04/01/2015 03:53 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Powdering the Nose in Aspen

As first world problems go, I've got one. My legs are shattered from skiing what many are calling the best day of the Aspen Colorado season in years from first powder tracks to last, well, to my last tracks which were straight into a tree about half an hour before the lifts closed.

But I have woken to a bluebird day and I have a coveted seat on The Little Nell cat to go backcountry cat skiing so my legs don't get a vote. If you've been to Aspen then you know all about The Little Nell, the swankiest hotel in town and the only five diamond five star ski in ski out property in town. If you haven't been to Aspen, well, now you know.


Let's be honest if I was paying from my own pocket I would be staying in the YHA (private room of course, I think I could afford that) but someone has to do my job so it might as well be me, right? On days like this I am jealous of myself.

Guests at The Little Nell get certain 'exclusives' for Little Nell guests only (of course they do). First tracks with the hotel GM, Simon Chen, is one of them.

I did that yesterday with a private Aussie instructor, Glenn Maddocks, and Andy Docken the American head of the ski school which made up our crew of four including Simon. First tracks turned into all day tracks thanks to the snow storm and finished with the tree incident, but you knew that already.

Guests also have the opportunity to do the final ski patrol sweep of the day with the ski patrollers to pick up stragglers hanging from trees like me and ensure the mountain is safe for shut down. They can choose to do a grooming tour of the mountain and there's also the complimentary two hours behind the wheels of a 2015 Audi A8L TDI or Q7 TDI to drive around them there hills to your Mark Weber content.

Then there's the snow cat. An entire groomer cat and cabin from Aspen Powder Tours dedicated to Little Nell guests only, every Friday. The GM, Simon Chen and his trusty wing man, Pete Hayda, host ten guests who pay US$465 per person for the privilege to ski the remote slopes of the Elk Mountains behind Aspen's Ajax Mountain.


In-cat catering is from The Little Nell's Element 47 restaurant with intricate cut club sandwiches with slow roasted lamb, lunch is served in a backcountry hut with a selection of wines from the hotel's award winning cellar. No swigging from a dented old hip flask for us.

Did I mention Francisco, The Little Nell man with the magic hands? Well, I should. He's there purely to soothe away muscle knots and tension from skiing hard, fast and wild in the powder with a massage chair set up in the lunch cabin.


We have a fun crew on board. Murray is our guide, he came out of the womb wearing skis (ouch) and Steve is our tail guide, both seasoned powder veterans and lovers of all things accessed by helicopter, cats and ski touring.

The Nell provides a professional photographer who twilights as a ski valet, Steve Goff, and makes us look good in the photos in this article.


There's a Billy Bob Thornton look and sound a like who is an Aspen local though I constantly look twice, three times and even more to ensure he's not wearing a vile of Angelina Jolie's blood around his neck because the resemblance is that uncanny.

Add some folks from the East Coast, some Little Nell team members and a Brazilian with his own private ski instructor on board (as you do) and I reckon we've got most socio economic parties covered. Oh and Glenn, my instructor from the day before who couldn't believe his luck when we had an extra seat. He so owes me.


With loads of powder comes avalanche danger and it is a tad high so we stick to cruisier slopes and some steeper stuff amongst the trees. Either way the snow is pure magic, hero snow that makes powder skiers look good. After one run I have turned into a full blooded American, whooping, and screaming and yeeha'ing down the slopes into high fives, fist pumps and bumps.

If I wore my pants lower I'd say the day was epic with twelve runs that even included a Chinese downhill (a free for all) and a powder eight competition (think of it as synchronised swimming but on skis).

It's enough to make you work hard for your money.

Rachael Oakes-Ash was a guest of The Little Nell and Colorado Ski Country. She writes on snow travel for and on life for