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My Town: Spike's Aspen

Spike is 11 years old and spends winter weekends training and racing as a member of the Aspen Valley Ski Club's J5 team. He's learning to play electric guitar and has a pet ribbon snake, a hamster, a Catahoula hound dog, and a seven-year-old sister named Georgia. To earn spending money, he sells the Aspen Times Weekly downtown. Then he buys, among other things, Pooper Troopers, plastic paratroopers ideal for launching from chairlifts and retrieving on skis. Aspen is a great place to live, he says, thanks to the skiing, skating, sledding, and biking, and the chicken fingers at Boogie's Diner. Here's Spike's list of essential things to do when you're on his home turf.

• Go skiing! I started when I was two--my parents put me on a leash called a Wee Ski; I used to fall asleep on the chairlift. Then I was in the Snow Puppies program at Aspen Highlands. Buttermilk and Snowmass also have really good beginners' classes. I ski on all the mountains here: Ajax (also called Aspen Mountain) has the World Cup course; Ajax and Highlands are where locals go. Buttermilk is the easiest. Tiehack, where we train a lot, is never crowded, and you can get there by the Buttermilk chairlift. Snowmass has the most runs and an awesome snowboard park (skiers get to practice their jumps there, too). Don't forget to buy candy to eat between runs.

• Rent walkie-talkies [available through Roger That; 970/925-4110] for skiing. My friends and I take different runs and tell each other what the snow's like. We also talk from separate chairlifts.

• Forget skiing for a day and go sledding on the golf course at the Snowmass Cross Country Center [970/923-3148; great sled rentals]. Or take an after-ski slide down Buttermilk. It's fun to walk up on snowshoes [rent them from Ute Mountaineer; 970/925-2849].

• The best place to go skating is outdoors, at the base of Ajax. The rink is called the Silver Circle [970/925-6360]. I like it because it's right near McDonald's. Two other restaurants you should know about: Woody Creek Tavern [970/923-4585] for burgers; and Hickory House [970/925-2313] for the best ribs.

• Check out the downtown malls--two streets with no cars. You can rent really weird bikes (I like Banana Peels) from Alien Cycles [970/925-9169; open May-September]. There are tons of bike paths all over. Jeff Hamilton--he's the speed-skiing world champion--owns Hamilton Sports [970/925-1200], where I get my skis tuned.

• Try the water slide at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool [970/945-7131], about an hour's drive from Aspen. Go at night, but be careful or you might lose your family in the steam.

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