Summer at Aspen Mountain

Post by blogger | August 25, 2009      

Gondolas that whisk you to the alpine are amazing amenities. What a fun, quiet and somewhat green way to get people up into the mountains and learning to appreciate what we’ve got above the fur shops and jewelry stores of most larger North American ski resort towns. Reporting today on gonde ride and hike we did recently up Aspen Mountain.:

Backcountry Skiing

View of Mount Hayden from porch behind Sundeck Restaurant, Aspen Mountain.

It’s a funny thing, but I recall that years ago ski mountains around here with summer lift operation were virtually deserted — it seemed like no one appreciated the kind of access that cable “rope ways” provide. That changed over the years. Now we’ve got everything from mountain bike rides to weddings being supported by ski lifts and gondolas from here to Whistler and beyond.

Mike Collins and his family.

Mike Collins and his family, he was the big guy up at Big Mountain in Montana for a number of years.

Our group consisted of my old high school friend Mike Collins and his family, as well a a few other Aspen High School alum who were bold enough to go for a stroll. This is the same Michael Collins who was President and Chief Executive Officer of Big Mountain Resort out of Whitefish, Montana, till he stepped down in 2003. Before that, Aspen Ski Corporation sent him to Whistler, British Columbia in 1978 and he was named as the area planner and project construction manager for the then new Blackcomb ski area. Mike and I did some of what could only be called insane climbing when we were in high school, including an attempt on the east face of 14er Capitol peak, where we turned around when every chunk of rock we could grab became portable. Good memories! My only regret; not hitting Mike up for tickets at Big Mountain when I could have. Oh well, win some, loose some. Nice to see the boy and his great family, as well as others from those school days in the old mining town (when it was actually still somewhat of a mining town)!

Backcountry Skiing

The scene at the top. It looked like people were having fun with all the amusement park like stuff they have up there. Me, I'm happy just bicycle riding, hiking, picnicking or doing photography. During summer, that is. Winter, different story.

Backcountry Skiing

For some unknown reason they display this Gondola cable grip at the unloading station. From an intellectual standpoint, it's amazing you're held 300 feet of the ground by a couple of springs. From a practical standpoint, a bit scary and explains a lot when you look back at the history of cable gondolas.

Backcountry Skiing

Mount Hayden again, the area's signature ski mountaineering peak since the 1940s, good hiking, scrambling and hunting up there as well.

Backcountry Skiing

After riding the ultra modern gondy (or is it gondie?), I took a stroll through a public park at the base of the mountain, where they've got one of the original 1A ski lift chairs still hanging. Somewhat different system than the gondola grip pictured above, eh?

In all, Aspen Skiing Company appears to be making quite an effort to utilize their Aspen Mountain gondola as a summer ammenity. I’d like to see a better system of mountain bike singletrack at the top of the mountain, but then, that’s hard when you’ve got a mix of private and USFS land to deal with. As it is, what they’ve got works and has potential. More info.


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9 Responses to “Summer at Aspen Mountain”

  1. Jack August 25th, 2009 9:38 pm

    Mountains are a great place to be in all seasons, indeed! Our white season mission is often centered around riding two planks in smoke-like snow down from the viewpoint. But, when that ephemeral fluff is absent, just breathing the air and seeing the perspective from the viewpoint is reason enough to go there.

  2. Lou August 25th, 2009 10:19 pm

    Well said!

  3. Kidd August 26th, 2009 8:29 am

    North American ski companies were reluctant to open their lifts outside of ski season until, it seems, American ski co executives went to the Alps and saw that their counterpart companies were getting large ridership in the summer. My first trip to Europe in 1978 was in the summer and we rode a number of lfts up to high alpine meadows of the Alps, a trip I’ll never forget.

  4. bart August 26th, 2009 10:45 am

    I love skiing, both on and off piste. I started on tele’s and skins and just had a blast touring, not really worried too much about the downhill. Clearly things changed, and the ski lifts helped learn the downhill side of things. And now, during the summer, I’m still riding the lifts with my downhill bike. I still ride a ton of XC (did the CT this summer), but I LOVE lift served DH courses too! I’m very thankful for all the resorts that embrace the mountain biking community. For me, Sol Vista has been my biggest supporter!

  5. TreeDodger August 26th, 2009 12:27 pm

    Hey, don’t ‘dis the “1A ski lift chairs”. We’re still using them over at Mad River Glen, VT. No better lift in the world.

  6. John H August 26th, 2009 7:40 pm

    I was in Aspen last week and on my first morning in town I hiked up the Ute Trail and Gent’s Ridge up to the top of Aspen Mountain. Great way to get the legs ready for the week. The gondola ride down was much appreciated, felt well-earned and was free!

  7. Leslie Collins August 31st, 2009 10:30 am

    Hi Lou. Thanks for sharing the picture during our recent trip to Aspen and memories of your earlier days. Michael talks fondly of his youth while in Aspen. It was a pleasure meeting you and Lisa, and thanks for the tour! Leslie

  8. MIchael Collins September 7th, 2009 9:59 pm

    Lou and Lisa,
    Thanks for a great trip to Aspen Mtn, and our HS class reunion. Please consider yourselves invited up to Whitefish, any time. We have lots of room and we would welcome a visit from you. Also, it may spur me on to get my old jeep running and back on the road!
    Let’s stay in touch.
    Michael, Leslie, Grace and Clayton

  9. Lou September 8th, 2009 9:26 am

    Glad you guys saw the blog post! Sure was wonderful to see you all. And yeah, get that Jeep back on the road!

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