Aspen to Crested Butte – Bentley Style – FAST TIMES

I never thought of myself as the kind of girl to be captivated by a car. That is, until I had a chance to drive a truly captivating car.

On an Aspen winter day, a charis matic former ski-racer called Christophe Georges, president and CEO of Bentley Motors, sauntered toward a sequin blue, Continental GT Speed Convertible parked near the porte-cochère at Viceroy Snowmass. The top was down, exposing its linen-hued leather interior. Georges raised his hand, dangled the keys in front of me, and asked in a sophisticated French accent: “Do you want to drive?”

I took the keys, opened the door, and slid into the driver’s seat. My body fit as if Bentley had it molded for me. I pressed the ignition—
the engine thundered to a start, coming alive beneath its hood. Instinctually I set my foot on the gas. In response, the GT growled affectionately. Beside me Georges smiled like a 17-year-old boy. “Let’s go!”

It was early January in the midst of one of the Rockies’ best snow seasons and we were on our way from Aspen to Crested Butte via Colorado High Country’s McClure Pass. Epic conditions on the ski mountain don’t always correspond to ideal driving conditions. McClure’s twisted roads had been covered in snow and ice for weeks, and I was about to joyride in the world’s fastest four-seat, all-wheel-drive convertible. I should have been giddy with excitement, but all I could think was this: My children’s college educa
tions are at risk. If I hit a patch of ice, ding the hood, bend a fender, or worse… in an instant my kids’ college funds will be… um, spent.

So it was I gingerly turned onto Snowmass’ Owl Creek Road. Georges immediately motioned with his hand to pick up the speed. I leveraged my foot on the pedal ever so slightly, and, like a missile, the car took off, my hair flying high in the wind. We sped through a series of uphill turns, then onto a straightway that jetted past snow-laden ranchland and multi-million-dollar digs. I tested the power of the Bentley’s 6-liter, twin-turbocharged W12 engine by increasing the speed even further, feeling the power of the vehicle and the grip of its tires on the road. All four wheels spin, Georges told me, ensuring that even if two become stuck or encounter ice, the other two would maintain control. This car was a machine, like nothing I had driven before. I was in awe of its command.

But we still weren’t going fast enough—at least not for Christophe Georges. The man has an affinity for fast. As a former junior ski racer and frequent Aspen visitor, he  continues to connect with the speed of both sports, admitting his two great loves are fast skiing and fast driving. I was reminded he shares these loves with big mountain skier and Aspen local Chris Davenport, whom Bentley hired as an informal product ambassador, and who stars in Bentley’s recent YouTube docu-commercial, In Search of Snow. In it, Davenport tours and skis Colorado’s southwest San Juan range under the firepower of a Bentley Continental GT. fast_2

And so it was, Georges was eager to show me the car’s top speed—203 miles per hour—and its zero-to-60 sprint in just 4.1 seconds. We exchanged seats and within seconds I was gripping the door handle as Georges thundered forward, deftly demonstrating the car’s handling around
curves, over hills and bumps, edging every corner with racecar proficiency. As skis are at one with the slope, in this vehicle we were at one with the road—heedless of the layer of snow between tires and earth.   “You see?” Georges shouted, flashing a superstar grin. “This is fast.”

The road to Crested Butte is exhilarating, twisted, and full of fun. Beyond Carbondale is Redstone, where towering red rocks shade the highway throughout the day, making the road a roulette of varying winter conditions. Back behind the wheel, I now felt bold in the Bentley, ascending up and over the McClure Pass with ease, like a mountain cat moving at the speed of a good hunt. Descending along the snaking road that leads deep into the North Fork Valley, I felt the freedom to test the swiftness and agility of the car—this is when I fell in love with the GT. I found myself pondering the joy of owning it versus the advanced education of my own flesh and blood.

We passed through the rural community of Paonia where I banked left and steered
through the sleepy town of Crawford into Gunnison National Park’s iconic Black Canyon. Sheer cliffs drop away from the road producing the most awesome of rim views—I slowed to take them in, and to catch my breath, before gliding into the evening’s pit stop: the storied ski town of Crested Butte.

I can’t say the Butte is the most receptive place to show off a shiny new, sequin blue Bentley. But I can say that powering the convertible over McClure Pass, hugging the curves, gripping the snow, then rolling it to a smooth stop in front of my hotel sure felt beautiful. Like a 17 year old with her first set of keys, I mimicked Christophe Georges’ superstar grin. I’d experienced one hell of a fast drive. I’d been impressed by a car. And my kids’ college funds, thankfully, remained securely intact.