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Aspen in Spring | T + L Family

TRY PARAGLIDING (OR JUST WATCH) To join all of those pterodactyls whirling around in the sky, you have to take a running leap off the top of Aspen Mountain. Aspen Expeditions and Paragliding offers tandem flights for children as young as three, if you can believe it. The little passenger is strapped into the instructor's harness—a Baby Björn moment. The best place to watch the hypnotizing action is the North Star Nature Preserve on Route 82, where there's a landing site and hand-hewn wooden benches. Bring breakfast. On calm mornings, it's as busy as O'Hare Airport. 426 Spring St.; 970/925-7625; www.aspenexpeditions.com; $195 per flight.

LEARN TO KAYAK When you watch kayakers from afar, they look so peaceful and centered. Well, when my sons and I first tried, it was nothing like that. We went to the calmest, prettiest spot we could find on the Roaring Fork River, where it meanders through the North Star Nature Preserve. There, side by side, we spun in circles, completely out of control. Finally, we decided to drop our oars and float along like leaves, eating chocolate-chip cookies and looking up at red-tailed hawks gliding overhead. There's every kind of kayaking water you can imagine around Aspen, from glassy ponds to thunderous rivers. Call the Aspen Kayak School (315 Oak Lane; 970/925-4433; www.aspenkayak.com) to arrange a rental or lesson.

RIDE THE RAPIDS All over town you see yellow and blue jeeps and buses full of families wearing life jackets, heading off to ride the wilder sections of the Roaring Fork River with guides from Blazing Adventures. The gentlest float is from Carbondale to Glenwood Springs, 45 minutes down valley from Aspen. 407 East Hyman Ave.; 970/923-4544; www.blazingadventures.com.

EXPLORE TWO MINES The silver miners arrived here in the late 19th century, many of them traversing the mountain passes on foot—or snowshoes. Today, you can tour two old mines. At Smuggler Mine, in Smuggler Mountain, you put on a hard hat and walk down into a maze of tunnels, a cross between going into a haunted house and spelunking. At the Compromise Mine, on Aspen Mountain, you ride an electric mine locomotive 2,000 feet underground. Expect a lot of darkness, dirt, and fun. For reservations at both mines, call 970/925-2049.

SADDLE UP Snowmass Trails leads half-day horseback rides from Snowmass Village to Maroon Valley. You walk (or trot) across wildflower meadows, past creeks with beaver dams the size of teepees, into evergreen forests—where it feels as if the air-conditioning just got turned on. Look up at the Maroon Bells, a mountain range that resembles upside-down purple bells. 970/922-6600; www.aspenwilderness.com; $165 per person.

CRASH THE MUSIC FESTIVAL Come late June, young star violinists and oboists from all over the country start appearing on street corners, using their instrument cases as tip containers. They're students at the Aspen Music School, which runs in tandem with the renowned Aspen Music Festival. All summer, the festival's schedule is packed with guitar workshops, classes on Beethoven sonatas, and intriguing only-in-Aspen performances such as "An Evening of Words and Music" with columnist Thomas L. Friedman and violinist Cho-Liang Lin. Most events take place in the West End, in a sprawling white tent—seen from afar, it has the unworldly look of a UFO with a fantastic soundtrack. It's a local tradition to picnic in the meadow surrounding the tent and listen to concerts for free. 2 Music School Rd.; 970/925-3254; www.aspenmusicfestival.com

SPLASH WITH THE NATIVES The Aspen Recreation Center, or ARC, is a huge indoor homage to the town's antsy spirit, with two gleaming pools—one is for laps and one is a lazy river for floating amid palm-tree-shaped fountains. Also here: a year-round skating rink, a rock climbing wall, a game room, a computer center, a summer camp, and daily babysitting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 861 Maroon Creek Rd.; 970/544-4100; www.aspenrecreation.com


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