My 4-year-old son, Kai, was riding in a backpack playing with “Star Wars” figurines that my wife, Cathleen, and I had implored him to leave behind, for this precise reason. He dropped two pieces; we’ve found one.
Details:Aspen and Steamboat Springs
But by now we know. We arrived in the mountains of Colorado — the three of us plus Kai’s 19-month-old sister, Christina, for four days each in Steamboat Springs and Aspen — with a concession and a conviction: With young children in tow, we won’t have the vacation of our (or anyone else’s) dreams.
But neither will we consign ourselves to a typical “family” vacation of pay-to-play attractions, fabricated environs and repulsive “kid-friendly” food. Heck no! We will immerse ourselves in nature, relax on our terms, eat with refinement, and the kids will love it all. Or so we keep telling ourselves.
“Okay, everyone, calm down,” says Cathleen, as Kai’s impatience becomes dismay, Christina launches a sympathy tantrum and smoke billows from my ears. “It’s all part of the adventure, right?”
Yes, dear. We move on, Lego unfound, marching through a meadow of yellow alpine sunflowers and zigzagging to the rim of the Rim, where we are rewarded with a panorama of peaks, capped by 14,000-foot pyramids in the Maroon Bells Wilderness to the south. The kids are suddenly delighted (the thin air?) and even pose for a happy sibling snapshot.
A smattering of ascendants share the summit reverie with us, including a trio of mountain bikers led by a steel-cut dude in logo’d cycle gear who, in a husky Euro accent, is comparing today’s heat with what he’d experienced on a recent expedition through Italy’s Dolomites. It’s a very Aspen moment, at least until one of his friends takes a seat in the precise piece of shade where I’d told Kai that it was okay to pee moments before they arrived.
The kids agree to a footrace down the mountain, highlighted by a brief pause at the site of the Lego loss, at which Kai informs me that “it was only a toy,” so “keep running, Dada!”
Glitz and grit
The town of Aspen sits in a valley about 160 miles west of Denver, in the foothills of the Elk Mountains. Aspen’s ski-and-summer resort areas are spread over four mountains, one rising straight from town and the others — Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass — tucked into successive valleys to the west.
We’re staying in Snowmass, in a slope-side condo at 8,209 feet. Snowmass has its own village, which has just about everything you need but doesn’t begin to compare with Aspen, which also has everything you’d want.