We love skiing and snowboarding; that’s why we’re here, doing what we do. The adrenaline and risk, the self-competition, the effervescent sensation of floating through powder. Above all, we love the freedom. However, the only thing that stops us from being on the 3:45 lift every riding day is the a simple experience that is the complete and utter opposite: sitting in the sun and drinking a beer. There’s something about these two acts that binds them together interminably. The nonstop and the stop, the tension and release, the powder and the hops.
You’re still outside, dwarfed by surrounding mountains. Ideally, you’re watching stragglers ski down as the dusk comes, or maybe catching the cats make their first grooming ascent. There might be a fire crackling nearby, there are probably beautiful people to scope out, (this is Aspen, after all), and with a beer in hand, the entire day feels in sync. Instead of hucking, speeding, or carving, there is only the crisp cold of the beer, the warmth of the Colorado sun, the strum of live music, and the smiles on your friends’ faces, because do you really think they believe that you dropped that fifty-foot cliff? Put your feet up, have another cold one, and tell more ski tales, because at the end of the day, its easy to believe, and describe emphatically, how fast, how big, how far you went. And while you’re at it, check out our locals-only picks for apres libations and rays.
Options abound right at the base of Ajax. Chair 9 boasts $3 cans of beer if you buy a Koozie first, and they have a plentiful and affordable dish of olives to go with your PBR, along with live music most weekend days. Ajax Tavern’s deck is plush: you can watch riders fly down Kleenex Korner as you chill out with a bottle of wine and catch the last beams of sun before they sink behind the peak. But the Butler Pick here is the newly changed-hands bar Zeno, right at the base of the gondola. Inside, you can sit at the long, comfortable bar and order fresh cocktails and great apps, with the entire apres scene visible through the window. But outside is where the place really shines, with couches to sink your post-mogul legs into, outdoor televisions to catch up on sports highlights, and a potent dose of vitamin D. Oh, and when you’re sitting at the outdoor bar, sunglasses on, live music drifting by, ask for the locals special: a Peroni and a shot of good bourbon or tequila for $4. Just don’t say you heard it from us.
NOTE: Want to keep it going post-apres? Just loosen your boots and walk into town. Head to the Red Onion for a burger and a beer, Su Casa (ask for the bar menu) fort tasty burritos on-the-cheap. or hit up L’Hostaria’s bar menu for filling pasta plates for around $10.
You devoured two bowl laps, found some sick leftovers in the trees, and sessioned the hell out of Temerity. You’re not broken yet, but you’re getting there. If you can’t make it to the base, stop at Cloud 9 to check out a rad view of the Maroon Bells, and hydrate in preparation for apres. If you’re feeling the Euro atmosphere, grab a glass of wine or a beer and some fondue. Hell, live life on the edge: have a schnitzel! Or, if you can make it down without eating, the last lap will be worth it when you hit out favorite Highlands apres spot: Highlands Ale House. Inside, it’ll be crowded and rowdy on the weekends, so choose your bar angle wisely. Get a pitcher or two of Upslope, a clean lager that goes down easy, and grab some of the crispiest pizza in the valley, wicked wings, and chili locals rave about, and then stake out an outdoor table immediately (or, volunteer to “hold the table,” avoiding the bar tab and getting some peace from your beer-starved friends). When you’re outside, leaning back in your chair and checking out a live local outfit like the Natural Disasters, the entire scene of pushed-together tables and sprawled, spent, happy locals often resembles a mellow house party, where everyone knows your name, and no one wants to leave.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re at Cloud 9 on a Sunday afternoon, prepare yourself to watch people dance on tables and spray bottles of champagne all over themselves, and probably yourself, too. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. And don’t say it might be us up there dancing. Might. We said might.
I’m one of those ridiculously ski-spoiled Aspen locals who thinks Snowmass is a long way away, so I don’t get there half as much as Ajax (which I live two blocks away from), or Highlands (where I am addicted to the bowl hike). But whether you’re going to Snowmass for a few runs, a long day of shredding, or just for the apres (not that we would do that…), the options for sunlight boozing and are killer. Venga Venga is an ideal place to sit, especially if you’re craving sun but it’s not super warm out – outdoor tables, open fires, and heat lamps keep you chillin’ while you dig into chips and guac, tacos, and burritos crafted by star chef Richard Sandoval. At Snowmass Kitchen might not you can delve into the pizza buffet, happy hour drink specials, and live music in the Vue Lounge. Nearby, Ricard Brasserie and Liquor Bar offers French fare and a signature cocktail list, with outside tables. But our picks, the locals’ picks? Go straight to either Base Camp, with its enormous deck, party atmosphere, over thirty beers on tap, local bartenders with gnarly goggle tans, and kick-ass nachos; or head to Ranger Station, where you can get deals on New Belgium beers, (we’d recommend the Ranger IPA and the Shift) and the Bavarian pretzel rolls, dipped in mustard, will make your head spin, just like it did when you threw that 540 in the park.
Are there other spots to hit? For sure, and exploring Aspen/Snowmass can be more fun than having a plan. But when you’re flying through your last lap, with lager on your mind, it’s sweet to have a place to kick your skis off. Bring this list, a pair of shades, and your memories of the sick lines you skied all day. Buy the first round, and maybe your friends will believe your stories.