Snowmass Swings Both Ways
Snowmass may have world class skiing in winter, but I’m convinced that summer is the best time of year to visit this Aspen neighbor. As we explored the Roaring Fork River and hiked into the mountains, this town showed itself to be full of natural, accessible beauty and home to an array of outdoor sports both of which are world class.
Our warm June day began with us covered head to toe in whitewater gear. Talbot, our guide and son of the outfitter’s founder, ran over some safety points for our morning on the river, while beads of sweat ran down my back and arms. Only someone who is very familiar with the river could convince me that the hot house I had be fitted with was the best possible option for rafting wear, and sure enough it was. As our raft punched into the first wave, water exploded over our front and landed almost exclusively on me, all the sweat was immediately gone. Even though my forehead started to go a little numb, I was having a blast, which surprised me. Until today, I have never enjoyed whitewater rafting. I gone several times in the American South and each time felt that the guide was merely leading the boat over a track so rehearsed that it may as well have been Disney’s Jungle Cruise. That was not the case today.
With higher than normal water levels and a guide that literally grew up on the river, we worked our way back and forth across the water; frequently taking paths separate from the rest of our group in the other raft. This made the trip seem improvised and exciting. Talbot had to adjust his leadership to our collective abilities, and, though I never felt that he hadn’t planned five steps ahead of where we were, the trip never felt like a simple connect-the-dots of river highlights.
The majority of the rapids and waves were stacked nearly on top of each other at the end of our trip. As we approached the finale, Jade, who had never been whitewater rafting before, was excited, not scared. We had such a great time on the rest of the river, learning how to maneuver through the other waves we encountered, that, by the end, we were all incredibly confident in our skills and our guide. Shooting the big rapids became fun and thrilling, but never felt dangerous.
We headed back to Snowmass for lunch, a Mexican lunch at Venga Venga, situated in Snowmass Village. The food here was delicious, and they even had authentic queso – amazing. One of the restaurant’s highlights was our waiter, a guy from the East Coast that had moved out here with his parents. He just started getting into SUP and we told him all about Charlie and the Glenwood Springs Whitewater Park.
During the Summer, Snowmass Village is a sleepy little collection of shops and restaurants. It is also currently home to the Ice Age Discovery Center. Right now, this free exhibit is the best place in the world to find out about what is going on with the dig site, the fossils, and the history of the area itself. It’s a small exhibit, but the volunteer guides can answer any questions visitors have. The dig itself is in its last few days, so we rushed up Rim Trail, just on the edge of town, to be able to look down on the the dig site.
A little side note: Hiking in Snowmass is more draining than hiking in just about any other part of the US. The elevation wore me out faster than I usual, but still this hike was an easy walk up the mountain.
From the top, we could look down into the dig, and, at this distance, the dig site looked like any average construction site. However, having just been walked through the discoveries and the history behind the dig site at the Discovery Center, we knew the type of work that was going on below, and, let’s face it, digging for bones is cool.
That’s when lighting struck. Not near-by, but close enough that it was unsettling. We had been watching the rain line cross the more distant peaks on our hike up, but by the time any of use realized we were definitely going to get wet, we were too high up for it to matter, even if we turned around we would get soaked. Clearly none of us had considered the possibility of a thunderstorm. Carly urgently tried to usher us down the mountain, and exhibited the proper ‘Don’t Get Struck By Lightning’ posture, but only Jade was swayed to move with any urgency. For Peter and Cameron, the weather element only enhanced the possible pictures, and, as the rest of us made our way down the trail (following Carly and Jade by a few hundred yards), those two could still be seen standing atop the mountain, SLR’s at the ready.
Our last event of the day, was a trip to the Snowmass Rodeo. Now, as an animal lover, I am not entirely comfortable with Rodeos, but the Snowmass Rodeo’s focus was more on skill than just bull riding. There were only a dozen bull riders, while the rest of the scene was Barrel Racing, Bronc Riding (done more with horse training than any cowboy tools), and mutton busting (which is kids on sheep, amazing). The evening ended with a marshmallow roast and fireside singing.
During our trip we have been able to visit and experience a bunch of different communities that surround Aspen and be-speckle the Colorado landscape. From the small towns of Snowmass and Carbondale, to the larger city of Glenwood Springs, and even the luxury resorts in Aspen (Snowmass as well), this area of Colorado offers a huge variety of sights to see, but several elements unify every place we visited and, I’d like to think, all of Colorado. One, the people are down-to-Earth, friendly, and excited to show you both their skills and their cities. Two, there is no end to the activities that can be done in the landscape. Whether it’s hiking, rafting, skiing, or inventing new sports, the land here offers the perfect terrain for action. Three, year-round this is a fantastic place to visit. It will meet expectations and surprise visitors with how much more there is to each area.