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The 717-foot hike to the top of Highland Bowl is a rite of passage, and the more than 1,500-foot vertical descent is the reward.


An Aspen Bucket List for Spring

By Tess Weaver Strokes

Moab photo by Franklin Seal, courtesy of Rim Tours Mountain Bike Adventure | Highland Bowl photo by Jeremy Swanson, courtesy of Aspen Skiing Company | Bicycling photo by C2 Photography


Spring forward into this vernal itinerary of biking and backcountry skiing.


Classic: Ski Highland Bowl
Hiking to the 12,392-foot summit of Highland Bowl and skiing its 1,500 vertical feet of backcountry-esqe terrain is a rite of passage for any regular Aspen visitor and a weekly or daily workout for many locals. While multiple bowl laps in a day are commonplace—John Gaston holds the record for the most (11)—a single lap satisfies most skiers. Advance-purchase lift ticket $169

Alternative: Ski the Cirque
Despite Snowmass’ reputation for intermediate terrain, the Cirque serves up the steepest run of all four mountains—Gowdy’s—which usually requires negotiating a steep cornice entrance. Lift ticket $169

Upgrade: Backcountry skiing
Both Aspen Expeditions Worldwide and Aspen Alpine Guides offer guided day ski tours and peak ascents for everyone from first-time backcountry skiers to seasoned mountaineers looking to conquer a 14er. Rates vary

When the snow starts to melt in the spring, the smooth trails of Moab and Fruita beckon mountain bikers.


Classic: Mountain biking Moab
Roaring Fork Valley residents only have to drive four hours to ride the famous slickrock trails of Moab that lure mountain bikers from all over the world. When the lifts close in April, Moab offers plenty of desert sun on new intermediate trails like North Klondike, Sovereign, Navajo Rocks and Magnificent 7, with fewer crowds than in May.

Alternative: Mountain biking in Fruita
Only a two-hour drive separates Aspen from the iconic desert trails of Fruita, west of Grand Junction. Beginners and gravity aficionados flock to 18 Road Trails, while the Kokopelli trail system on the south side of I-70 serves up more than 40 miles of ledgy riding above the Colorado River.

Upgrade: Mountain biking from Gateway Canyons Resort & Spa
Entering Unaweep Canyon from Grand Junction, the scenery becomes “Wild West” (its red canyon walls have a rich history of hiding cattle rustlers and gold miners); it can be enjoyed from the luxury resort of Gateway Canyons, boasting its own network of mountain bike trails. Rates vary

Riding to the top of Independence Pass can be done when it’s car-free in May, before opening to traffic Memorial Day weekend.


Classic: Ride the Pass
The best time of the year to take on the 20 miles and 4,000 vertical feet from Aspen to the top of Independence Pass is during the Independence Pass Foundation’s annual Ride for the Pass, which allows cyclists to pedal the route before the scenic byway is open to cars. $45

Alternative: Road cycling to Ruedi Reservoir
From Basalt to Hagerman Pass, the Fryingpan River offers world-class fly-fishing, scenic road cycling and some of the valley’s most underrated day hikes. Most cyclists bike the 15 miles from Basalt to Ruedi Reservoir, but the cycling grows more secluded and spectacular the farther one goes.

Upgrade: Private ride with Aspen Pro Cycling
Aspen’s Dean Hill, a professional mountain biker and elite road cyclist, leads private and group road cycling and mountain biking on the valley’s extensive network of roads and trails. Riding to Carbondale for lunch? Hill takes the scenic route. Rates vary

See our bucket lists for other seasons here