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Someplace warm, where the beer flows like wine…

One-point-two seconds. That is the time it takes for me to see a fur coat after stepping out of my rusty Subaru. I’m parked semi-legally in front of the Sky Hotel in Aspen, Colorado. I’m here on a holiday weekend with one goal: to see if it’s possible for the average skier to ski Aspen on the cheap. Here goes…

Full disclosure: I have a few advantages the “average” skier doesn’t enjoy. For starters, the illustrious position of Mountain Correspondent for Colorado Ski Country USA carries what I believe to be the greatest perk ever known to man: The GOLD Pass. The Gold Pass is the pass that every skier fantasizes about: unlimited skiing at any of Colorado’s 22 member resorts. A big, blingy metal medallion on your season pass to flash in the bar, and the status one only finds when they achieve a certain level of exclusivity. But I digress…

Two, I’ve got a couch to crash on: Beatrice Applebottom (name changed and made ridiculous to protect the innocent) is a friend of mine who’s vacationing in Aspen with her family, and has been extremely generous in providing a place for me to sleep.

Three: I’ve got the scoop. Through my friendship with Ms. Applebottom, I’ve made the acquaintance of Blades Williamson (real name), an Aspen Ski Instructor who provided invaluable intel for this story. Still, these are advantages any skier could stumble in to, and I’m convinced nonetheless to discover whether Aspen can be a reality for the average joe.

Aspen: made famous by Dumb & Dumber, made cheap by me.

Aspen: made famous by Dumb & Dumber, made cheap by me.

One of the coolest things you’ll get for free in Aspen is a guided tour of the Highlands Bowl in Aspen Highlands. It’s always free to hike and ski the bowl, but having your own personal guide just ads that ‘je ne se quoi…’ It’s about a 45-minute hike if you’re in decent shape, and accesses a lot of the sweet double-black terrain that Aspen built it’s reputation around.

Hiking the Highlands Bowl at Aspen Highlands

Hiking the Highlands Bowl at Aspen Highlands

Blades Williamson (who is an excellent instructor and phenominal skier) added the following free goodies to my list:

First off, bring a friend. Actually, bring 3. Parking is free for cars with four or more occupants.

Second, hit up the free coffee. All four mountains offer free coffee and sunscreen in the base area. It’s not rotgut either, it’s GOOD!

Third, get a free tour of Aspen Highlands’ Highlands Bowl. Mountain and Bowl tours depart from the mountain guest services office every Wednesday (weather permitting), and are a great way to get to the goods. And you thought a private guide would be expensive…

Fourth, Free powder! Sign up the night before and get on the mountain before it opens! You’ve gotta have a pass, and it’s gotta be a powder day. Call 925-1220 x3543 for reservations.

Fifth, bat your eyes at the guy with the big shiny GOLD PASS in the bar. I hear he’s got a free place to stay…

John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA