While you may see it all in Aspen, from Hollywood celebs in cowboy boots elbowed up to the J-Bar to glamorous wives of Saudi dripping with jewels and fur coats, to die-hard locals who live for the slopes and rock cowboy boots with their North Face jackets, Aspen-Snowmass may be full of glitz, but is also a quaint and fascinating town with some of the world’s best skiing nestled in the shadow of the 14,000 foot peaks of the Maroon Bells.
WHAT TO DO
Of course many people who come to Aspen-Snowmass come for the skiing. And with some of the world's best mountains for all levels of skiers, the skiing alone is enough to come to the Roaring Fork Valley. At Snowmass Mountain, you can take a series of chairs to the very top of the mountain and enjoy a long run with a 3,000 foot elevation loss. With its champagne powder and rugged terrain, there is just really nothing quite like skiing at Aspen.
With the blizzard of tourist dollars that come pumping through Aspen and Snowmass comes world class chefs. The annual Aspen Food and Wine Festival is known as one of the best in the country and the local ingredients and top chefs make for some really incredible dining options. Of course, for those on a more limited budget, there are also a variety of moderately priced restaurants as well as fantastic "Apres Ski" deals (happy hour), where you can come in after a long day on the slopes and get cocktails and bar snacks at great prices.
There is a reason John Denver fell in love with this area of Colorado. The picture perfect Maroon Bells are some of the most beautiful mountains in the country and they offer a huge array of hiking and camping opportunities in the summer time. Autumn provides for great fall foliage with the golden leaved Aspen trees. Summertime visitors can also take the gondola to the top of Aspen mountain and hike or bike down.
There are also spas and natural hot springs galore in the Aspen area. The healing, mineral rich waters are a great activity anytime of the year.
Because Aspen is located a full 4 hour and difficult mountain drive from Denver, while getting a flight to Denver may save you a lot of money, the long drive and necessity of renting a car may not make it worth it. Luckily, Aspen does have a small airport that is serviced by both United and Frontier Airlines, so getting a flight to Aspen shouldn’t be too difficult. There is also a direct flight offered by United from Los Angeles during ski season.
If you are driving to the airport or coming from Denver, a great way to save both time and money is by reserving your Denver airport parking in advance. For those who do catch a flight in from Denver, the Colorado Mountain express also does offer a Denver airport shuttle.
WHERE TO STAY
Along with luxurious and high end resorts in Aspen, there are also plenty of other, more sentimental lodging choices in the Roaring Fork Valley. Thanks to preservationists (who mostly got rich by buying property early), there are many historic and hotels with a lot of character, like the Victorian Hotel Jerome in downtown Aspen. If you are going to Aspen or Snowmass for the skiing, getting a hotel within walking distance to the slopes is ideal, though proximity to the mountain will definitely cost you some extra dough (though is often worth it). With the huge variety of options, getting a hotel in Aspen shouldn't be too difficult.
If you are on a tighter budget and care less about being in the middle of all of the action, guests can also get a hotel in nearby Glenwood Springs, which is located about an hour down the valley. If you are on a truly shoestring budget, there is a hostel in Aspen as well as a few hostels in Glenwood Springs.