Colorado Mountain Flying
The Aspen Airport sits at 7815 feet above sea level, higher than many pilots have ever had their aircraft. A calm, and cool, spring morning at 10:00 am and the density altitude is 9,555 feet. Mid-day, mid-summer, the density altitude could rise to 11,000 feet. These call for very careful planning of the weight and amount of fuel that you intend to carry, as well as the time that you wish to arrive or depart. Remember, even if you have a huge engine in your craft, the wings and prop are subject to the thin air and your plane will not perform as you are used to.
The airport sits in the Roaring Fork Valley, which is a fairly wide and gentle valley. The runway is 8,006 feet long, plenty of length for most operations. It is sloping uphill about 2% to the southeast so most pilots choose to land on 15, which is the upslope runway. If the winds are brisk from the Northwest, you can always request a landing on 33. The terrain to the northwest is modest and does not present much of a problem to most pilots, and is the best way to approach the Aspen Airport. This would be arriving from Grand Junction, Rifle, and crossing over the towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and Basalt. In all other directions, peaks and ridges up to 14,000 feet surround Aspen. Flying through this terrain is fine if you have knowledge of the area and a good grasp of flying high mountains. Our instructors here are some of the best mountain instructors around and would be happy to take you up for some mountain experience. We could also arrange to meet you in Denver and fly up with you, show you the way, and give you some mountain tips.
If you are flying in from the East the best routing will be over Corona pass, 12,072', (marked East Portal on the chart) which lies directly west of the Boulder airport (Northwest Denver). Once over Corona the rest of the terrain is fairly low with several airports and lots of fields. Beyond Corona Pass, head to the Kremling VOR, then to the Snow VOR, which is 2 miles west of the Eagle Airport, then Southwest over the low Cottonwood pass, 9,000', and into the Roaring Fork Valley. Basalt will be to your left on the river that will lead you to the airport. There is a second river flowing into Basalt from the Northeast, which you do not want to follow. If you see a large reservoir, you are following the wrong river. Contact Aspen Approach as soon as you enter the valley (123.80) and let them know that you are unfamiliar with the valley, they do a terrific job of helping you out. If you have any questions, you may call the flight school at (970) 925-4722 and we will offer any help we can. Always remember, wherever you fly and especially in mountainous areas, ALWAYS HAVE AN OUT, which means that you always have a safe place to go in any situation. Never be in a place that you cannot make a turn to safety.