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The bright lights of Aspen

Colorado, USA

The lure of the slopes in Aspen Snowmass keeps Neil and Sam Perry going back for more.

Iím not sure what it is about Aspen that keeps us going back year after year. Is it the beautiful snowy town filled with fairy lights at night? Is it the great restaurants? Is it the fantastic shopping? Is it the fact that it has sentimental value because Neil and I spent our honeymoon there in 2003? Or is it the incredible skiing on all four mountains? Having taken the kids there for six years in a row now, I think itís a bit of everything, and every time we go back we discover something new.

The power of four
Aspen is a great place for families. There are four awesome mountains to ski on, depending on ability, and the free bus system makes it so easy to get around. Buttermilk is known as the best place for beginners to gain confidence, with gentle slopes and lots of fun tree trails for the kids, but there are also some harder black runs over on the Tiehack side, which we really love. For lunch, the Cliffhouse is fantastic. The Mongolian grill is really delicious (choose your own meat and vegetables and they cook it for you on the grill like a stir fry), and sitting outside on a beautiful sunny day is just heaven. The incredible views of Pyramid Peak and the Maroon Creek Valley make the perfect backdrop for photos.

Snowmass, being the largest mountain of the four (and also the furthest away from Aspen township), offers something for everyone. It has the widest range of terrain, and you could seriously ski here for a few days without doing the same run twice. It has nice wide, open trails to give everyone plenty of space. The ski school here is the largest in Aspen, and the Treehouse Kidsí Adventure Centre also offers childcare for kids who are not yet old enough to ski.

There are plenty of great options for lunch at Snowmass, however, Elk Camp Restaurant has to be our favourite, as it offers a range of healthy, organic options such as salads, sandwiches, roast meat and freshly made pizzas. After lunch, if the kids donít feel like skiing any more, take them tubing on the dedicated, lift-serviced tubing hill. It is so much fun, and the adults love it just as much as the kids. Although, itís probably not something you would do every day as it does cost money.

Gold medal skiing
Aspen Highlands is probably every localís favourite mountain, as the skiing there is for intermediates to experts, but not great for less experienced kids. So if you really want to ski at Highlands and your kids arenít that confident on skis, then I would suggest putting them in ski school close by at Buttermilk, then catch the bus to Highlands for a great day of skiing with friends. The one thing that Highlands does offer for kids is the Aspen Recreation Centre (ARC), a great place to spend a few hours if the weather isnít great, or you just want a break from skiing. The ARC has an outdoor ice skating pond, indoor ice skating rink, indoor climbing wall and indoor swimming pool complete with water slide, lazy river and family swim area.

Aspen Mountain, or Ajax, is also more suitable for more experienced skiers, however, once your kids are good enough you will love skiing with them here. We had so much fun last January, and were very happy to discover the NASTAR slalom race course, which is open to the public. I was quite nervous at first as I have never raced, but soon learned that itís possible for everyone to get a medal (love a handicap!) and it is utterly addictive! We spent hours on this course. Macy earned one gold, five silver and two bronze medals, while Indy won four silver and four bronze. We all cannot wait to go back next year and see if we can better our results.

The chefsí choice
Aspen town is so beautiful, and very easy to walk around. If youíre staying in one of the many great condos with a kitchen, then you will love the variety of produce available at the two supermarkets (City Market and Clarks) and you can get great meat, bread and cheese at both The Butcherís Block and Meat & Cheese. The last few years we have stayed at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, A Hyatt Residence Club (at the foot of the mountain, right behind the ice rink), but there are other great condos to rent such as North of Nell, Aspen Square and The Gant, or beautiful hotels such as The Little Nell and The St. Regis to name a few.

There is a great variety of restaurants to choose from in Aspen. The White House Tavern is one of our favourites for its burgers and chicken noodle salads. Across the road is Meat & Cheese, which is half gourmet deli, half restaurant, where they serve a variety of Ďboardsí such as whole roast chicken, steak and, our new favourite, the Bossam Korean Pork Board. So delicious. La Creperie du Village serves the most beautiful sweet crepes (we havenít tried the savoury ones) in the most delightfully quaint, cosy European-style setting. Matsuhisa and Kenichi are both really good Japanese restaurants, while LíHostaria and Campo de Fiori are great if youíre feeling like Italian. And of course for coffee you canít go past Victoriaís, a popular Aussie hangout where they know how to make a flat white!

One last piece of advice, if youíre renting skis, then the team at Four Mountain Sports are the people to see. Not only do they provide great service and equipment, but they offer free overnight storage at every mountain, plus free mountain transfers if you know where you want to ski the next day. Saves lugging your skis back to your accommodation every night! Anything to make skiing with kids that little bit easier.



Getting There
There are direct flights to Aspen from Los Angeles.

Hyatt Grand Aspen

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