Day 1 - Aspen Mountain
I had been hired for the week to follow around a group of 6 on all of their Aspen adventures!
This was my dream job, it was a lot of work and a lot of moving parts; but it was also a lot of joy, excitement, adventure, pretty challenging from a photography standpoint, and after talking to Nancy (who hired me) a few times on the phone I was so so so excited to capture this trip for her and her loving family.
We first met at the base of Aspen Mountain Gondola, I knew I was looking for a group of 6 and as soon as we met and realized we were who each other was waiting for, a quick hello and I was given a great big hug from Nancy and lots of smiles and warm welcomes from the group.
This was going to be a great week.
I had been so excited for their trip and all the planning that went into it, and was so eager and ready to get started!
We all got on the gondola and headed up to see the sights, watch the skiers and walk a bit on top of Aspen Mountain (11,212 ft elevation, with a base elevation of 7,945 ft.).
After the long travel in (with weather delays) and the excitement of Aspen Mtn, the group needed a little time to rest so they headed back to their gorgeous Mountain Retreat home nestled right in Downtown Aspen on Ute Avenue for a few hours, with a plan to meet again at Aspen Sleigh & Carriage for an unforgettable evening planned.
Day 1 (evening) - Aspen Sleigh Ride
Next up, we met for an evening Aspen Sleigh Ride through the beautiful snowy woods on private land owned by Aspen Carriage & Sleigh.
Randy was our sleigh driver, and he was the best!
The group stopped in the middle of the woods to enjoy hot chocolate and give the horses some love; it was such a magical night and I felt honored to be a part of it with them.
Something about the sound of the sleigh bells, the laughter of the group, the snow coming down on us, the speed of the sleigh and Randy's awesome coat - it was an unforgettable moment and with Christmas only a few weeks away I think this really got us all into the Christmas spirit.
Randy told us about the bear, moose, elk and all of the frequent visitors they get; we were anxiously looking around to spot any wildlife and although we came up short, the excitement was real!
Day 2 - Maroon Bells Snowmobile Tour
The group went back to their rental home, and had a great night sleep- while the snow kept on falling here in Aspen.
We met again bright and early for our Maroon Bells Snowmobile Tour with T-Lazy Ranch.
The fresh snow on the trees, bright blue skies and sunshine made this day an unbelievably beautiful experience for all of us.
After we were all suited up with helmets and went over the rules, I jumped on the back of Gabe's (our stellar tour guide) snowmobile with my camera in one hand and hanging on for dear life with the other hand.
With great big smiles on everyone's faces - off we went!
The tour lasted about 2 hours, we went through gorgeous fields of snowy Aspen trees, along winding paths with mountain views for days; and finally made it all the way to a lookout of Maroon Bells.
Gabe told us an epic story about how Walt Disney tried to purchase the land (for obscene amounts of money) at Maroon Bells and had plans to create an amusement park. The owners of the land didn't have it, thank God.
Due to the icy conditions, we didn't walk closer to the Bells; but we didn't need to since the beauty was already right there and it was purely majestic.
For me, this was absolutely the highlight of the week!
Day 2 (evening) - Downtown Aspen Carriage Ride
It would be hard to top the beauty and adventurous spirit we all had already experienced that morning filled with snowmobiling, but this group planned it right- and after a few hours of rest we were off to experience a private Downtown Aspen Carriage ride!
I grabbed a quick Chai Tea Latte at Paradise Bakery, and waited for the group to arrive at our meeting spot. After a few minutes I heard sleigh bells, looked out into the street and here comes awesome Randy again (Aspen Carriage & Sleigh) steering his horse drawn carriage through the streets of Downtown Aspen.
The majestic beauty of the sleigh was drawing quite the crowd of onlookers, photo takers and I am sure tourists thinking how unbelievably cool this carriage was to see sitting right in the middle of beautiful downtown Aspen - with the snowy mountains as the backdrop, it was incredible.
After a quick group photo, we all jumped in - I got to ride up front with Randy and we were off to shop at Kemosabe, check out the infamous Carl's Pharmacy & to tour around and look at some of the beautiful historic Aspen homes. Randy pointed out Jack Nicholson's home to us and told of his personal stories with the incredible Kevin Costner (Yellowstone) who he has met many times and even worked with a few times. Randy also told us the horses that were pulling us were famous horses, both have been in quite a few movies.
It was a pretty cold Aspen evening for this brave group from LA, but they huddled under warm blankets, enjoyed the special time together and had smiles all night long.
Day 3 - Snowmass Mountain
We had all already had a couple of pretty long days exploring - days absolutely filled with all the fun, adventures and all the beauty that is Aspen.
But now it was time for our final day together and the group had Snowmass planned; admittedly Snowmass is my favorite little town here in the valley, and I was so excited to show them a little bit of why.
We met again at the base of the Snowmass Gondola, and once again the weather was on our side.
It was cold, but breathtakingly beautiful with more fresh snow and a bit of sunshine poking through.
By this point, seeing the smiles of the 6 lovely people I was blessed to be spending another full day with, felt like my own family walking up to greet me at the gondola- lots of quick happy hellos and off we went to see what the day was going to bring us!
The gondola ride up is an experience in itself, enclosed so you can enjoy the beauty without the freezing temperatures we climbed up to the top of Snowmass Mtn (11.675 ft elevation) and stepped off to see the sights. With the hustle and bustle of skiers and snowboarders all around us, the energy shifted once again and everyone was ready to rock and roll.
The group planned to ride the Alpine Coaster, something I had personally not done before. I was so excited for them, but even more exciting is when they asked me to join them on a ride - oh yay!
I held my camera again in one hand, and the other hand bracing myself for the speed, twists and turns of the coaster as we zipped through the beautiful snow covered forests on top of Snowmass Mountain.
It was SO fun, we all cheered at some point during the ride- and that exhilarating feeling I carried with me throughout the rest of the day.
Day 3 (evening) - Snowmass Village
This group was just awesome, I don't think I stopped smiling watching each one of them zip down the roller coaster multiple times.
We snapped a few pretty group photos and couples shots afterwards, before heading back down the gondola to enjoy a little bit of Snowmass Village before their final dinner together (Il Poggio).
We took a short stroll together, and decided to take a rest in the Snowmass Inspirato Lounge. Inspirato is the amazing concierge service that helped plan their trip, and the lounge was warm, private, and filled with snacks and beverage choices for the group to relax and rest for a bit before the dinner reservation.
After about an hour, Nancy and her husband decided to check out the free s'mores offered just around the corner - so off we went to see the excitement and buzz at the s'mores stand just as the sun was starting to set behind the mountains.
Lastly, we headed up the short gondola to the Snowmass Mall where the dinner spot was.
We checked out a few shops, and afterwards let the group rest fireside just outside the restaurant until they were ready to head in and enjoy one last special meal together.
I said a fairly quick goodbye to Nancy and her husband Dennis, as I was holding back tears from the feeling of not wanting them to go. We had just spent three full days adventuring, laughing, taking photos and enjoying our surroundings together and suddenly these amazing people felt like an extension of my own family.
Barr family, thank you for being so inclusive with me; and even though we live here, thank you for giving me an AMAZING week in Aspen I will truly never forget.