As the spring days stretch out to offer more daylight hours, the high Rockies offer the opportunity for what mountain town locals like to call a “Dual-Sport Day.” Depending on what your sport of choice is, you usually start our skiing and end up hiking, rock climbing, biking or fishing. Nestled among countless peaks, the town of Aspen has four ski resorts and a river, making the peak to creek missions a regular occurrence.
Aspen Highlands is the local’s mountain, and two lifts take you to the highest lift of the resort, but that’s only halfway to the top. From there skis are slung over shoulders, and boards strapped to backs to begin the hike to the summit at 12,392 feet. The process is slow, as oxygen is thin, and the steepest stair master portion is affectionately called “Heart Attack Hill.”
The hike might be grueling, but there is no better feeling than standing at the peak to take in the unfettered 360* view of 14-thousand-foot-high summits in every direction. And looking down to the north we spot our next destination snaking through the valley below. To get there ski blower powder for turn after high-speed turn on a 40-degree slope.
At the car, we transition from ski boots to waders and head to the river. It’s a slippery climb down icy snowdrifts and muddy inclines to access the emerald green Roaring Fork River. The river is shockingly clear at this time of year before runoff raises the banks and muddies the view. Spring weather can be variable in Colorado, sunny one minute and blustering snowflakes the next. Even on the nicest of days, I am dressed in warmer layers that I wear to ski, knowing that the river temperatures are just above freezing.
Standing on boulders that will be underwater by midsummer, you can catch a glimpse of trout suspended in the current among brightly colored rocks or rising at the edge of deep pools. And they are hungry. It doesn’t take long for fish after fish to go for the emergers we drift through the water past them.
They are truly wild fish, and fight every hook set, looking to race back to the depths. But one after another we pull glistening rainbow trout and hefty brown trout from the green water. They indulge us for a moment, and with a whip of their tails, slide back into the river. We walk up the curve of the river, fishing one pool after another, each with the same result. We tire before the trout do, but knowing there are only a few weeks left before the rivers begin to rise, we stick it out past sunset for one more cast.
Jordan Curet is an Aspen, CO local who splits her time between fly fishing and snow sports in her backyard. Be sure to check her out on Instagram @jcuret!