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In Case You Don't Feel Like Skiing...

Colin Flaherty's picture

Even in Aspen, Colorado, it's no crime to admit that you are just not that into skiing or snowboarding. Maybe you never were. Or maybe that last run knocked all the snow out of you.

Either way, while your friends frolic down the slopes, you need something to do besides going to the movies over and over and over.

Do not despair. Aspen has lots to do.

First, let's get this straight. Those steep slopes and nasty spills were not your imagination. Most of the mountains here are not for beginners. Aspen's blues equals blacks at most other ski resorts. And tumbling down steep slopes way above your ability is no way to spend a vacation.

So let's start at the beginning. Maybe you just need an easier mountain. A mountain with great trails and great views that even those who never aspired to membership on the Olympic ski team can navigate. You are in luck. Buttermilk is for you.

Buttermilk is where people learn to ski. This resort features more than 150 acres – about 1/3 of the total area -- of terrain and trails that are long and wide and green. As in easy. And unlike many more advanced resorts, beginners are not crammed into the corner to suffer the scorn of those who live for black diamond thrills.

Along with Loveland outside of Denver, Buttermilk might be the best mountain for beginners in the country.

Even Buttermilk has its limits. When you reach them, that is still no reason to go inside. You are in Colorado. There is still lots of fun stuff to do that does not require roofs and cash registers.

How about a hike through some of the prettiest woodlands anywhere on the continent? Then head on over to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies and spend a few hours on a "snowshoe tour in the beautiful and pristine Castle Creek Valley, naturalists will share expertise on tracking animals, observing birds, and studying the delicate sub-alpine community. Take a look at the historic ghost town of Ashcroft as you walk through serene spruce and fir forests, open meadows, and peaceful aspen groves on your way to lunch at the unique Pine Creek Cookhouse. Tours include spectacular views, a gourmet lunch at the Pine Creek Cookhouse, snowshoe rental, and Ashcroft trail pass."

Nobody ever got bruised tromping around in a pair of snowshoes.

One of Aspen's hidden treasures is the John Denver Sanctuary near the Rio Grande Park. As one of Aspen's most beloved adopted sons, this walking garden near the river features stones and sculptures with lyrics from Denver's songs and is quickly becoming a favorite stop even for those who are do not count themselves among Denver's biggest fans..

You can find the sanctuary at 130 S. Galena Street, Aspen, Colorado 81611; the phone number is (970) 920-6010. To Find more information about the gardens click here.

Hunter Thompson occupies the other end of the literary and cultural scale from Denver. This author or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hells Angels considered Aspen his private refuge and did not care much for anyone who blabbed about it. So don't look for his friends to build a contemplative memorial rock garden to his memory any time soon.

Fans of Hunter Thompson can make the trek to Hunter's favorite watering hole, Woody Creek Tavern in nearby Woody Creek. You can find it at 2858 Woody Creek Road, 970-923-4585. You won't need reservations.

You were probably too busy getting bruised to notice, but the views from those mountains that kicked your butt just a few days before is quite spectacular. Maybe the best way to enjoy it is without your skis. So head over the to Silver Queen Gondola at the corner of East Durant & South Hunter St., (behind Ajax Tavern), Tel: 970 925 1220.

In 18 minutes you'll be at the top of Aspen Mountain, where you can get a beer or a pizza or a sandwich at Sundeck restaurant. Then after strolling around the top of Aspen Mountain, you can make your ski-free return down the mountain.

And if that is not enough, check out WhereTraveler
here for more Aspen-area things to do from visiting ghost towns and silver mines to caverns and hot springs.