can be an adventure, dashing out into a snowstorm to use them. But coming back into the yurt afterwards is rather friendly. Heated by an old pot-bellied stove that came from Camp Hale, the cozy space is filled with antique tables and mismatched chairs. If meteors obliterate the world or global warming washes away the continent, that solid stove will remain intact. It keeps the yurt downright balmy even on the coldest of nights. Those in the know usually bring house slippers or booties to wear during mealtime, as heavy winter boots aren’t necessary — or particularly comfortable — inside. 

The trick is not to eat too much for the trek back to the car. Primarily downhill, it’s easy to make it to the base lodge as long as you stay awake and upright. Otherwise, all bets are off. And those who decide to nap in the forest will certainly awaken to a different type of adventure entirely. But hey, at least it’s an adventure. And that’s the stuff memories are made of.

Telluride, Colorado’s Best Kept Secret, Is Open for Discovery


Telluride, Colorado's Best Kept Secret, Is Open for Discovery

December 11, 2018

Telluride wasn’t always the destination it is today. Long before cinema elites like Tom Cruise and Oliver Stone put the Telluride Film Festival on the map and before free- spirited entrepreneurs strung up Telluride’s first chairlifts in 1972, the area was known to American Indians and starting in the 1850s, intrepid miners seeking personal fortune.


This was because Telluride rests deep in southwestern Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, an isolated pocket of the state where many peaks top out between 13,000 and 14,000 feet above sea level. 

Until direct flights to nearby Montrose (only 45 minutes away) were established, Telluride was a five-hour to seven-hour drive from all major metropolitan areas. Only the most committed made the trip, one that winds over and around treacherous mountain passes.

Their effort was rewarded with a stunning welcome, though. The Ute Indians dubbed the area the “Valley of
the Hanging Waterfalls” for good reason—Bridal Veil Falls is among Telluride’s most visible and arresting natural features. And the falls have good company. Telluride is saturated with staggering beauty. Pyramid-like peaks encircle the town and create a geographical marvel of canyons, rivers and high lakes. Try not to be awed.


As imposing as the geology is, access is as easy as a ride up a chairlift. Come spring, enjoy Telluride Ski Resort’s butter- smooth slopes, guaranteed to be bathed in bright sun (unless a freak storm dumps a foot of fresh snow, which has been known to happen), before savoring a glass of pinot noir and a salumi plate on the deck of Alpino Vino, a must-visit on-mountain bistro. Telluride truly was Colorado’s best kept secret…until now.

Jackson Hole, One of America’s Best Ski Resorts, Turns 50


Jackson Hole, One of America's Best Ski Resorts, Turns 50

December 6, 2018

“I thought some of my ski buddies were yanking my
 leg,” said Jerry Blann, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (JHMR) president since 1996, after first hearing Jackson Hole Mountain Resort had been rated the No. 1 overall ski resort on the continent for 2014 by SKI Magazine readers. 

SKI Magazine’s No. 1 rating wasn’t something we ever aspired to or that was even a target for us. We just never thought it was a possibility.” Also, Forbes magazine has ranked Jackson Hole as the best resort in America two years running now.


Today’s JHMR executives might not have been going for a No. 1 ranking, but, 50 years ago when Jackson Hole Mountain Resort first opened, that is exactly what the future founders Paul McCollister, Alex Morely and Gordon Graham envisioned. “It was always intended to
 be a world-class ski area,” says Morley, who is now 96. “We planned
 on bringing people in from everywhere. Back then there weren’t the rankings there are today, but we knew that the mountain and what we were going to create on it were going to be the best.”

As visionary as the founders were, it actually took the Kemmerer family buying the resort from McCollister in 1992—Morley and Graham had previously sold their stakes—and annually investing an average of $6 million since, to get it to the top.

Since its aerial tram first took skiers to the 10,450-foot summit of Rendezvous Mountain, just outside the boundary of Grand Teton National Park, Jackson Hole has been equally loved and feared by extreme skiers and snowboarders for its challenging terrain and 4,139 feet of vertical and powder. As recently as a decade ago though, skiers and riders at every other level just plain feared it. 

The majority of the resort’s runs were black diamond. Grooming wasn’t a priority. The only thing in shorter supply than intermediate terrain was a base area with plenty of amenity options. Want to pamper yourself with an afternoon at the spa? Good luck.


This season Jackson Hole turns 50 and is as family-friendly and amenity- rich as most any destination resort. The transition is almost unbelievable. But not quite. What is unbelievable is that the resort has gone from punishing to polished without sacrificing its soul.

“We’ll never be a mega- resort or pure vanilla,” Blann says. “We’ll never be all things to all people. We have our mountain and we’ll be us.” Jackson’s “us” is “a small town where everyone helps everyone else out,” says Jackson native and former World freeskiing champion Jess McMillan.

 “It may feel like this huge resort, but, at the same time, everyone will say, ‘Hello.’ It still has that small town camaraderie to it.” This year it also, as a birthday present to itself, has a new high-speed quad. The Teton lift, which accesses intermediate and advanced terrain previously only available if you had the strength and will to hike to it, is the best kind of gift: One that we all get to enjoy.

Why Jake Burton Says Vermont is Snowboarding’s Spiritual Birthplace


Why Jake Burton Says Vermont is Snowboarding's Spiritual Birthplace

November 26, 2018

Jake Burton Carpenter once said Stratton Mountain Resort, its 3,875-foot summit lording over southern Vermont, had probably done more for snowboarding than any other mountain on the planet. Still, in the mid-1970s—when he was an early 20-something freshly escaped from Manhattan’s corporate culture— testing prototypes of snowboards he made in a barn in nearby Londonderry, Carpenter had to sneak onto the mountain in the dark after lifts had closed. “Jake would take each new design up after the lifts closed and hike up Suntanner, which is one of our central runs, to test his boards,” said Myra Foster, Stratton’s director of PR for more than 25 years.

Eventually the resort, which has a 2,003-vertical foot drop, agreed to allow Carpenter to ride his creations during the day. “When he became confident that he or anybody else would be able to turn and stop on a snowboard, he came to our director of operations and said, ‘We’d love to be able to ride these on the mountain.’” Stratton’s answer was, “Why not?” “He seemed to be on to something exciting,” Foster said. “We wanted to be a part of it. We were one of the first resorts in the country to allow snowboarding.”

Stratton was right. Burton, who early on decided his middle name “Burton” made for a better brand name than his last “Carpenter,” was on to something. Forty years later, five different snowboarding disciplines, from half pipe to snowboard cross and freestyle, are Olympic sports. Burton Snowboards, which Burton still owns with his wife Donna, is estimated to be worth more than $100 million (privately held companies don’t have to disclose financials) and employs more than 900 people around the world. Half of everything snowboarding-related sold—from clothing to boots, bags, bindings and boards—bears the Burton name.


While Burton has stores around the world, its world headquarters remain
in Vermont. Not in the barn—which belonged to Stratton’s ski school director—where Burton first toiled
over prototypes, but on a campus for roughly 400 employees that includes an 84,000-square-foot prototyping facility, a flagship store and a 68,000-square-foot office complex.

Walking into the lobby of the office complex, you’re greeted by a timeline display of wall-mounted snowboards dating back to the company’s founding in 1977 and a simple message: “You need to know where you’ve been to know where you’re going.”

It’s an important reminder for Burton as the brand closes in
on its 40th anniversary. Sliding down mountains sideways on a snowboard may still be a relatively young sport, and progression and innovation are still the name of the game, but four decades of dominance in the industry is also cause for celebrating some deep roots.

Burton would be the first to tell you he didn’t invent snowboarding. He skied as a kid and got his first taste of carving slopes sideways when he was 14, on something called a Snurfer. A rudimentary precursor to the modern snowboard, Snurfers were patented by Sherman Poppen in 1966. Among the many historic items in the Burton collection on display
in the flagship store are a pair of even more rudimentary snowboards patented even earlier—in 1939 by the Bunker Sno-Surf Company.

Despite Bunker and Poppen, it is Burton’s name that has become synonymous with snowboarding. After he first got hooked on the experience of surfing on snow, the self-identified “loser shop class kid” experimented with different materials, shapes and manufacturing processes, trying to figure out how to make snowboarding even more fun. And he’s been at it—“it” being making the sport fun—ever since.

Though Burton, 61, is a New Yorker by birth, briefly went to college in Colorado (he graduated from NYU) and has lived abroad, the Burton Snowboards story is pure Vermont. The first official board he launched his brand with in 1977—after spending a few years making hundreds of prototypes in that Londonderry barn—was dubbed the Burton Backhill, “BB1.” It’s at the beginning of the headquarters’ timeline wall and is also prominently featured in a small museum gallery of the Burton archives that is open to the public by appointment. A limited-edition model based on the company’s early boards, the Throwback, sold out in 2015 and is in wider release this season. After nearly 40 years of innovation, its popularity proves there’s still plenty of fun to be had in stripped-down simplicity, even as the company leads the charge in technical and technological innovation elsewhere in its line.

“Since day one, we’ve charged ahead to innovate and give as much back to snowboarding as we’ve gotten out of it,” reads the manifesto summarizing the company’s goals Burton wrote himself. “We answer to no one but snowboarders, and support everything we do with the quality and service that shops and riders have grown to expect.”

In 1978, after the success of the Backhill, Burton moved the business out of the barn and set up a more proper shop in Manchester, 20-some miles west. In 1992 the company moved again, this time to the Burlington campus it still calls home. Although Burton is sold worldwide and is expanding into new markets like China—according to Bloomberg Business, as much as 10 percent of Burton’s business will be in China by the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing—the company’s home will never be anywhere but Vermont. Nearly all of the company’s first-hand testing with its research and development team still happens on the nearby slopes of Stowe. While Burton and his employees want the company to be profitable, they spend less time thinking about market share and growth strategies than they do thinking about the soul of snowboarding—how to define it, nurture it, protect it.

“Progression on the mountain and innovation really go hand in hand,” said Burton archivist Todd Kohlman while leading a tour of the company archives and the company’s Craig Kelly Prototype Facility. The latter is named after a former, long- time sponsored rider and collaborator who died in 2003
in an avalanche outside Revelstoke, British Columbia. To employees, the prototype facility is simply “Craig’s” and it’s where tomorrow’s designs are born. “Jake always says the riders are in the driver’s seat,” Kohlman said. “They’re the ones directing the way snowboarding will go. They tell us what they need from us in order to do what they want to do.”

Inside Craig ’s, next to a small museum display honoring the first 30-odd years of Burton Snowboards history, Kohlman took us past a crew making boards marking
the 20-year anniversary of rider Terje Håkonsen’s iconic 1995 signature board. The new boards are built with contemporary specs, but the Sprocking Cat design is vintage. Norweigen Håkonsen, who picked up the nickname Sprocking Cat because he always lands on his feet, signed with Burton in 1989, when he was only 15, and has worked with the company, designing boards ever since.

“The boards we’re making right now were designed by Terje, using the trickiest materials and the newest shapes, with
just a nod to the history,” said Chris Doyle, Burton’s head of Prototyping R&D, as he waited for a rapid 3D prototyping machine to mock up a new helmet shape, while a high-tech CNC router in another room shaved and shaped ultra-thin milled wood cores into precise dimensions for a new whimsical-looking asymmetrical board design.

The bulk of Burton’s manufacturing has moved overseas, both to China and Austria, but Craig’s remains the heart and soul of the company. It’s here where all of the new products get their beginning, where special projects like Terje’s anniversary board are produced, and where personal boards for team riders like Olympic gold medalists Shaun White and Kelly Clark are made to spec.

Next up on the facility’s docket are custom boards that team riders like White, Mark McMorris, Clark, Danny Davis and Enni Rukajarvi will use in upcoming competitions. Each rider collaborates and consults throughout the design and production process for their board(s).

Prominently displayed on a wall inside Craig’s is another recently completed project, the very first signature deck designed by and for Jake himself. It’s named “The Stone Hut” after a favorite, 80-year-old backcountry hut of Burton’s near the top of Stowe Mountain Resort’s Mt. Mansfield. Its design is meant for powder and the deck features artwork from Burton’s favorite Jimi Hendrix album “Valleys of Neptune.”

Craig’s is a Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for snowboarders. Burton likes to think Kelly would approve. “Craig was an engineer at heart,” Burton said shortly after the center opened in 2010. “It was what made our relationship tick once he got involved with Burton. He was so into board design, and he brought us so far. It seemed only appropriate we would name this place after him. I mean, I owe so much
to that guy for teaching me to listen to riders and just what
he did himself, pushing our board designs. There’s no other name that should be on the door than his.”

On the day I visited, racks of a limited-run tribute model snowboard marking the 25th anniversary of Kelly’s first signature Burton board greeted us. Kelly was one of the sport’s first superstars and one of its most engaging personalities, winning some of the first major snowboarding contests as he led the movement towards freestyle progression with an ear- to-ear grin pasted across his face. Burton was his board.


But after winning four consecutive World Champion titles (1986–1989) and three consecutive US Open titles (1987–1989), Kelly walked away from competition to pursue big-mountain freeriding and backcountry snowboarding. Common today, such riding was revolutionary at the time. Some of Kelly’s other sponsors balked at this shift. Not only did Burton continue backing him, but they also allowed Kelly to design the gear that would make this new type of riding more fun.

The building, which is available for tours by appointment, is symbolically protected by avalanche fences above the front entrance. Tour groups go into each of the prototyping rooms, but cameras are banned in most of them. During my visit, the engineering team was putting a new boot design to the test in a robotic torture device so classified we were asked to not even describe it here. Other trade secrets, like the process for creating Burton’s trademarked “Channel” binding attachment system, are even more heavily protected.

“I’m a company guy, obviously, but I can honestly say we build the best snowboards and snowboard equipment in the world,” said Doyle. “I respect all of our competitors but I can respectfully say that we’re still the best. Jake is a true believer that last year’s trophies don’t pay this year’s bills,” Doyle said. “He really doesn’t have a whole lot of time for nostalgia and sitting on one’s laurels. This is snowboarding, after all: the whole thing moves very quickly, and you have to stay with it. So when you come in here, what you’re seeing is the future being made.”

“Here’s how I like to look at it: every board being put together is the potential energy for so much fun. Where is that board going to go? Who is it going to take to the top of a podium or somewhere amazing? You can feel that energy when you come through here. We’re not given total carte blanche, but we do have the freedom to try things and to do some weird stuff. We can prototype everything, and it allows us to play in a bunch of different directions. I’m pretty much ruined for working anywhere else.”

Whether a snowboard, boot or jacket, Burton products have one thing in common: the words “Burlington, Vermont.” It’s key to the brand’s DNA. “When I think of Vermont, I think of quality,” Kohlman said. “And when you’re talking about Burton, you’re talking about Vermont: that’s at the core. Jake and Donna are proud Vermonters, and Vermont is really proud of Burton and our culture. It’s a special place, and it ties in heavily to both our history and our future.” And it’s where Burton has always loved to ride.

“I’ve heard him say he’ll ride all over the world, but some
of his best days are still at Stowe,” Kohlman said. “There’s something about your home mountain and your special spots. On any given day at Stowe you could run into Jake out there, trudging up on a splitboard with his dogs in tow, or out testing our latest prototypes, or just riding with Donna and their sons [George, 25, Taylor, 22 and Timi, 19].”

Stowe Mountain Resort is the closest resort to Burton HQ, and Jake and Donna have a home there. “You’d find Jake on the Bruce Trail,” said Doyle. “It’s an old backcountry trail, 
a great, long, fun run. It’s un-groomed, and to get out at the bottom you have to pole out along the cross-country trails, which sends the skiers into fits of apoplexy—we’ve learned to stay out of the groomed cross-country tracks! You better have your board waxed.”

In 2011, Burton was diagnosed with testicular cancer. It is now cured, but last March, just after the Burton US Open in Vail, Colorado, he was diagnosed with Miller Fisher Syndrome, an extremely rare type of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that results in the body’s immune system attacking the nerves.
It temporarily paralyzed him. He was on full life support for two months at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, but is now back at home in Vermont focusing on physical therapy. Burton spokeswoman Abby Young said he’s expected to make a full recovery, but it’s been a trying year.

“What he’s done for the sport, his heart and soul, his enthusiasm, his overall drive, his hands-on approach—you see that in how he beat cancer and how he’s fighting this Miller Fisher Syndrome, too,” said Shawn Johnson, Burton’s global development manager. “When he comes through he always asks, ‘What’s hot today? What are you working on?’ That’s where his heart is, and he’s always receptive to new ideas.”

“It’s always been Jake’s passion to develop snowboarding, 
to keep making it better and better so we can get to wherever we’re heading, and to me that’s the heart of what this company is about,” Kohlman said. “The past is awesome and it’s worth celebrating, but Jake is always focused on ‘What’s next?’ ‘How can we make this better?’ It’s the future he’s interested in.”

Telluride’s Lesser Known Winter Activity Travelers Should Try


Telluride's Lesser Known Winter Activity Travelers Should Try

November 5, 2018

The hardest thing about catching a trout on Telluride’s most popular tailwater is learning how to pronounce its name: Pa-Co-Chu- Puk. This mile-and-a-half stretch of the Uncompahgre River flows from the bottom of Ridgeway Reservoir, keeping it a near constant 50 degrees and allowing for a year-round fishery. Pa-Co-Chu-Puk is a Ute Indian term—for either “water buffalo” or “cow creek,” depending on the source—and is pronounced “Pa-co-chew-puh.” But non-linguists needn’t fear, as locals long ago shortened the name of the tailwater to “Paco” and the river to “Unc.”

The Uncompahgre is one of the “big four” fly-fishing rivers near Telluride, the other three being the San Miguel, the Dolores and the Gunnison. The Paco tailwater on the Unc is about an hour away from Telluride, located inside Ridgeway State Park. It’s the closest year- round fishable water from town, and offers a more intimate walk- and-wade experience than the other year-round fishery—the lower Gunnison, which is mostly fished from a drift boat. For such a short, shallow section of river, Paco holds some surprisingly large rainbows and browns, with four-pounders not uncommon.

Since both the Gunny and the Unc are typically fishable throughout the winter, they are favorites of many skiers/flyfishers looking to squeeze a day of fishing into their ski vacation (or vice versa). “Mid- March is tough to beat for both fishing and skiing in Telluride, because there’s usually the greatest amount of snow on the mountain and the least amount of snow along the river,” says 23-year veteran Telluride fly-fishing guide Frank Smethurst. “You can try to do both in a day—and many do—but the fishing is often best right about when the corn snow is peaking, so it’s usually better to just rest your ski legs and focus on fishing for a full day.”


Regardless of the season, Smethurst’s ski-or-fish dilemma highlights another challenge of chasing trout in Telluride: choosing fly-fishing over the many other world-class activities waiting out your front door. When summer rolls around, even the most hardcore flyfishers must admit that the alternative activities in Telluride—from music festivals to mountain biking to backpacking—rival those of any mountain town on Earth. And I hate to disappoint you indecisive types, but even after settling on fly-fishing for the day’s activity, your options are far from limited.

For those wanting a natural, free-flowing fishing experience, the
two most popular freestone rivers are the San Miguel and the upper Dolores. (“Freestone” is an undammed river; “tailwater” is a section of river flowing below a dam.) The San Miguel is definitely Telluride’s local river, starting high above town in the San Juan Mountains and flowing northwest through town and along the valley below, toward Placerville. The South Fork of the San Miguel, a great fishery in its own right, joins the main branch just outside of town. About five miles up the South Fork from the confluence, the Nature Conservancy has a 67-acre preserve, where catch-and-release fishing is allowed.

The upper river can be covered with snow for much of the winter, but the San Miguel River usually offers Telluride anglers their first freestone fly-fishing of the season. “March
is my favorite time of year to fish it,” says John Duncan, co-owner and general manager of Telluride Outside, a local fly-fishing guide service since 1984. “I love the process of inspecting the San Miguel when the ice starts melting away, it makes me feel like I’m searching a new river each season.”

Smethurst also likes late-winter fishing near Telluride, but for different reasons. “The best thing about it is spending time in the high desert,” he says. “Many people don’t even realize that Colorado has a desert, and it’s a 20-minute drive west from downtown Telluride. I think the best two rivers for winter fishing are the Unc and the lower Gunnison, where you’re fishing a few thousand feet lower than the elevation in Telluride, which is 8,750. So it’s usually much warmer than town, and there are big fish to be had.”

The “Lower Gunny” is basically anything below the bottom of Gunnison Gorge, but usually refers to the section from the Gunnison Forks—near the Gunnison River Pleasure Park—down to the Austin Bridge, a float of about 5 miles. This is the stretch that is most often floated during winter—an area Duncan describes as “the stark and stunning landscape of high-desert canyon country.” When summer rolls around, the Gunnison has several other float or hike-in sections, including Almont to the town of Gunnison, Gunnison to Blue Mesa Reservoir, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge, just below the National Park.

If you’ve got a car in Telluride, and are looking for a good one- day road trip, Colorado State Highway 145 (CO-145) is one of the country’s best state highways for fishing. The 116-mile- long roadway follows the San Miguel River northwest from Telluride for 50 miles, and follows the Dolores River southwest from Lizard Head Pass for 45 miles. There are
a few bits of private land along both rivers, but most of it is public and remote, making it easy to lose the crowds. “There are few fly-fishing destinations with the amount of public access that we have here,” says Duncan. “Most anglers are accustomed to fishing around other people, but we are spoiled by solitude in Telluride. Any extra effort—a short hike, a four- wheel-drive road or even just the creative use of a map—will probably result in all-day solitude.”

Besides solitude, another thing the San Miguel, Uncompahgre and upper Dolores have in common is a fairly reliable mayfly hatch—the Pale Morning Dun in early July. Though caddisflies come first, they often show up during runoff, when the San Miguel and Dolores are too dirty to fish. The San Miguel is a nymphing river in February and March (the “window” before runoff), but despite a lack of prolific surface hatches, trout will still key on dry flies. Best bet is to fish a dry fly with a nymph dropper, so you’re covering both zones. And if we’re discussing hatches in this part of Colorado, then—sorry, PMDs and caddisflies—but you play second fiddle to the famous salmonflies of the Gunnison.

The salmonfly is one of the country’s most famous hatches, and the Gunnison has some of the country’s most famous salmonflies. It’s always in the conversation with other top salmonfly rivers like Oregon’s Deschutes or Montana’s Madison, Yellowstone or Big Hole. If you’re in good physical shape, hiking down to the river in Black Canyon National Park is a rewarding experience. It’s also a lot of work, and if you go during the June salmonfly hatch, you won’t be alone on the trail. Fishing during the emergence of these 2- to 3-inch-long bugs is considered a rite of passage for many flyfishers, so the salmonfly event can sometimes draw a crowd. Another option is to fish the Gunny later in the summer, after the salmonflies have gone but while grasshoppers are still around.


I was fortunate to join a private group from Telluride a few years back on a three-day August float down Gunny Gorge. It turned out to be perfect time to do it, especially if you’re more into the fishing and less into the big-water rafting of spring. (Don’t wait until too late in the summer, though, because passage gets pretty tight in the narrow part of the gorge when flows drop below 1,000 cubic feet per second.)

As for the classic, sometimes-technical tailwater experience near Telluride—
the lower Dolores River below McPhee Reservoir—anglers must understand that this special section of river is not “on the way” to anywhere. But neither is Telluride, so if you’ve made it that far, what’s a day trip to the Dolores? (The drive is a little more than 60 miles from Telluride, so a bit farther than going to Pa-Co-Chu-Puk. But don’t be afraid to stop along the way for photos at Trout Lake, or for fishing at Snowspur Creek or Lizard Head Creek.)

Duncan’s favorite time on the Dolores tailwater is early summer. “There’s no other river in my experience that comes to life quite like the Dolores,” he says. “You’ll be blown away by the number and variety of hatching bugs. And there are so many shades of green, it confuses the eye.” Duncan adds that high water on the Dolores recedes a couple weeks earlier than on the San Miguel, so it’s the first river they fish after runoff.

And finally, while tailwaters are sometimes the only fishing available during winter, it’s the free-flowing rivers that many of us desire. “Our local fishing is more focused on freestone streams than tailwaters,” Duncan says. “The San Miguel and upper Dolores are not trophy fisheries like the Frying pan, Yampa or Platte, but they run wild and free, and fishing these rivers re-immerses anglers in the natural variables of a trout stream, things like flow, temperature and clarity. I think many flyfishers feel a reawakening of their fishing senses on these streams.”

The Glitzy Ski Town that Has a Vision to Change the World


The Glitzy Ski Town that Has a Vision to Change the World

September 10, 2018
We all know about Aspen, Colorado: The town is wealthy and elite and exists in a shimmering bubble of its own making. While true, these descriptions fall far short of telling the Aspen story in its entirety. In the six decades before it was a glamorous ski destination, it was a quiet mining community in the secluded Elk Mountains. After enormous booms, gold and silver busts bankrupted the town and sent it into near obscurity. But then outsiders, like the Chicago philanthropists Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke, came in and ignited and inspired a reinvention of Renaissance proportions.

Today, the town—and the entire Roaring Fork Valley in which it sits—has a status of supreme cultural relevance, on par even with some of the world’s most cosmopolitan destinations. This humanistic evolution coincided with the development of world- class outdoor recreation and is the reason why Aspen is now unlike any other mountain destination in the world.

“The Paepckes built this incredible foundation, so that when the ski bum era came in the early 1970s, people were drawn to Aspen not only to drop out of society and ski but for the cultural life,” says Andrew Travers, arts editor at the Aspen Times. “Generation by generation, the intellectual life of the town has grown and strengthened, and it enriches everyone who lives here.”

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Add in the immense wealth, a culture of philanthropy, and a progressive community—Aspen was the first mountain community to actively develop an affordable housing program for the town’s low-income residents, and both the town and the Aspen Ski Company are leaders in environmental initiatives that drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions—and you have a recipe for continuing the Paepcke legacy in perpetuity.

“There are a lot of extremes in Aspen, and much of that is geared toward extreme athleticism,” says Heidi Zuckerman, CEO and chief curator of the Aspen Art Museum. “But there’s also extreme curiosity and intellectualism and culture. If you’re not pushing yourself, you don’t feel alive. And in Aspen there’s a prevailing aspiration to being exceptional and living an extraordinary life.”

Aspen might have evolved into a glitzy ski town minus the culture and intellectualism had it not been for Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, Chicago industrialists who made a fortune in Walter’s family’s business, the Container Corporation of America. In the late 1930s, Elizabeth took houseguests for a ski weekend to Aspen and returned to Chicago charmed by the boarded-up Victorian town’s potential.


About six years later she returned with Walter, who saw a business opportunity. Soon they had bought prime Aspen properties and secured long-term leases on the Jerome Hotel and the Wheeler Opera House. Proud intellectuals, the Paepckes’ vision was to develop Aspen for their wealthy peers, but Walter then became enamored with what he dubbed “the Aspen Idea.” The town would be the “Salzburg of the Rockies,” where art and ideas would hold equal court with science and philosophy, architecture, music, and more, says Cristal Logan, Vice President, Aspen, and Director, Aspen Community Programs, of the Aspen Institute. The institute is another Paepcke legacy, which Walter established after organizing the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial Convocation. Among the honored guests at the convocation was the French-German theologian Albert Schweitzer (this was the only time Schweitzer ever visited the United States).

Today’s Aspen Institute grew from the Aspen Institute of Humanistic Studies (founded in 1950), the International Design Conference of Aspen (IDCA, founded in 1954), and the Aspen Music Festival and School (founded 1951). They organized their vision around the “Aspen Idea,” where a complete life would revolve around one’s ability to “earn a living, profit by healthy physical recreation, [and have] facilities at hand for his enjoyment of art, music, and education.” To that end, the Paepckes also founded the Aspen Ski Company with several other partners in 1946, determined to fashion a European-style ski resort in the mountains surrounding the town. Ultimately, the Paepckes strived to ensure that Aspen would always be a place where mind, body, and spirit could thrive.

“If you want a great place to ski, there are other places you can go,” says the Times’ Travers. “If you want natural beauty, there are other places. But if you want those things and this rich cultural life, I don’t know if there’s anywhere like Aspen.”

There’s an old saw in Aspen: that woman pouring your $90 bottle of wine at Fig? She’s probably got a Ph.D. and can hold her own in a discussion on Proust. Put simply, smart people come to Aspen, including Barack Obama, Tom Price, David Brooks, Charles Sykes, and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among many others. Many come to take part in the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual summer event organized by the Aspen Institute that’s a who’s who of the world’s powerful and influential. “Our mission is to be a place where leaders can come to solve problems and find common ground in this place that’s not only gorgeous but also substantive,” says Logan of the Aspen Institute.

Today the institute continues to foster and provide a nonpartisan space where ideas can be exchanged. Home to dozens of programs with foci that range from policy, leadership, strategy, and youth to the arts and more, the institute also hosts the annual summer Ideas Festival. Attendees pay $3,600 for a three-and-a-half-day pass. Logan says the institute also delivers abundant low-cost public talks and roundtables to ensure the exchange of ideas isn’t relegated only to wealthy participants. The institute also fosters international partnerships and launches new programs every year; in 2017 this included The Bridge, a program on race, cultural identity, and inclusion, and the Future of Artificial Intelligence, a roundtable series.

“Our world needs places of stubborn civility, where leaders are compelled to have difficult conversations with people
they don’t agree with,” says Logan. Encouraging dialogue is a common theme up and down the entire Roaring Fork Valley, even at for-profit businesses, like Backbone Media, a public relations company in Carbondale, about 20 miles north of Aspen. Backbone, often named a “Best Place to Work” by popular magazines, is also something of an unofficial diplomat on matters of environmental protection including climate change and public lands conservation. Backbone managing partner Nate Simmons has been working behind the scenes to help forge alliances between outdoor gear companies, perceived to be traditional “tree-hugger” types, and hunting groups to better advocate for public lands protection. Most recently, he mediated a meeting between a hunting advocacy group and the environmental team of a powerful outdoor apparel company to brainstorm how they could join forces to lobby politicians and create an influential voter base in favor of public lands protection.

“Right now conservative politicians cater to the ‘hook and bullet’ group, and ignore the environmentalists,” says Simmons. “To many politicians, environmentalists and sportsmen are divided constituents. So, if we can get left- and right-leaning voters to prioritize that conservation vote, then suddenly we become a very powerful voice. We see tremendous political power in bridging that gap.” Simmons says the Aspen Institute model of engagement and mutual respect drives the approach. And though there are no specific legislative victories (yet), he is heartened by the openness and commitment of all involved to use their joint economic and political power to advocate for the environment.

There’s always been plenty to do in Aspen for the body, another element of the Aspen Idea triumvirate. In 1950, Aspen hosted the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships; it was the first American destination to wrest the revered races from European slopes. That “put Aspen on the map and established our legacy in ski racing and as a top ski resort in the world,” says Mike Kaplan, President and CEO of Aspen Ski Company. Today there’s a lot more than ski racing in the winter. Skiers and snowboarders flock to all of Ski Co’s four ski resorts (Ajax, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass), and backcountry skiers and snowshoers explore the surrounding wilderness on snow from November through late May. Some travel to the state’s storied 10th Mountain Division huts, remote backcountry lodges accessible by human power; others climb one of the area’s myriad “14ers,” mountains with elevations at or above 14,000 feet; or cross-country ski. When the snow melts, wildflowers explode, providing a colorful and fragrant background for the trail runners, mountain bikers, hikers, birders, and hunters. Aspen and the surrounding environs also draw mountaineers and rock climbers, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders. Fly-fishing here is world- class, and even just taking a walk on the trails around town constitutes immersion in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

“Aspen is small enough that you see people doing great things and get inspired to push yourself,” says Christy Mahon, the first woman to ski all 54 of Colorado’s 14ers. Mahon is also the Development Director at the Aspen Center for Environmental Science (ACES), another legacy institution created by the Paepckes. “And there’s a big emphasis on mentorship and inclusion. We cheer each other on in Aspen.”

Part of that enthusiasm manifests every spring after the ski resorts close and the 5Point Adventure Film Festival starts. Now in its 11th year, 5Point curates long and short adventure films and has become one of the most popular cultural events of the spring. Tickets sell out in days, and filmmakers from around the world vie for slots on the big screen, says executive director Meaghan Lynch. In many ways, the festival represents what Aspen is to so many visitors and residents, she says. “Aspen has the heart of a city and the soul of a ski town. You have the cosmopolitan with the grit, everything from duct tape to diamonds.”

Aspen’s music, arts, and literature offerings are among the best in the world, and yet another enduring aspect of the Paepcke legacy, with a modern twist. Many of the valley’s full- and part-time residents support the non-profit organizations running the Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen Art Museum, and Aspen Words, a year-round literary organization that runs a prestigious writers’ conference in the summer and hosts authors and readings year-round.

With 630 students from 40 different countries, the Aspen Music Festival and School is the largest classical teaching festival in the world, according to festival president and CEO Alan Fletcher. Renowned faculty members return annually, and when a teaching position opens, rather than advertise the position, the board determines who the greatest musician in that particular field is (who isn’t yet teaching at Aspen) and approaches them with an opportunity. “Every single time, we get our first choice,” says Fletcher.

Here promising high school musicians meet professors from universities they’re considering, graduate students do the same, and young professionals can make a name for themselves and launch prolific careers as classical musicians. The audience is sophisticated and the programming multi-faceted. With five orchestras running and playing every day of the festival, “we put on as many shows in eight weeks as the New York Philharmonic does in a year,” says Fletcher.

The visual arts also thrive in Aspen, as the Aspen Art Museum, a non-collecting contemporary art institution (it presents art on loan from other institutions or private collectors) demonstrates. The museum’s annual fundraiser, ArtCrush, routinely raises millions of dollars for the museum, which is housed in a $45 million, 17,000-square-foot building designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban. Fundraising for the museum was controversial, with some residents decrying the influx of exorbitant galas as elitist and anti-community and others welcoming an institution they said elevated Aspen’s art scene and would draw international modern art connoisseurs.


“The new building changed the face of Aspen,” says Heidi Zuckerman, the art museum’s CEO. “And it’s changed a generation
of Aspenites. High school kids come and hang out in the museum because it’s part of the fabric of the community.” The impact of this casual immersion exposes residents and visitors to “things that might be confusing or uncomfortable, where they can encounter polarizing stuff,” says Zuckerman. And that, she says, is a major reason why cultures need art.

“To have a community center where people can interact with people they’re different from in a place that has no judgment whatsoever—we don’t care about your socioeconomic status or your politics; just come with an open mind—is essential to a cultured society,” Zuckerman says.

Encouraging open minds and dialogue is a primary objective of Aspen Words, and Adrienne Brodeur, executive director, has elevated the institution to national prominence since taking over in 2013. A former acquisitions editor at a New York publishing house and a published author, Brodeur envisioned an Aspen literary festival on par with the best juried writers conferences in the world, with workshops and lectures taught by preeminent contemporary writers. Under Brodeur’s leadership, Aspen Words established 10 Emerging Writing Fellowships (full tuition and expenses to attend the writing conference), and residencies for published authors. The organization recently launched the Aspen Words Literary Prize, an annual award of $35,000 that celebrates a work of fiction which shines a spotlight on a social issue. Attracting literary luminaries in the publishing world has been easy, says Brodeur. “The town has a powerful draw and can make the rest of the world slip away,” she says.

But Aspen won’t rest on its laurels. “We never want to fall into the trap of just being a place to escape and play,” Kaplan says. Aspen Ski Company has taken meaningful efforts to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming, including capturing leaking coal methane from a retired coal-fired powerplant. In addition to reducing the company’s overall emissions, Aspen Ski Company also lobbies politicians to heed the advice of climate scientists. By sharing their initiatives, the company is likely to reach CEOs of other companies on vacation in Aspen who could well be inspired to co- opt those initiatives and improve their businesses’ environmental footprint. And it’s not just Ski Co, Kaplan is quick to point out. The environmental, humanist ethos thrives across industries and populations in Aspen, he says.

“We see ourselves as stewards of Paepcke’s legacy,” Kaplan says. “We— Aspen—must be a place where people can come to discuss the most important and challenging issues of our time.” And, if all goes well, help solve them.

The Insider’s Guide to Park City

Park City Utah Hero

The Insider's Guide to Park City

September 7, 2018

Skis are on the roof. Johnny Cash is walking the line on the radio. There’s hot coffee in the console. The drive to Park City’s first entrance is 25 minutes from my garage door in Salt Lake City and today I’m counting every second. Last night, a monster winter storm passed through and left a 12-inch carpet of fluffy, dry Utah powder: the “Greatest Snow on Earth” as proclaimed by my license plates. And, like so many Wasatch storms, it quickly cleared out, polite as a preacher on Sunday. I’m racing to a perfect powder day under a bluebird sky.

I crank up the Cash, step on the gas, and Jennifer, my partner, and I start plotting our day like NYSE commodities traders before opening bell. It’s essential to have a plan on a powder day at Park City, or any day really. It is, after all, the largest resort in the United States of America. With 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, its only
rival on the continent is its Canadian cousin (by Vail Corporation marriage) Whistler-Blackcomb, which is 700 acres bigger. Park City has four base areas, one high-speed gondola connecting its two halves, and 41 lifts accessing more than 300 trails (and that’s just counting the trails they label on the trail map).

Park City, Utah 2

“Town Lift,” Jennifer says. “Today is made for Town Lift.”

This is why I love this woman. Jennifer, a transplanted New Yorker, still thinks like she’s moving upstream in midtown Manhattan at 4 p.m. on a Friday. Town Lift is a back-pocket trick we deploy sometimes, but it is a gamble. It’s farther up the road—it’s the last of four base areas as you travel to Park City Mountain from Interstate 80—and requires we ski a throwaway run to get to the good stuff, and it’s a slow lift. Today, however, all these drawbacks mean nobody will think of it. It’s like taking the G into Brooklyn while all the hipsters are packed onto the L train.

We blow past the hundreds of people lining up at the main base areas, Park City and Canyons Villages (holdover names from when the resort was two separate entities) and pull into a parking garage on Park City’s Main Street that I’m not going to tell you about. (Sorry, a local must keep some secrets.) From here we walk onto the Town Lift right as it’s opening. To reiterate: we don’t walk to stand in a line (like the masses of skiers at the lower base areas), but onto the lift. And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the day.

Of course, not every day in Utah is a powder day. Amazingly, it’s when there isn’t a foot of fresh, dry snow that Park City really shines. The Greatest Snow on Earth falls
at all 14 of Utah’s ski resorts, but it’s only Park City that has this much lift-served terrain, this much choice of terrain, and a historic mining town at its base. Other ski resorts
have ski-in, ski-out access to homes and hotels. Park City’s downtown is ski-in, ski-out. Park City Mountain is the kind of sprawl—across four 9,000-plus-foot peaks—you want: the quantity and quality of the terrain means there’s always good snow somewhere. And if you get a little lost along the way? High West Distillery, which claims to be the world’s only ski-in, ski-out distillery and whose much-loved Rendezvous Rye and innovative bourbon-rye blends have won almost as many awards as Park City Mountain has runs, is 25 steps from the base of the Town Lift. (If you’d rather a glass of pinot, Old Town Cellars, a local blender, beckons from across the street, as does the whole of Park City’s central strolling, eating, and drinking district.)

Sadly, Park City’s awesomeness long ago ceased being
a secret. Last season, the resort accounted for more than one-third of the lift tickets bought at all of Utah’s ski resorts combined. Just 35 minutes from Salt Lake International Airport, the town of Park City is a famed destination in and of itself, having been part of the 2002 Olympic Games and also thanks to the annual star-studded Sundance Film Festival in February. Also, visitors love that Park City is an actual place where actual people live. Venturing beyond the resort confines and out of the well-trodden Main Street area will easily lead you to friendly pockets of mountain-town life. Stop into White Pine Touring and get some gear and advice to access Park City’s extensive Nordic skiing trail system. Meet the local ski moms (and dads) and drop into a class at Park City Yoga. Take the kids bowling at swanky Jupiter Bowl at Kimball Junction and finish with New York-style pizza at Maxwell’s.

“I moved here because it’s a real town and a ski area grew up around it,” says 60-something Dottie Beck, a 28-year veteran ski instructor at Park City resort who skis year- round thanks to a “summer” job as an instructor in New Zealand. “Even in a lean year, you can find good snow. I grew up in Colorado but this is where I wanted to live.”

As an instructor, Beck likes that her students benefit from a diverse portfolio of terrain. At many resorts, learners are limited to one or two areas, but not at Park City. “I’ve got lots of options for every level and we’re not confined to one itty- bitty area, we can go all over,” she says, “That makes my job easier; it’s a great teaching mountain.”

Park City, Utah 3

But still, as many of Park City Mountain’s terrain secrets you unlock, you want at least one of your
days here to be a powder day. After our throwaway run—Treasure Hollow—from the top of the Town Lift, Jennifer is still in a New York state of mind: chomping
to get up to the top of the resort, the big daddy peaks Jupiter Peak (9,998′) and Ninety-Nine 90 (9,990′).
Both of these summits reward hiking from their access lifts (McConkeys and the eponymous Ninety-Nine 90) with fresh lines in high alpine bowls. I talk her down though, and instead we opt to hang back and work the Crescent Lift, a high-speed four-pack that, on powder days, is almost as overlooked as the Town Lift. I learned this Crescent trick from Bagel Boy or, as some call him, Adam Fehr. Fehr is the 35-year-old proprietor of Park City Bread & Bagel (hence the nickname) whose townie status as the king of carbs allows him to average 100-plus days every season.

“On a powder day, it’s important to have patience,” Fehr once imparted to me. “Everybody is racing to get to Pioneer and McConkeys [the lifts that service the Jupiter Peak area]. But they’ll just have to wait for those chairs
to open while ski patrol clears things out. Meanwhile you can sneak in a few laps on Ski Team Ridge.”

Thanks, Bagel Boy. Crescent doesn’t disappoint. While the sound of avalanche guns echo from higher up, we take laps on Silver King, Willy’s Run, and Erika’s Gold, steep black-diamond runs that we’d skip on a groomer day but are forgiving in the deep Utah powder. At the bottom of each lap, we practically
ski right back onto Crescent. Maybe later we’ll join the lines of skiers and boarders crawling around Jupiter and Ninety-Nine 90 peaks. Or not. Park City’s immensity makes it easy to get pleasantly sidetracked and it’s one of those blue-sky days where our best- laid plans dissipate like the smoky powder under
our skis. Following Bagel Boy and Beck’s best advice, our ramblings take us from boundary to boundary.