This trip was a little bit of a fairy tale. We were blessed by impeccable service from United, absolutely fabulous snow conditions, lots of sunshine, and, possibly most remarkable of all, no/minimal lift lines. And we all came home safely, on time, with no reported injuries!
Departure /Arrival in Aspen
Our group of seventeen skiers travelled to Aspen Airport on February 4th. Twelve of us travelled as a group on United Airlines through Houston, and we had five companions travel independently.
The one-hour connection in Houston went smoothly and we, and all of our luggage, arrived safely in Aspen on time, under welcoming blue skies. I am emphasizing this as our agent has understandably advised us of the risks of weather-related delays when flying into Aspen.
We transferred to the Stonebridge Hotel by midafternoon, giving people plenty of time to pick up rental equipment and acquaint themselves with the upper mall and the base village – both easy walking distance from the hotel. Many of us were able to go directly to our rooms – for others, there was a short wait while final housekeeping touches were made.
We held a welcome reception at 5PM at Columbine Room at Stonebridge. The reception was a wonderful way to get people together, and do some initial planning for the week. Snowmass Tourism had a representative join us at the reception – he responded to questions about mountain guides, transportation – and generally made us feel at home.
We took a few minutes at the reception to have each member of our group introduce themselves. We were delighted to have five new members joining this trip – Andrew Bartley, Richard Worden, Thomas Helbling, Catherine Kuchta-Helbling, and Otilia Ciotau.
The Stonebridge Lodge is ideally located, just off the main run to the base and midway between the base and the mall. The hotel was also ideally located for transportation to the other resorts or Aspen, or around Snowmass. Buses from both the Snowmass and the Roaring Forks Transport Authority (RFTA) system stopped almost immediately outside our hotel.
The hotel had convenient ski lockers on the ground floor. After an easy 5-minute walk, we would click into our skis and drift down to the Village Express.
The rooms - all double queen rooms – were well furnished and well equipped with humidifiers and safes.
We had breakfast each morning in the main restaurant. The buffet was stocked with a wide variety of fruit and hot options. Specialty drinks were available from the bar staff. Service was always friendly but sometimes a wee bit on the slow side due to staff shortages.
In fact, it became clear that the hotel was suffering from staffing issues. The bar and restaurant were actually closed for two evenings during our stay. Unless requested, housekeeping services were limited to service every third day.
However, the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service was very much appreciated. The staff willingly delivered us to several locations in the mall or base village.
The hotel was clearly not operating at full occupancy. In contrast with our visit three years ago, the restaurant and bar, while busy, were not crowded. As it was so convenient, many of us ate at the hotel restaurant on more than occasion.
In general, the hotel was easy to deal with - when we proposed a game night (emceed by Don Brideau), the hotel willingly provided a large conference room. Don’s game night was a very welcome and amusing addition to the trip.
When not skiing or eating, many of the group enjoyed the hotel’s outdoor heated swimming pool and hot tub.
The skiing was superlative. While it was chilly for much of the week, we had blue skies virtually every day and excellent snow conditions. Most surprising was the relatively low number of skiers at Snowmass - lift lines were negligible for the entire week.
Many of us took one or more of the free sessions with the ski ambassadors. For some of us, we essentially had a semiprivate guided session.
One of the highlights of this destination is that the lift tickets give access to four resorts – Snowmass, Aspen (Ajax), Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Access to all four resorts was easily available through the RFTA.
Some of our group travelled to Aspen Highlands and Aspen (Ajax) for a day of skiing but it seemed that most everyone gravitated back to Snowmass.
I especially appreciated how easy it was to move across Snowmass. We learned that you can come back from the Elk Camp area to the base on one run – Adams Avenue.
We held three group functions: the reception at the Stonebridge and two group dinners – one at the Hickory House and another at the Slice of Italy. All of the functions were very successful evenings with virtually everyone attending. However, work commitments did intrude on at least one occasion.
It is worth noting that costs for dinners have increased dramatically since our last trip to Snowmass three years ago.
Everyone took advantage of the RFTA and spent a day in Aspen. Many of us explored the Aspen Art Museum, and the Hotel Jerome, and just soaked up the Aspen vibe.
Our most knowledgeable foodies checked out many of the local restaurants in Aspen and Snowmass. Both Il Poggio and Krabloonik received special mention, worth remembering for a future visit to Snowmass.
Departure/Arrival at IAD
Our return flights were also one time and uneventful. Again, we arrived on time, with all of our luggage.
A happy and tired group of skiers parted ways, vowing to ski together next season.