Growing Up In Paradise

Every incoming CU freshman was drawn to the striking beauty of the Flatirons, quick access to world-class skiing, and all of the pleasures and adventures the Rocky Mountains have to offer. This call to nature is something we Buffs all have in common. For me, when choosing where I wanted to spend the next four years of my life, I looked for a school that shared the same undeniable beauty and spirit as my hometown of Aspen, Colorado. 

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, like many, I was desperate to escape my hometown. However, the moment I did, I began to see Aspen through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes you need to leave a place to know just how special it is to you. Since moving to Boulder, I have reflected on the unique experiences of growing up in a famous ski town. 

Here are a few crazy realities you only experienced if you grew up in a mountain town like Aspen.

  1. 1. Experiential education.

    Two men and two women wearing backpacks laughing in front of mountains

    The “Ex Ed” program is one of the coolest, and frankly unbelievable, parts about growing up in Aspen. Annually, our entire school chooses week-long courses that range anywhere from 24-hour solos in the wilderness to sailing in Santa Barbara to winter treks through the Tetons. Courses are assigned through a somewhat mysterious lottery system, and assignments are anxiously awaited all summer. I had the opportunities to go sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands, rafting in Cataract Canyon, and backpacking through the stunning peaks and valleys of the Rockies. 

    While these trips may just seem like a fun week outside of the classroom, they are designed to challenge us and teach us important lessons. "Ex Ed" taught me so much about who I am and what I want. It also taught me how to overcome life’s inevitable obstacles, how to take risks, and especially how to connect with others.

  2. 2. From the classroom to the slopes.

    Growing up in a ski resort town definitely has its perks. For example, if you step outside the front door of Aspen High, you’ll find a chairlift ready to take you to the top of Highlands Mountain. Aspenites learn to ski as soon as we learn to walk. Skiing is nearly as integral to our lives as food and water. So it makes sense that students should have the opportunity to take time out of their daily class schedules to hit the slopes. It is typical to see students throwing their skis over their shoulders and racing to the lift during their free or lunch periods, only to return an hour or two later for biology class with rosy cheeks and ski boots still on.

  3. 3. “No friends on a powder day.”

    This is a phrase Aspenites know all too well. Powder days in Aspen are practically a recognized holiday. As a child, there is no greater joy than waking up to 10 inches of fresh powder, especially when your parents inform you that the school has called a snow day. 

    A powder day always starts with free pancakes at Bonnie’s Restaurant (which I would describe as life-changing, by the way), and ends with your legs feeling like Jell-O from the tireless hours of amazing skiing. Not to mention the breathtaking winter wonderland that makes for an enviable Instagram post.

  4. 4.  Playground of locals and celebrities alike.

    woman wearing red t-shirt and gray knitted cap standing on concrete road using Canon bridge camera during daytime

    One of the most exciting realities of living in Aspen is that it is a popular vacation spot for the rich and famous. During the winter and summer months, when tourists flock to the mountains, it is not uncommon to see celebrities skiing, hiking, and dining around town. For example, this summer I even ran into Kendall Jenner while paddleboarding! I am totally guilty of asking for a picture… and feeling completely starstruck.

While I truly love my college life in Boulder, I have realized how unique and special my upbringing was. This is something that a lot of college students experience after leaving home. However, whenever I am feeling particularly nostalgic, it just takes one trip to Lost Gulch or Chautauqua to remind myself there is plenty of that mountain magic right here in Boulder.