High 5

Sure, we worship at their snowy altars in winter, but the mountains in the off-season offer up a different kind of playground. Never mind the oh-so-obvious camping/fishing/hot air ballooning drivel. We took a warm weather look at Vail, Aspen, Winter Park, Telluride, and Steamboat Springs—and asked five writers with insider access to give us the skinny on what you really should be doing at altitude this summer.
May 2006
In my world, adventures begin and end with food. Perhaps it has something to do with the town in which I grew up. Aspen, in addition to being known for world-class skiing, has been called the best little restaurant town in the West. We play hard—racing the slopes in the winter and hiking the mountain valleys in the summer—and then reward ourselves at the table. There’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner—and then there’s après, a French term that should not be relegated just to skiing. When the snow melts and hiking trails reappear, I continue to pair outdoor and culinary escapades in my daily routine. Hike a little, eat a little, hike a little more. And, having lived in Aspen for 16 years, I know where to find the best of both worlds. Although I hesitate to divulge my secret pathways and haunts, here are three of my favorite hikes and the tasty bites that complement them.

One of the easier and most accessible hikes is the oddly named Difficult Creek Trail, a six-mile jaunt that in winter is a haven for snowshoers and snow-loving dogs. In the summer it’s not unusual to come across campers and sightseers on the first part of the trail, but they’re easily left behind after a couple of miles. The trail runs along Difficult Creek and gradually gains elevation as it winds through conifer forests that give way to stands of rustling aspens. At the top of the first big, long hill, there’s an old, well-disguised hunter’s lookout on the far right. I always pause on the platform for a snack or water break. The trail fades as it continues to make its way up the hidden valley and eventually disappears completely. Which means just one thing: Time to turn back and head to town for some lunch.