Where to ski, board, stay, eat, drink, shop, play, and buy real estate in Colorado's best mountain towns.
Despite its reputation for glitz, Aspen has a dedicated local population that keeps this small town humming all year long. Of course, the town also boasts world-class shopping and dining, not to mention four ski mountains, more than 50 miles of cross-country and snowshoe trails—and is one heck of a winter wonderland. The bonus: Aspen is only three hours from Denver, and multiple mountains means there are never—and we do mean never—lift lines.
SKI Cruisers will worship the creamy slopes off the Sheer Bliss lift (Snowmass Mountain) for the spot-on fall lines and the high-speed quad. Experts should seek out Deep Temerity (Aspen Highlands), where 180 acres are ruled by steep tree skiing and powder stashes. Bump lovers should head for the Dumps (Aspen Mountain) where trails like Zaugg and Short Snort rattle knees. Beginners belong on the mild slopes of Buttermilk—where they can also watch X Games hopefuls testing out the insane half-pipe.
STAYThe Annabelle Inn is as cozy as it gets with elegant yet rustic furnishings, an outdoor fire pit, and a lobby featuring reclaimed barn wood (232 W. Main St., annabelleinn.com, starting at $99). Long the standard of luxury, the Little Nell delivers on every request—not the least of which is proximity to town and the slopes (675 E. Durant Ave., thelittlenell.com, starting at $410). The Viceroy Snowmass in Snowmass gets rave reviews for its slope-side location, posh rooms, and swanky bar (130 Wood Road, Snowmass Village, viceroyhotelsandresorts.com, starting at $225).
EAT Skiers in the know come off Aspen Mountain at lunchtime and head to Jour de Fête for baguette sandwiches (try the Andrew: pastrami and Swiss) and cozy soups (710 E. Durant Ave.). Families love Brunelleschi’s Dome Pizza for hearty Italian eats and crispy-crusted pizza—kids enjoy making their own pies with dough, sauce, and toppings (205 S. Mill St., zgpizza.com). Special occasions demand a reservation at Montagna, where James Beard–nominated chef Ryan Hardy showcases his artisanal cuisine in dishes ranging from cheeses made on his own farm to tender Colorado lamb shank (675 E. Durant Ave., thelittlenell.com).
DRINK The tequila list at the always-packed Jimmy’s is worth a visit—if you get hungry, order the fish tacos (205 S. Mill St., jimmysaspen.com). In 2008, two University of Colorado grads opened Aspen Brewing Company, where seven microbrews are now on tap. Stop by for a taste, and take home a growler of your favorite suds (320 E. Hopkins Ave., aspenbrewingcompany.com).
SHOP Locals and tourists flock to Pitkin County Dry Goods for clothing lines such as Alice + Olivia, Free People, and Aude (520 E. Cooper St., pitkincountydrygoods.com). Snap up some bargains at Twinkle, a children’s consignment shop with designer duds like Oilily and Burberry (533 E. Hopkins Ave., 970-925-7214). Music lovers will covet Two Old Hippies’ guitars, rock ’n’ roll paraphernalia, and collections of handbags, clothing, and handcrafted jewelry (111 S. Monarch St., twooldhippies.com).
BUY IN It’s hard to find a bargain in Aspen, but if there’s one to be had, it’s in the condo market where prices range from $499,000 (one-bedroom, one-bath pied-à-terre) to $735,000 (two-bedroom, two-bath). Remote log cabins with a little land go for $450,000, while gallant mansions in prestigious neighborhoods will run well into the millions.
DON'T MISS Stop by 212 Gallery for a glimpse of work by local artist Mark Cesark—what look like abstract paintings are actually the conglomeration of found metals (525 E. Cooper Ave., 212gallery.com). If you dig history, explore Aspen’s roots as a mining town by taking a tour deep inside the historic Smuggler Mine (110 Smuggler Mt. Road, 970-925-2049).
—Amanda M. Faison