Onmia Aspeni divisa in partes tres est.

First, itís heart is a small western town tucked into the Rockies. Second, to the world itís a land of chic and sex, glamour and fashion,
gourmet restaurants and endless nightlife. Third, the skiing is damn good - for those who actually fly there to ski.

Indeed, skiing often seems a sideline in this old cowboy and rancher town that has become a playground for todayís and tomorrowís stars from New York and Hollywood, where the nouveau riche are as enthusiastically welcomed to the land of glitz and glitter as is anyone else with money. And where gala festivals devoted to food and wine, comedy and the arts, stumble over each other.

There are also moderate restaurants and shops and casual nightspots for the skiers who have to keep careful account of the bucks that go into their ski holidays.

The glamorous life is centered in the town itself, and so is the skiing. Stores and shops edge right up to the four double chairlifts, three quads, and one gondola that whisk skiers up the challenging slopes of the areaís major ski center, Aspen Mountain, with a vertical of 3,260 feet.

The mountain, known to locals as Ajax, is no place for beginners and nervous low intermediates. All the trails are for intermediates to experts, and for them itís a dynamite place to enjoy their skiing skills.

Two other local mountains have more than enough skiing for everyone from never-evers to double-black-diamond skiers. Tiehack/Buttermilk, with a vertical of 2,030 feet, is lined with easy green to high intermediate runs. Aspen Highlands has the highest vertical in Colorado - 3,800 feet - and could be described as a ďwell-balancedĒ mountain with a full range of runs for all levels of skiers.

Thereís snowmaking on all three mountains for those times when, even in Colorado, nature is penurious with natural snows.

Both Aspen Highlands and Tiehack/Buttermilk are open to shredders, but Aspen Mountain is off-limits to the snowboard crowd.

Cross-country addicts have 80 km of free groomed trails, the most extensive network of free runs in America, courtesy of Aspenís Nordic Council.

If indulging a passion for off-slope mountain skiing is on your agenda, one trail system with huts for overnight stops links Aspen with the Crested Butte ski resort, and another trail with huts, named after the famed 10th Mountain division that trained for combat near here in World War II, links Aspen with Vail. As a footnote to the divisionís history, Senator Robert A. Dole lost the use of his right hand as a combat lieutenant with the 10th when he was injured while leading an attack against German lines in World War II.

In addition to luxury housing, motels and modest condominiums are widely available.

All three of the mountains offer free tickets to seniors 70-plus, and to children under 6.

For information, call the Aspen Chamber Resort Association at (800) 262-7736. On the Internet: http://s2.com/skiaspen.

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