Rocky Mountain High

Old West mining village, countercultural hot spot, super-glamorous ski destination: the author returns to Aspen, the resort town of his youth, and finds an intoxicating, high-altitude mix of serious arts and music, audacious wealth, chic restaurants, and dangerously good skiing.

  • Award Winner
  1. It’s around lunchtime in Aspen’s roaring Fork Valley, and I’d like nothing more than to tell you where I’m spending the afternoon. Only I can’t, because—as I myself have just accepted—I don’t know. I spent the past 40 minutes riding in the back of a Sno-Cat (fine) and then hiking (skis strapped to my back, but also fine) up the spine of a 12,392-foot peak. The so-called plan, known only to me, was to ski down the legendary Highland Bowl and then celebrate my accomplishment in, at minimum, a bar-serviced hot tub. This notion, however, appears to have been predicated on my live arrival at the summit, and as the panoramic Rocky Mountain-top view I had been enjoying disappears into a dark snow cloud, I soberly recall that my expedition began at the suggestion of an Aspen Times sex columnist whose dog, I knew damned well, was on the antidepressant Lexapro.

    The wind whooshes and I steady myself with my poles, trying to enjoy the bitter cold. The thin ridge I’m ascending falls off so precipitously on either side that a few minutes ago, I couldn’t bear to look down. Now I have no choice. All I can see is my own lumbering ski-boot tracks. One unfortunate tilt to the left or right and the phrase early retirement takes on a whole new meaning.

    Life-threatening was not what I had in mind when I planned my trip to Aspen. Then again, I was, upon my departure, between apartments and living out of a Manhattan Mini Storage unit. Aspen, I thought, promised something safe and familiar, a res...