I’ve worked at five ski resorts over the last forty years and have seen the good and bad of many. Keystone, for example had one of the worst trail convergences of “beginner meets black run” anywhere in Colorado. I experienced that convergence of Go Devil and School Marm several times in the late 1970s, both as a rookie skier and an advanced skier. It was dangerous to both. Breckenridge had its share of the same, while Copper Mt had the three levels of ability: beginner, intermediate, and advanced nicely separated naturally for one of the best mountains in the state. I had heard about Aspen Buttermilk, but had written it off as just a beginner area.
Once I became a competent skier I stayed away from any area that held the “beginner” moniker. On a trip to Aspen in the 1990s my wife chose Aspen Buttermilk, and being a good husband I accompanied her to this well know beginner area even though it sounded like boring pain of nothing but green runs. But what was that black smudge on the trail map towards the south? Yes, it was a stash of expert runs all by its lonesome just waiting to be explored after I made the requisite number of green and blue runs with my wife. If that weren’t enough I saw a few black runs hidden among the greens and blues of the main mountain area for later consideration.
Over on the Tiehack side I hit the first run near full speed and was amazed to have such a great cruising run to myself. The Tiehack Parkway leads to Racer’s Edge making for one of the best cruising runs I have ever been on. By the time I got to the bottom all I could think of was to do it again. On the next trip down I know I was going over sixty miles per hour and was in a state of total bliss! After two more runs on that side of the mountain I headed up top to have lunch with my wife at The Cliffhouse Restaurant barley able to contain my joy at finding such a hot spot.
It was time to dispel another misconception about this ski area. I thought all Aspen ski area restaurants would be over priced but was pleased to find the food excellent and priced no higher than Copper Mountain ski area where I worked at the time. The variety of lunch items was impressive too. There was a burger station, a soup station and a deluxe salad bar of veggies for the Mongolian Grill and Pho station. The adult beverage station was full of top shelf choices including bottles of French wines in full or half bottle sizes as well as Champagne and Prosecco.
On my recent trip we tried the Mongolian Grilled Chicken bowl and found it to be outstanding. It’s fun to go through the salad bar-like set up where diners are lined up choosing their own veggies. Once all is assembled in the little paper bowl said veggies are delivered to the grill station where they cook it up in front of your eyes. We took ours to the cashier but were distracted by the adult beverages on the way. Paired with a bottle of Prosecco it was a meal to remember. With the weather nearly perfect we enjoyed our lunch on the sundeck looking out towards the Highlands ski area. It was one of the best lunch experiences ever at a Colorado ski area and one for the record books.
So don’t judge a ski area until you actually go there and explore it in person would be the moral of the story. There are a lot of surprises in the Colorado high country and many of them are good ones, especially Aspen Buttermilk.