Unlocking the Language Code: Speak Like an Aspen, Colorado Local

Stephanie Kroll

Aspen, Colorado, a picturesque mountain town nestled in the heart of the Rockies, is a place with a unique culture and language of its own. To truly immerse yourself in the local experience, it helps to understand the Aspen lingo. So, let's delve into the ABCs of Aspen!

The ABC: Aspen has its own version of an "ABC," and it's not your typical alphabet. In this case, it stands for the Airport Business Center, located just 3 miles from Aspen, right across from the Pitkin County Airport. This area is home to various offices and employee residences.

Ajax: When you hear locals referring to "Ajax," they're not talking about cleaning products. Ajax is the affectionate nickname for Aspen Mountain, and it's a nod to one of the area's historic mining claims.

ASE: If you're ever looking for flights to Aspen, remember this three-letter code: ASE. It's the code for Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, your gateway to this mountain paradise.

Aspen Tap: At dinner, you might be offered a choice of sparkling water, but don't be surprised if the waiters call it "Aspen Tap." It's a local term for what's essentially tap water, and the good news is, it's free. It's also the name of Aspen Brewing Company's downtown storefront where they serve their beer on tap.

The Bells: When someone mentions "The Bells," they're not talking about ringing bells but rather the Maroon Bells. These are two majestic peaks that soar over 14,000 feet in the nearby Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area and are believed to be the most photographed peaks in North America.

Bonedale: Down in the valley from Aspen, you'll find Carbondale, affectionately known as "Bonedale" by the locals. The residents of this charming town are playfully called "Bonedalians."

Bootpacking: In the early skiing season, the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol employs a unique technique known as "bootpacking." It involves creating "snow-steps" with boots to navigate steep terrain. A team of volunteer "bootpackers" helps stabilize the snow in the Highland Bowl.

The Bowl: When you hear people mention "The Bowl," they're not talking about kitchenware. They're referring to Highland Bowl, a 12,392-foot peak on Aspen Highlands that can be reached after a 782-vertical-foot hike.

The Bucket: One of the gondola cabins is affectionately known as "The Bucket."

Corduroy: When skiers and snowboarders talk about "corduroy," they're not discussing fashion but freshly groomed snow that resembles perfectly ribbed corduroy fabric.

The Couch: "The Couch" is a nickname for the Gentleman's Ridge chairlift because it's known for moving at a leisurely pace.

Dawn patrol: "Dawn patrol" refers to early morning activities undertaken with the goal of witnessing the stunning sunrise over the Rockies.

Downvalley: Even though Aspen is southeast of Glenwood Springs, the term "downvalley" encompasses all locations downstream from Aspen, including Woody Creek, Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs. Snowmass Village is considered a sidevalley.

The Dumps: "The Dumps" are a series of ski runs on Aspen Mountain extending from Bear Paw to Bonnie Bell Ridge. They earned their name from the mine tailings that can be observed "dumping" from this hillside in the summer.

Fourteener: A "fourteener" is any peak in Colorado that surpasses 14,000 feet, and there are 54 of these towering giants in the state.

Noon groom: Every day at noon, Snowmass Ski Area opens a freshly groomed run, aptly known as the "noon groom." The specific run chosen for grooming changes daily.

The Pass: "The Pass" refers to Independence Pass, a point on Highway 82 that reaches 12,095 feet, connecting Aspen to Leadville in the summer. During winter, the pass is closed, and it also straddles the Continental Divide.

RFTA: Pronounced "rafta," RFTA stands for Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, the valley's primary bus system.

Send it: When you hear someone say "send it," they're talking about getting some serious air or hang time while jumping on skis or a bike. It can also refer to having a wild night on the town.

Side-country: "Side-country" refers to off-piste terrain accessed by exiting the ski area boundary, but it's important to note that venturing into the side-country can be risky unless you're an experienced rider, and it's still kind of like backcountry skiing. Thankfully, Aspen seems to be turning some of these "side-country" areas accessed for a long time by locals into parts of the inbounds ski resort, such as their new "Hero's" lift at Aspen Mountain (or should we say, AJAX.)

The six-pack: "The six-pack" isn't referring to your favorite beverage but rather the Village Express chairlift, designed to carry six passengers.

Skinning: "Skinning" involves going uphill on skis with the aid of long synthetic strips known as "skins" to prevent the skis from sliding backward.

SUPing: While you might think of surfing when you hear "SUPing," in Aspen and most of the world, it stands for stand-up paddleboarding.

Armed with this Aspen dictionary, you'll be speaking the local language in no time. Whether you're hitting the slopes, exploring the wilderness, or simply enjoying a day in town, understanding these terms will help you embrace the Aspen way of life and connect with the locals on a whole new level. So, get out there and send it like a true Aspenite!

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