As I grab my skis from the frosted, cherry red gondola, I am embraced by a gust of invigorating alpine air. My eyes adjust to the light as I emerge off the platform into the sunlight glistening on the snow. I click both boots into my skies and head towards my favorite spot on the mountain. When I arrive, I feel at peace as I look over the breathtaking Aspen landscape. I always visit this spot when I first arrive in Aspen, which is frequently because that is where my mom grew up and my grandma still lives. My step-grandfather worked as a ski instructor for thirty years and showed me the ins and outs of the mountain, including this spot away from the tourists.
This particular view allows me to see the municipality in its entirety including the four large mountains that encompass the central town. To my left is Highlands, a steep and narrow mountain, peaked with a bowl-like structure. The mountain’s surface is dominated by large patches of dark green trees, sporadically broken by slivers of white snow. The only spot on the mountain not densely populated by trees is the bowl-like structure because it is simply covered in snow. On the other side of Highlands is Buttermilk, a shorter and flatter mountain with wide gaps of white covering its surface. Its small size accentuates the picturesque pyramid shaped mountains that inhabit the land behind it. Straight in front of me is Red Mountain, a perpetually snowless mountain that exudes hues of maroon. Since it faces south west, the heat of the sun melts the snow before it has the chance to stick. The steep and wavy upper part of the mountain eventually spills into a flatter incline. This mountain looks directly over the town and has an impeccable view of Ajax mountain, which is where I am sitting. In front of me are rolling white hills covered in deep powder. At the edge of a precipitous hill, I see a glimpse of the town whose leveled surface contrasts with the mountains that enclose it.
From my observation point, the mountains appear untouched and pure, but if one zoomed in they would see the human intervention that disrupts the natural beauty of the landscape. In our commercialized world, each mountain possesses a specific purpose. Highlands is the expert skiing mountain, and thus remains in its purest form. The natural layout provides exceptional challenges for undaunted skiers, especially the bowl-like structure, which in fact is called The Highland’s Bowl. “The Bowl” is too steep and narrow for a chairlift, so skiers are forced to hike in order to reach the picturesque pique. Hundreds of people hike each day, looking like ants as they ascend the mountain. The shops that surround the base on Prospector Road are strategically targeted towards these expert skier. Along the chestnut-brown stone road are casual restaurants and specialized gear stores. Buttermilk is the beginners’ mountain and has undergone the most artificial changes. Trees are constantly chopped down to cater to novices who make large, curvy turns. The abundance of available space inspired the installation of multiple terrain parks that are scattered across the mountain. Red Mountain is the residential mountain for the very wealthy who typically live elsewhere during the year. Their mansions look down on the town “commoners” imposing an unspoken hierarchy. Ajax is for everyone else, or “the social mountain” as I like to call it. It attracts all the socialites who vacation in Aspen just for the Instagram photo. The pale-brown base and every adjacent street is surrounded by luxury clothing stores, expensive restaurants, outrageously priced ski shops, and five star hotels. But from my secret spot, I can avoid seeing all the developments and can truly escape.