One ski resort that ought to be on any serious skier’s bucket list to visit is Aspen in Colorado. In a similar manner to Whistler in Canada, Aspen has just about everything you can think of – not just for skiing, but shopping, the arts, hiking, apres, dining out, and a whole lot more.
What About the Skiing?
Is four mountains enough for you? There is Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk, and they are all within a short drive of each other. You can, of course, hire a car, but there is a free shuttle service between all four mountains.
Overall, there are over 5,000 acres of skiable terrain with about 330 marked trails, and there are 42 lifts. Aspen Mountain is 11,212’ high and has a vertical of 4,352’. Snowmass is 12,510’ with a vertical of 4,406’. Buttermilk is smaller at 9,900’ and 2,030’, while Aspen Highlands is 12,392’, and 4,352’.
Buttermilk is the place to go for novice skiers as it has gentle slopes for all the family, and beginner slopes which are not crowded. It also has a learning centre for young skiers called The Hideout.
Aspen Mountain has some easy terrain at the top, but it also has two very long runs – Copper Bowl and Spar Gulch – which are for experienced skiers. For this reason beginners are discouraged from trying Aspen, although there is always the possibility of returning down the mountain on the Silver Queen gondola.
Snowmass is a huge mountain and has a continuous vertical drop of 1,343m – the biggest in the US. However, it has 3,362 acres of skiable terrain, much of it intermediate, but still has plenty of snow for beginners and for experts. It is 20km outside Aspen, but is well worth the trip.
What’s The Apres Scene Like?
According to Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, Aspen has the best apres ski scene in North America. There is The Oasis mobile pop-up champagne bar which is towed around the resort on a snowcat and covers different areas every week, but it is only open in the spring season.
On Aspen Mountain as you ski down Little Nell, you’ll see the hotel of the same name with a large party going on in its’ patio which is called the Ajax Tavern. It serves lunch, apres, and dinner and has a reputation for truffle fries – a delicacy not to be missed – and the famous Ajax double cheeseburger. It also has a very wide ranging choice of drinks. Ajax Tavern is right next to the Silver Queen gondola.
Over on Aspen Highlands is Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro where the apres scene actually starts at about 1.00 pm. Serving a huge range of wines, beers and champagne, you can see the amazing twin peaks of Maroon Bells just 12 miles away.
A short distance from the base of Aspen Mountain is the Limelight Lounge at the Limelight Hotel. Apres starts at 3.00 pm and goes on until 7.00 pm with local bands from Thursdays until Mondays. There are pizzas for $10, draft beers for $4 and Bud lights for $3. There is also a range of speciality cocktails.
Over on Snowmass is Elk Camp which has a spacious bar with modern decor for chilling out, and as you might guess there is a wide selection of drinks on offer.
There are over 200 micro-breweries in Colorado, and on East Hopkins Avenue in the town is the Aspen Brewing Company. Here you can try their Ajax Pilsner or Independence Pass Ale, and in the winter they offer Midnight Mine Imperial Stout and Pyramid Peak Porter in addition. They also have live music and “Tappin’ Tuesday” when you can taste their spiced Blonde, and Habanero Pilsner. Aspen Brewing Company is a rare treat for all who love beer.
Is Aspen Kid Friendly?
Snowmass has the Treehouse Kids Adventure Centre which is where the youngsters can get a mixture of lessons on kid friendly slopes and also enjoy games and fun indoors in the interactive play rooms. There is also childcare available for babies and toddlers.
In addition, of course, there is The Hideout on Buttermilk for young beginners.
It is not just on the slopes that kids need to be entertained, and there are plenty of other things to do. For instance, on Friday nights above the Elk Camp gondola on Snowmass they hold what are called Ullr Nights. There is dining in the Elk Camp Restaurant, live music, bonfires, night-time tubing, and snow-biking.
In the centre of Aspen there is an ice skating rink where you can rent skates. It’s on East Durant Avenue.
The Aspen Art Museum is on East Hyman Avenue and provides a series of workshops and programmes for budding artists and their families.
Aspen Centre for Environmental Studies has a series of family-friendly nature tours on both Aspen and Snowmass Mountains, and in addition at Hallam Lake which is just north of the downtown area.
Twelve miles south of Aspen is the Pine Creek Cookhouse which offers lunch and dinner and which you can access via a sleigh ride. If you go for lunch there are cross country skiing trails at nearby Ashcroft which is also noted for its’ historic ghost town.
Wheeler Opera House opened in 1889, has been burned down twice, but still continues to host operas, comedy shows, concerts, and movies.
What About Accommodation?
The Hotel Jerome is the oldest hotel in Aspen having been opened in 1889 and is also one of the most luxurious. It has 93 rooms, which have recently been refurbished, and has a restaurant, a saloon-type bar, and a spa.
Possibly the most expensive hotel in Aspen is The Little Nell Hotel which is also extremely luxurious and has two restaurants, three bars, and a heated outdoor pool and hot tub. There is free use of snow bikes, and complimentary shuttle services around town, to all four mountains, and to and from the airport, but then you might expect that when you consider that the price of a room is “from” $395 per night.
At the other end of the scale is the Snowmass Mountain Chalet which is a ski in/ski out lodge. Breakfast and a soup lunch are included in the price of a room (from $155) and it has a heated outdoor pool and hot tub.
St Moritz Lodge is in the town centre, and has a steam room, and an outdoor heated pool and hot tub. Priced from $134 it gets excellent reviews.
In mid-range is The Molly Gibson Lodge in West Main Street. As with most hotels is has the traditional outdoor pool and hot tub. It also has a very wide breakfast menu, together with FREE apres drinks and snacks, and an airport shuttle, all of which is included in the room price which is from $159.