If you want to escape to a friendly town at the top of the world, where the food is great, the snowpack settles every year, and the scenery is stunning, Aspen is your kind of town.
There are plenty of reasons why this upmarket resort destination in the Colorado Rockies is so appealing. For one thing, the beauty of its red brick Downtown architecture sets it apart from other more conventional ski resorts. Then there are major events like the Aspen Music Festival in the summer and the X Games in the winter.
But there's so much more. Where else can you shop for handmade boutique jewelry in the morning, see world-class contemporary art exhibits before lunch, dine at gourmet French restaurants like Cache Cache and be out on the slopes in mid-Afternoon?
It doesn't matter whether it's summer or winter, Aspen charms anyone who visits, making it the perfect destination for your next getaway.
Aspen is located over 8,000 feet above sea level and receives a reliable blanket of snow every winter. This, and the dramatic Rocky mountain scenery, make it one of the country's finest ski resorts, so if you love to slalom or show off your snowboarding tricks - it's a great place to visit.
When summer comes, Aspen doesn't shut down. Far from it. Actually, there may be more for ordinary visitors to do in the summer, and nothing beats a round of golf at the area's fine courses, including Maroon Creek and the Snowmass Club.
The center of Aspen is a hive of artistic activity, with small galleries like the Pismo, the Baldwin and Gallery 1949 jostling for attention and showcasing Colorado's talented crop of contemporary painters. However, the artistic scene-stealer is definitely the Aspen Art Museum, which often features world famous contemporary artists in its rotation of exhibits.
Aspen is jaw-droppingly beautiful. Whether you visit in the middle of winter or the height of summer, the town's location beneath Mount Aspen is unforgettable. Even the clumsiest photographers will come away with amazing images after a stay in the city.
Aspen is also just plain fun. From the annual program of free outdoor concerts to the chance to take part in activities like hot air ballooning, white water rafting and fly fishing, the area is packed with entertainment options.
Sometime during your exploration of Maroon Bells, you'll be hit with the distinct feeling that you've stepped out of your own black and white reality and entered a work of art in real life. That is the view from Maroon Bells, the two twin peaks of Elk Mountains. Before 8 am and after 5 pm, visitors must pay a $10 fee to access the drive up. From mid June to early October, the area can be accessed by a public bus.
Independence Pass sits at an elevation of 12,095 feet and is right on the Continental Divide. The sloped routes and inclines are a particular favorite of hikers, climbers, and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Visitors flocking to this area will find that it's easily accessible and that nature abounds. Highway 82 cuts right through the pass and there is a scenic overlook viewing platform which, in clear enough weather, sports views of Colorado's highest peak, Mount Elbert, and La Plata Peak. There are plenty of recreational rock climbing areas set up and even a popular swimming hole known as the Devil's Punchbowl.
Don't let those who called Aspen Mountain "little" fool you: its 673 ski-able acres are vast, with lots of challenging and varied terrain, interesting routes, and unique views. You'll get a lot of mileage if you're simply willing to explore and go off the beaten path, as it were. Take the Ajax Express quad lift and you'll face plenty of short, steep faces, moguls, and glades. Traverse Silver Bell and Dipsy Doodle for good warmup runs. Those who love steep slopes will want to check out Blondie's and Pussyfoot. And Bell Mountain, with its 360° skiing and glazed steep terrain, is truly the heart of Aspen Mountain Skis.
The longest gondola in the world: that is the Silver Queen Gondola, which takes riders from downtown Aspen up to the dizzying peaks of Aspen Mountain. On its way up, riders can revel in the breathtaking views of the slowly rising Elk Mountain and vast White River National Forest. And while the gondola can also be used to transport skiers during the peak winter snow season, the Silver Queen Gondola is a great summer activity as well. Visitors can pack a picnic lunch, and hike or take a guided walk. You can catch a yoga class at 11,200 feet up in the air, take your kids rock climbing, or head to the Eurobungy trampoline.
At just about 14,000 feet tall, Snowmass makes the "fourteener" list of mountains in the state of Colorado, joining La Plata and Elk Mountain. Keep in mind that Snowmass Mountain is different from the lower Snowmass Peak or Snowmass ski area.
Aspen basically has two seasons. Between late November and late March, it's all about alpine sports. If you want to enjoy a week of skiing, snowboarding or skating, visit in February and March for cheaper accommodation and excellent weather conditions. If mountain biking, golf, hiking and outdoor concerts are your thing, make a date to visit between June and August.
Flying into Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is an easy way to reach the resort, with regular connections by American Airlines and United. To get into town, you can either take the buses operated by Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RTFA) or join a shuttle bus to your hotel. Car rental outlets are also present at the airport, including Budget, Alamo, and Avis. The Colorado Mountain Express (CME) company also runs daily shuttles from Denver Airport to Aspen, which can be a handy alternative as it has far more daily flights than Aspen's airport.
You can also arrive at Aspen via Denver's Amtrak station. The CME also operates shuttles from the station to major hotels in Aspen and the city center, and the journey will take around 3 hours.
Driving from Denver is simple. Just take I-70 westwards and switch onto the road to Aspen at Glenwood Springs. I-70 also links the resort to destinations in California, while those coming from the north or south should take I-25.
Aspen itself does not have a Greyhound stop, but interstate buses do stop at nearby Glenwood Springs. From there it's just an hour's taxi ride to the major hotels.
When you visit Aspen, you have a choice of staying in the town itself or spending your trip in one of the ski resorts in the surrounding area. In the city center, the Little Nell Apartments provide comfortable lodgings in a convenient location, while other excellent hotels include the Limelight, the Aspen Square, and the Residence Hotel. If you just want to stay in a mountain resort, try the St. Regis Aspen Resort, which is housed in a beautiful 19th-century mansion a short distance from world-class slopes.
Downtown Aspen – Aspen isn't a large city, and the vast majority of its cultural institutions, restaurants, and entertainment hubs are located in the Downtown neighborhood. Home to the Aspen Art Museum, with its constantly changing contemporary art selection, Downtown is also the place to shop for paintings, beads, clothing, and ornaments produced by the town's population of artisans.
West End – A tidy, luxurious, residential neighborhood, Aspen's West End is the place to rent a home or apartment if you want a peaceful getaway. It may feel sleepy, but the western half of the city isn't without attractions. For example, you'll find the fascinating Holden Marolt Mining and Ranching Museum here as well as historic homes like the Wheeler Stallard House.
Snowmass Village – High up in the Rockies, but actually just a few minutes' drive from Aspen, you'll come across Snowmass Village - one of the finest ski resorts in the USA. A small town in its own right, Snowmass is centered around skiing, but it's also home to attractions like the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.
There are 8 useful (and free) bus services within Aspen and the surrounding countryside, making life easy for skiers and sightseers. Most of them cover the city grid, but some also head out of town to locations like the Aspen Club and Spa or Aspen Highlands Village.
In such a small town, getting around by taxi often isn't necessary, but cabs can be handy to reach mountain hotels, spas, and restaurants. Expect to pay around $20 to get from Aspen to Snowmass Village, and for journeys within the city to cost between $10 and $15.
Picking up a rental vehicle at the airport gives you the freedom to explore the Rockies in the summer and make trips to Denver if you should feel the need. However, you can get around Aspen via the free shuttles, cable cars and ski lifts, walking or cycling, so having a car isn't essential.
If you are looking for unique, handcrafted jewelry, ornaments, kitchenware or clothing, Aspen city center should have something for you. If you want to find antique items, try Gorsuch on Cooper Avenue. For boutique fashions, check out Club Monaco or Burberry in the city center, while you'll find hand-made jewelry at Kodi and Pame Designs. If you just need to shop for ski equipment or hiking boots, some of the best stores in town include Pomery Sports, Incline, and Ski Butlers - but there's a huge amount of choice for all your outdoor needs.
If you are self-catering, Aspen isn't the cheapest city to visit, but there are a few supermarkets in town. Clark's Market and City Market are places to pick up everyday items, while between June and September, the city brings together regional food producers at the Aspen Saturday Market. Prices can be relatively high. Expect to pay $4 for a gallon of milk and $14 for a good bottle of wine.
Aspen is a fantastic destination for gourmet food fans. Part of the charm is the physical location of eateries like the Ajax Tavern, right at the foot of Aspen Mountain. The food's pretty good too. Writer, Hunter S. Thompson, used to frequent Woody Creek Tavern, which remains a great place to grab a beer and burger. Jacob's uses wholesome local ingredients to cook delicious American dishes, while Cache Cache is the city's most stylish French restaurant. Expect to pay $20 for a mid-range meal and much more at the best places in town.