Snowmass, Colorado: Majestic Beauty and Great Fun
SNOWMASS, Colo. — Veering off the highway towards my destination of Snowmass Village, I become enchanted by one of the most stunning and panoramic mountain views in Colorado. With each winding curve, Snowmass ski area and the Elk Mountain range come into view in magnificent splendor. The verdant mountainside is cloaked with the light green of new leaves, a brilliant contrast to the abundant snow left melting in the warmth of this early summer day.
I was captivated the view as I approached Snowmass Village to attend the 8th annual Chili Pepper & Brew Fest, the first of many summer events in this quaint mountain town. Surrounded by a spectacular wilderness area, Snowmass summer activities range from fly fishing and golf to mountain boarding, hot air ballooning, over 40 miles of mountain trails, and one of the best free music scenes in the state.
After settling into the Silvertree Hotel, conveniently located right on the Snowmass Village Mall and adjacent to the ski slope, I followed the wafting smell of chili peppers, onions, garlic and pungent spices to the bustling town center.
With my mouth watering, I found colorful, personalized booths with cooks hard at work preparing their concoctions of traditional chili, chili Verde, red chili and salsa. With names like Wild Whit’s Snakepit Chili, 5 Fighting Pistons Chili and Pueblo Chernobyl Chili, I knew this would be one hot and delicious tasting fest. The chili cook off is serious business as 21 cooks vied to win a coveted spot in the International Chili Society’s 2011 World Chili & Salsa Championship and prize money. For the judging competition, they must prepare their prized chili on site within a three hour time limit. With sweat on their brows, knives whirling and ingredients flying, they could have been competing in the Iron Chef competition.
To accompany all this chili sampling and to cool down my fiery hot palate was the king of brew tasting. Beer aficionados experienced 50 plus breweries serving over 100 different varieties of microbrews ranging from Ghost Face Killhah (brewed with six different types of chili peppers), and Skinny Dip Pale Ale to Black Butte Porter. These top microbreweries were competing for various honors in the Best Summer Ale Brew Fest 2011. Home-brewers also competed in their own competition.
During the height of the festival, throngs of hungry and thirsty people were seen juggling a beer in one hand and small cups of chili in the other while maneuvering through the crowds to get to the next booth and all in a 2-hour time frame. Over 200 gallons of chili fed 8,000 hungry festival attendees.
After the booths closed, satiated revelers migrated to the massive music stage set up on Fanny Hill with a spectacular view down valley. Music fans quickly staked out their spots on the gently rising hill with blankets and chairs, soaked in the glorious sunshine, played Frisbee or climbed the massive snow mound that once served as a ski jump. Snowmass boasts the best music scene with the most spectacular mountain backdrop in Colorado. Jazz Aspen Snowmass founded in 1991 offers a complex set of multi-day festivals including free Thursday night concerts on Fanny hill in Snowmass.
Wrapping up each day’s festivities were phenomenal Grammy Award winning headliner acts and talented opening bands. Friday night featured headliner Jamaican reggae band Black Uhuru. Saturday night showcased my favorite, husband and wife team Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi who added Snowmass to their 2011 World Tour. The couple recently joined their bands together which consists of 13 incredibly talented musicians that rocked the crowds.
If you want to get away from the sometimes raucous and jostling crowds, head up the hill to the outdoor tent set up by Brother’s Grill at the Silvertree Hotel. Watching the glorious sun set and spectacular views while enjoying a great meal is very soothing and the music beautifully complements the experience. Once you arrive in Snowmass, you never have to leave except to explore the amazing wilderness areas. There are 37 lodging properties to choose from, most of which are slope side surrounded by lush forests and wild flowers. Ranging from economy to ultimate luxury, visitors can choose their perfect vacation getaway.
This resort town features 25 restaurants from bakeries, pizza and sandwiches to cozy, casual or elegant dinner experiences a variety of offerings sure to please every budget and palate. There are 20 retail stores awaiting every type of shopper from elegant clothing and jewelry to t-shirts and memorabilia.
If these weren’t enough reasons to visit Snowmass this summer, you can also learn about Mastedons and mammoths. Snowmastedon is the town’s new moniker after a huge discovery of an exceptionally preserved Ice Age ecosystem in October, 2010 while construction ensued on an expansion of Ziegler Reservoir.
The scientists at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science uncovered parts of mammoths, mastodons, a Jefferson ground sloth, gigantic Ice Age bison, a small deer, and a salamander along with iridescent insects, clams and plant matter that was still green after tens of thousands of years. Visit the new visitor’s center located in Snowmass Village mall to learn more.
(Note: Accommodations and the activities were sponsored by the providers mentioned in this story.)
Snowmass is a 3 ½ hour drive from Denver that takes you over scenic Vail pass and through Glenwood canyon and Glenwood Springs, just 10 miles from Aspen, a beautiful drive. If you want to fly, there are daily flights from Denver International Airport to the convenient Aspen/Snowmass airport.