Celebrity personal trainer Matt Roberts takes teenage children for a winter break in Aspen in search of healthy activities and relaxing downtime
I live in London, therefore I ski in the Alps, simple as that! I have spent a lot of time covering a lot of piste miles in France, Italy, Switzerland and Austria and as anybody who skis regularly knows, there is a vast array of skiing to be done just a hop from home. So, why would I want to take my family to the US and ski somewhere that is so much farther away?
My son, Ben, is 13 years old and a keen sportsperson who approaches skiing from the perspective that it’s got to be six hours per day, it needs to be challenging, and it needs to be unrestricted. My daughter, Amber, is 15, and while she loves skiing and is a joy to watch, she is happiest skiing for a couple of hours each day and then wants to hang out in cafes, do some shopping and be on social media to her friends telling them what she’s doing and sharing photos of everything around her. My wife and I happily flit between the two of them and can use both scenarios to our own best advantage!
To get to Aspen we flew to Chicago then had a quick transition to a connecting flight that took us straight into Aspen (literally a five-minute drive away), making the process of getting there remarkably simple.
Jet lag is what it is, so everyone of course wakes up super early and it simply meant we were first on the slopes. Again, no problem and, to be honest, it suits me, as I love the mornings and I always like getting out on virgin pistes. And that’s where the first of the surprises comes in. In Europe, I always have a compulsion to get out on the slopes first and there is a morning dash for the lifts in order to beat the crowds and make the most of the best snow. In Aspen… there just isn’t any need!
Why? the piste areas are enormous. Compared to most European slopes there is simply a much greater width and variance of terrains within each piste, making your ability to find different ways to ski on one piste together much, much simpler.
It is quiet! Well, apparently it isn’t, but the sheer scale of the place and the spread of people means even at ‘peak’ times there is still an astonishing amount of space. Imagine it being unusual to have to avoid people when skiing rather than unusual to find space on the piste. Add to that, there are NO large groups snaking down the pistes because they simply don’t do that, it is small groups of two to four only. Heaven!
The Snow! Yes, I know everyone goes on about ‘the powder’ in Aspen and Colorado, and before going it just sounds like bragging, BUT, it is amazing. We had some heavy dumps and some light flurries and whether there was fresh snow or not, the conditions were just spectacular. It is something my children both noticed straight away. Bear in mind this was April and the temperature was reaching up to 12-13C and sunny.
So, stopping for lunch was always a sit outside affair to soak up the Colorado sunshine. I’m sorry to report that the European habit of playing particularly bad Europop music is not beaten in Aspen, and anyone over the age of 40 will recognise the 1980s American pop-rock being belted out, while anyone under the age of 16 will wonder how the land that created Apple hasn’t discovered that it also has some more up-to-date playlists available on Apple Music. Nonetheless, it makes for a good Generation X game of ‘name that tune’.
We stayed at The Gant resort in Aspen, in a very spacious four-bedroom penthouse suite, with views onto Aspen Mountain.
The resort has a classic US condo feel, with well-functioning, high-spec buildings. Outdoor heated pools, hot tubs and a gym and sauna all form a good end-of-day meet-up point with friends to hang out and have a beer.
Après-ski in the US is different from Europe. While in Courchevel dancing on tables at 2am is a regular event, in Aspen it appears that après-ski is just that. From around 4pm to 6pm people hang around and have a drink or two, but then they disappear. The restaurants are all busy and buzzing, but again most people have finished by around 10pm and head back for some time-out or bed. With a family, to be honest this is great, and there is an atmosphere of being in Aspen for, well, the skiing.
The restaurants is Aspen are terrific. My personal favourite in the evening? The Jerome Hotel. Both restaurants are great and the bar has a relaxed ‘scene’ in the evenings. Decked out like a Ralph Lauren store, the whole place feels enveloping and inviting to everyone. My son loved the food, my daughter loved the people-watching and my wife and I just enjoyed being somewhere that felt really smart and civilised, without feeling stuffy or overrun by Eurotrash.
While the apartment we stayed in had a big kitchen and you could easily cook there with younger children if you wanted to, my kids want to be out taking it all in, and that suits us perfectly. One of the things I love about staying in fine hotels is having a hearty breakfast in the morning, so while we ate some breakfast at the apartment, we would also go out and have breakfast too on various days (its normal for me to have two breakfasts, actually, its the nature of being up at 5.30am in the morning for years!), and the best of these in Aspen is at The Little Nell. It’s arguably, the most famous of Aspen’s hotels, and has a reputation for hosting celebs. Their breakfast is simply amazing. It didn’t disappoint on the celeb-spotting either with Arnie sat at the next table. My son spotted him and told my daughter, who didn’t really know who he was. Think perhaps he’s up there with the local music as far as Millennials are concerned.
Whether you are a keen skier or not, there is always a need to do a host of other things on a skiing holiday anyway and, classically USA, there is a huge amount of choice.
First, the shopping. ‘Shopping in Aspen’ is up there with ‘powder in Aspen’, whatever your budget, whatever your style. My son likes skate/scoot/surf brands of clothing and shoes, my wife and daughter like checking out all the labels on offer and I happily pay, moan and then do the same for myself!
There is yoga available, held at the very top of Aspen Mountain before the slopes open. My wife and daughter went along to a couple of sessions and, after some initial light resistance by my daughter (too early in the morning), she really loved the session.
Ben and I tried snow-shoeing for the first time and were taken on a 90-minute tour at the top of Aspen Mountain. The tour was maybe a little too stop-and-start for Ben and me, as there was a lot of explanation about the local environment by our guide, but for many this would be ideal. Personally, I just wanted to go and smash a fast-paced trek through the snow, woods and mountain peaks as an exercise session, but that may just be one of my family traits, and it was terrific.
There’s also fat-tyre biking on offer, you can hit various spas in the area, you can go bowling, take a skidoo tour, do falconry. I could go on and on…
After a week of skiing, and with the trip home looming, there was a genuine sense of disappointment that we were leaving. Sometimes, holidays reach a point where you feel as though you’ve done enough and it’s time to go home. I think I could spend an entire season in Aspen and never tire of it. My kids want to move to America, even with Trump in charge, and given the choice would only ski in the US from now on.
With the thought of the journey home in mind, my major concern was that we had opted to drive from Aspen to Denver to fly home. It’s something everyone has always raved about and I decided to try it out, albeit with some concerns about the fact that it’s a four-hour drive for the kids to sit through. So, having picked up an American-sized 4X4 and packed things up, we set off on our journey.
Four hours in a car in the UK can be grounds for divorce and adoption, due to endless roadworks and traffic jams. Driving in the US is a bit like being on Aspen’s pistes: there are very few people there. Unusually, rather than being head down in iPads, my children both took in the views of the Rockies and we passed through the most incredible scenery and varied weather conditions (snowstorms and sunshine alternating between mountains and valleys). If your kids are up for it, it’s a great journey and the four hours felt like two, according to mine.
So, why would I go to Aspen to ski when the Alps are on my doorstep? It is better in absolutely every way. The experience completely outweighs any concerns that anyone should have about travelling further to go skiing. As a family, it ticks every box for a skiing holiday. How much do I think this is the case? I am going again next year, for longer. Question answered?
Check out Matt’s handy pre-ski stretches below or scroll past them for Aspen ski booking information.
Personal trainer Matt Roberts offers you his first pre-ski stretches to avoid injuries on the slopes. Great for all the family!
Scott Dunn offers seven nights at The Gant Aspen from £2,300pp. This is based on a family of 4 sharing a Deluxe Aspen Condo and includes return international flights, private airport transfers, ski rental that includes a Kids Ski Free offer and ski passes.
Find out more about winter holidays in Aspen.