Aspen, Colorado has long been a playground for the affluent traveler keen on experiencing the luxury alpine lifestyle. This world-class resort ski town offers high-end resorts, cutting edge cuisine, cool bars and extravagant branded shops like Prada and Dior, bringing a dose of Beverly Hills to the Rocky Mountains. We partnered with travel expert Julia Dimon of Travel Junkie Julia for a look at her best picks in this exclusive Colorado mountain resort.
Drawn-in by the glitz of the town and her well-to-do patrons, my husband and I planned a fun weekend getaway to “a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. A little place called Aspen” (you may remember this quote from the legendary 1994 flick “Dumb and Dumber” where most of my life references seem to come from).
While there are a ton of amazing restaurants, bars and experiences to choose from, our 3 day, 2 night jaunt required that I be thoughtful (and organized) in our itinerary. Pounding the pavement, speaking to locals-in-the-know and popping into way too many bars under the guise of “research,” I sourced some of the best spots in town to play, stay, eat and party. Here were some of my favorite spots in Aspen:
Best Hotel – The Little Nell
(photo credit: Shawn O’Connor)
Located at the base of the mountain, with ski-in and ski-out access, The Little Nell is a five-star hotel that exemplifies cool contemporary mountain chic, with modern furnishings, clean rustic colors and roaring gas log fireplaces in each room. The quality of service, the central location, accessibility to the mountain and unlimited snacks from the mini bar (I must have eaten a hundred Oreo cookies) makes a stay at The Little Nell a no-brainer. Beyond accommodations, The Little Nell is also a culinary hub, whether it be for a killer gourmet breakfast buffet at Element 47 (the best way to get your morning started before shredding double black diamonds) or an order of renown Truffle fries on the patio at Ajax Tavern, a popular apres ski spot just steps from the Silver Queen gondola.
(photo credit: Little Nell)
Best Place to Learn to Ski – Buttermilk
(photo credit: Julia Dimon)
While many who frequent Aspen are hard-core skiers and snowboarders, I’ll admit I’m more of a ski bunny. I’m not a strong skier. Can an old dog learn new tricks? A reluctant and tad fearful me signed up for a ½ day private lesson at Buttermilk. My instructor, a Kiwi named Angie, started with the basics, took her time and built up my skills (and my confidence) bringing me to a place where I was eventually charging down the mountain. She made skiing fun and empowered me with skills to go out on my own. For those who are beginner skiiers or if you just need some help polishing your form and technique, a lesson with a professional ski instructor is a great call and Buttermilk is the perfect place to do it.
Coolest Aspen Experiences This Winter
Full Moon Powder Tours takes riders up the mountain via snowcat for a three hour night ski experience on the backside of Aspen Mountain. Check out the site for a list of available dates.
Aspen Institute offers events that will expand your mind and your rolodex. A meeting point for innovators, scholars, thought leaders, disruptors and creative types, The Aspen Institute holds year round events and seminars that tackle the most pressing global issues of the day, from environmental impact to security and social enterprise.
If you’re into extreme sports, watch ski and snowboarders, daredevils on snowmobiles and snowbikes battle it out at the X Games Aspen this Jan. 26 – 29, 2017. Back for its 16th year in a row, X Games pits some of the world’s top competitors head-to-head across 18 different disciplines (among them slopestyle, superpipe, freestyle, and big air) over four days of extreme sport, music and festivities. Or check out the prestigious FIS Ski World Cup Finals (Mar. 15 – 19, 2017), featuring the best alpine skiing athletes in the world competing in downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom.
Best Art Galleries
(photo credit: Julia Dimon)
There are many art galleries that dot the streets of downtown, so there is certainly no shortage of cultural eye candy in Aspen. If it’s oil on canvas, bronze statues, antique telescopes or vintage movie posters that tickle your fancy, the town’s many galleries has something for every taste. Check out Galerie Maximillian and Forré Fine Art for a look at the great modern masters including Picasso and Chagall, or browse the Baldwin Gallery or Cha Cha gallery for some of the most acclaimed contemporary artists of our time. Art, like beauty, is of course in the eye of the beholder but for me, one of my personal faves is famed landscape photographer Peter Lik. This Australian-born photographer shoots big, beautiful panoramas of some of Mother Nature’s most impressive spots, from the red sandstone of Arches National Park in Utah to the moss-covered old growth trees in Oregon. His images are so stunning (and so expensive! there is no wonder that he’s sold more than $500 million of artwork.) Luckily browsing is free.
Best Bar Atmosphere – J-Bar
If you’re looking for a stiff whiskey cocktail in a brooding and contemplative atmosphere, J-Bar in the historic Hotel Jerome is your jam. With dark mahogany décor, low-back leather chairs and chandeliers, this historic watering hole dating back to 1889 has an unbeatable saloon atmosphere that will transport you back in time.
Best Adventure Dining Experience – Pine Creek Cookhouse
A “must do” on everyone’s hit list should be a visit to Pine Creek Cookhouse. Located 12 miles outside of Aspen at the base of the Elk Mountain Range, Pine Creek Cookhouse is a high end restaurant serving gourmet mountain cuisine in an epic rustic setting. Located in the historic ghost town of Ashcroft, Pine Creek serves up hearty seasonal dishes and naturally raised game that’s artfully prepared. The three-course winter meal offers such dishes as Rocky Mountain Elk Chop (with kale, aged white cheddar grits and smoked cherry sauce), Sautéed Ruby Red Rainbow Trout (with cauliflower purée, oven roasted tomato and lemon caper butter sauce) and my personal fave – the North American Buffalo Tenderloin (with chive mashed potato, heirloom baby carrot and béarnaise sauce). Yum! Beyond the delicious food and cozy log cabin atmosphere, part of the thrill and romance of this place is just getting there. Guests can either cross-country ski, snowshoe, or take a horse drawn sleigh ride through the woods to or from Pine Creek. I certainly worked up an appetite criss-crossing through the snowy canopy of Aspen trees, under a starry (and very cold) winter night. It’s a memorable journey that’s sure to delight…just make sure you’re bundled up and dressed warmly for this gastronomic adventure.
Julia Dimon is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.
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