Rachel and Charles | Winter Maroon Bells and the Grottos Elopement
Savannah Chandler Photography | Aspen Elopement Photographer
Although I have been to the magnificent Maroon Bells many times for elopements and engagement sessions – this was my first time visitng Aspen in the winter. Everything is a little quietier after a night full of fresh snow.
One of the trickiest parts of winter elopements is knowing if a road will be open or if snow will close it down. The road leading to Maroon Lake closes after there’s enough snow to need plowing – and the road becomes accessible by good ol’ foot power or a snowmobile. The road is 12 miles roundtrip – so it can be quite the undertaking.
When I arrived in Aspen the night before Rachel and Charles’ elopement, I asked the desk clerk if the road was still accessible, to which I was given a shoulder shrug and a “maybeeeee?”. I decided to head out and see for myself – and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that the road was indeed still open and layered with fresh glittering snow. I’ll post a cell phone photo from my solo sunset trek at the bottom of this post – it was a stunning and peaceful evening running in the snow under a cotton candy sky.
The next morning, I met with Rachel and Charles to walk out to the amazing spot I had seen the previous night for their Maroon Bells elopement. The air was a brisk 2ºF, but we were the only people (and animal… or none that we could see) the whole morning.
Sometimes, walking just a little further can lead to the most amazing locations. The Maroon Bells are known to reflect in Maroon Lake at sunrise – which is quite the sight to see. However, by Novermber the lake was totally frozen over and covered in a few inches of powder snow. Knowing my vision included a reflection, I walked back where I remembered seeing a small river running through earlier in the summer. We were greeted with a slow moving body of water surrounded by a dreamscape of snow and pines. I’ve said this to a few couples – but I absolutely love when Colroado looks like a Bob Ross Painting. Happy Little Trees equal a happy little photographer.
As the sun began to crest over the Eastern horizon, Rachel and Charles braved the near freezing temperatures to self solmemnize amongst a background of the glowing Maroon Bells. Colorado is one of only two states that allows for couples to declare themselves married without an officiant or wittness.
After loving vows and placing rings onto what I can only imagine were a few frozen fingers, Rachel and Charles celebrated with a champagne toast. The champagne only lasted a few minutes until we were left with champagne slushies that were well on their way to becoming blocks of boozy ice. Something that I’ve learned this year is that spraying champagne in near freezing temperatures means for slush, brozen corks, and most importantly – lots of laughs.
If you’ve ever wondered what a Half Day elopement with two people (and a photographer) consists of – it’s a lot of chatting, lauging at terrible jokes, walking to amazing places, and making your celebration about the two of you having an amazing day.
A nearby hike that has always piqued my interest is The Grottos and Ice Caves – located just off of Independence Pass on the Aspen side. The three of us headed out on our snowy hike to climb down into the Ice Caves for some photos. I’ve learned another very valuable lesson this year – bring your microspikes regardless if you think they’ll stay in your bag. There was only one spot – climbing down into the caves – that spikes were warranted – but hot damn was it slick. I may have went flying onto my ass on my way down.
Sheltered from the winter breeze, we spent some time down exploring the Ice Caves and the Waterfalls at The Grottos. If you’re ever in the Aspen area – this is an amazing smaller hike that shouldn’t be missed!
Back at the trailhead, Rachel and Charles cut into their delicious cake at one of the picnic tables nearby. Having an elopement doesn’t mean that you have to give up (or partake in) any traditional wedding events! A cake may even taste better slightly cold and eaten in a magical snow filled forest with just your significant other.
As our time together came to an end, Rachel and Charles made their marriage legal by singing their marriage license with camp birds flying above their heads. They so graciously asked me to sign as their wittness – which I am always beyond honored to be asked.
Thank you for advenring with me for your stunning winter Maroon Bells Elopement, Rachel and Charles!! I hope that your time here in Colorado was amazing.
Savannah Chandler | Aspen Elopement Photographer
Based in Denver, Colorado | Available for travel Worldwide
Photographing across the Rocky Mountain Region: Telluride |Aspen | Dillon | Keystone | Vail | Breckenridge | Winter Park | Granby | Grand Lake | Estes | Buena Vista | Ouray | Arapahoe Basin | Silverton | Silverthorne | Spanish Peaks
And as spoked of earlier in the post – here is my cell phone (!) shot of my sunset run in the Maroon Bells the night before.