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Sole Journey: Still time to enjoy a snowboarding or ski adventure

February, March and often April are perfect months to get in those last-minute snowboarding and ski trips.

With winter travel rates dropping as the season progresses, why not book that last-minute trip? Of particular interest to many travelers every winter is Aspen, Colo. This particular ski locale is close to the city, making transportation easy without a rental car.

On this Sole Journey, we will review Aspen. I will pay specific attention to the local businesses and offer cost-effective ways to visit the city, whether on a budget or not! The area is practically a winter paradise and offers many different ski and snowboarding adventures in regards to price. So, let’s hit the slopes and have some fun.

Every winter thousands flock to the Rocky Mountains in search of that perfect “powder.” Many from the Northeastern United States might say “Pow-dah” on the slopes – nonetheless they come in droves to experience these Western mountains. Those of us who live in California are particularly lucky. We live only a few flight hours away from many of the best slopes in America.

With round-trip tickets from San Diego and L.A. running about $250 if purchased in advance, Aspen is an affordable journey. Although, Big Bear and Mammoth are only a few hours drive away, there’s something special about jumping on an airplane and making a trek. So let’s get outta town and get outta state!

Aspen is a favorite among many travelers. Fine dining, world-class shopping and many days packed with snow keep the masses coming back year after year. Also, the area is packed with outdoor adventures.

On my particular trip, I hiked Mushroom Rock. It’s a short drive from the city, and I’m pretty sure you can catch a bus if you don’t have a rental car. There are amazing views at every altitude and when you are hiking, the heights hovering between 7,500 and 9,000 feet above sea level offer amazing workouts before hitting the slopes.

There are many resorts and hotels in the city of Aspen, but Snowmass Village is also a great option. There is free bus service running between the two and when you purchase a lift ticket for the day, you get access to all four mountains.

I would recommend if you are a beginner skier or snowboarder, taking lessons. You get an excellent instructor and the group lessons usually don’t have more than three to five people. My instructor was Adriana Lahos. Since I was in Aspen for Gay Ski Week, I felt it necessary not to totally embarrass myself on the slopes. Also, the SuperPipe was being assembled for the Winter X games, so all the professionals were in town. No one wants to be eating dirt in front of those guys!

Lahos, two amazing guys from New York and yours truly hit it off amazingly. There are so many successful people in town for Aspen’s Gay Ski Week. My two snowboard partners were perfect examples; one, a featured designer and architect in many design magazines, and the other a partner at a law firm. The three of us spent most of the day learning to snowboard, but we spent lunch and downtime chatting and getting to know each other as well.

Lahos can be contacted for lessons at adrianablahos@hotmail.com. She is an expert in the Aspen, Tahoe and Argentine ski areas. She speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, so don’t worry about anything getting lost in translation. With a multitude of trails, a guide is the best knowledge your money can buy.

After skiing or maybe a quick hike, hot-tubbing and après ski is where you want to be. Once you get back into the city center from the ski areas, grab a coffee. Victoria’s Espresso and Wine Bar, an Aussie-style local coffee shop, is a local business that my friends and I frequent and is sure to satisfy the caffeine craving after an exhausting day of being in the snow.

One particular time I visited Victoria’s, there was a private corporate party, but Victoria noticed us leaving and she quickly greeted us and took our order. After a few moments, she returned with fresh coffee and when we tried to pay, her response was: “So great to see you guys, enjoy your coffee on the house!” That is the typical service style of Aspen natives and business owners … always delighted to see customers and have them return.

The Limelight Hotel and Lounge is in the city center. Excellent small plates and a heated pool and hot tubs are what make the Limelight so popular.

On my particular trip, I ran into a few celebrities while visiting the Limelight. Author, actor and winner of “The Amazing Race,” Reichen Lehmkuhl and I chatted at the Red Bull hosted bar for Gay Ski Week. He attends the event every year and recommends it as a great place to meet new friends and get some exercise while escaping from everyday life.

Also on hand was Renee of Bravo’s "Sheer Genius." I caught up with him and Melissa J. Temple of www.mjtAspen.com. He and Temple have been friends for years. She is Aspen’s premier luxury LGBT broker for Joshua & Company. She knows all the ins and outs of Aspen and absolutely encourages anyone looking for property in the area to give her a ring.

Before I headed to dinner, I took a quick stroll through the city. I ran into quick the cast of characters since it was Gay Ski Week. The Demented Divas were the judges of the Bud Light DownHill Costume Contest and upon running into me were quick to point out the various shopping and dining locations in the city. Host Nuclia Waste (see top and middle left photos)kept the crowd going with her wit, charm, and three nipples. Nuclia is also the talent host of many other gay ski weeks in Colorado and the Rockies.

Another particular reason I love to visit Aspen is the amazing dining options. Many cities throughout the U.S. have Nobu nestled in their trendy neighborhoods. However, the famed chef now has Matsuhisa Aspen, is known for its innovative fusion cuisine blending traditional Japanese dishes with South American (Peruvian and Argentine) ingredients. I really enjoyed the lobster tacos, tuna miso chips and wild salmon.

My dinner mates were Kevin VanWanseele, Julian Dorcelien and Robert Lee King (see bottom left photo). King is the director of cult classic “Psycho Beach Party” and has a new movie that’s recently hit screens named “Bad Actress.” Dorcelien runs the Belvedere Guest House on Fire Island, N.Y. with Craig Eberhardt. We discussed many topics over dinner and I was delighted to enjoy such a high quality meal with these fellas.

After dining at Elevation in the heart of Aspen, Palm Springs salon owner Brien O’Brien says: “My first year at Gay Ski Week has been amazing. Not only is Aspen a world class resort, but the Gay Ski Week event was full of awesome and friendly hot guys!”

Since this was also my first Gay Ski Week, I agree with Brien. However, I am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to visit Aspen many times. I’ve seen the city in every season and it’s an absolute MUST!

Aspen is an amazing destination any time of year. Winter just happens to be “high season” but many businesses and store owners say that even summers are busy. It’s high time that you and your friends booked a trip to Aspen. Do a little research and you will find great deals at amazing resorts, dining establishments, and on the slopes! Enjoy the Journey!

Jason Coleman is a flight attendant on private jets that take him on exotic journeys around the world. He is also a writer, photographer, event coordinator and percussive step dancer who also volunteers in the local LGBT community. His Sole Journey column will appear monthly on SDGLN.