A Perfect Winter Week in Aspen

Best week in Aspen

Aspen surpasses quaint. It’s not just one of the world’s top ski towns, nor is it simply a luxury jet setter destination.  The town, the people, the village, the skiing, it is more than that.  Romantic and vintage, lively and modern, the town of Aspen is far from your typical cookie cutter mountain village.  Here, you won’t find chain restaurants or generic hotels.. instead you’ll discover a unique and elevated atmosphere.  Something, I suppose, best described by photos, but only understood by experience.

winter in Aspen

Aspen is the only ski town I’ve ever visited that didn’t feel theatrical or touristy.  Rather each street corner gives way to a unique restaurant, an adorable antique shop, a boutique hotel with doormen donning cowboy hats.

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Aspen is rich with lodging options, from an $1800/night room at The Little Nell to a studio condo in Snowmass.  For a ski vacation, I prefer a rental property over a hotel.   Something about all that space to hang your wet clothes, the sizzle of bacon before the slopes & a private snow-lined hot tub.  Not many things worse than being leg to leg in the hotel jacuzzi while snot-nosed kids splash you in the face. But of course, hotels also have their own appeal – like room service, and not having to brave a blizzard just to grab a glass of wine and bite to eat.  For me, there’s no reason to ever stay at The hideously overpriced Little Nell.  Lacking warmth, the hotel is devoid of charm or character.   Now, does that mean I didn’t frequent their bar for mulled wine? Of course not.  But for the price tag, there are much better lodging options in my opinion. 

For less than half the price, my favorite hotel is a few blocks from the lifts, but worth the extra steps on your smartwatch.  The Hotel Jerome is an interior design dream.  Mahogany accents, walls dripping in vintage wallpaper, and perfectly appointed rooms with kitsch decor.  Swoon. Their bar is a favorite for après ski, but more on that later.  My Aspen hotel runner up is the St Regis.  Located just a hair away from the main lift, this sophisticated hotel is everything you could want from mountain luxe. Grand fireplaces, dark nooks and oversized couches make this hotel feel cozy and inviting while maintaining an air of high class.  The Limelight hotel is another excellent option and will be a just as cozy, but perhaps more lively, than the St. Regis.

Best hotel Aspen

Hotel Jerome, Aspen

If you’re so inclined to stay in Snowmass Village, the Viceroy is a good choice, mostly because their restaurant Eight K and spa are lovely.  I don’t particularly care for modern decor on a ski vacation, but this boutique hotel does it well.

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The skiing on Snowmass and Buttermilk are less challenging while Aspen and Aspen Highlands will have more difficult terrain and narrower trails.  Aspen is where you ski to be seen, while Snowmass and Buttermilk are more laid back and family friendly.  The village at Snowmass is relaxed with a variety of no-frills restaurants and bars, like Venga Venga, a Mexican joint at the base serving up happy hour margaritas over the jams of a live band.  With your $145 per day pass, you can technically hit Aspen & Snowmass in the same day, but you will miss out on about an hour of shredding. Saver Tip: Purchase advance multiple day passes here to save. If you’re traveling with little shredders, kids ski free starting in February if you book at least a month in advance.

best skiing aspen

There is one place, and one place alone, I recommend renting equipment from and that’sIncline Ski & Board.  The owner Johnny is an absolute ray of sunshine and his staff is friendly and knowledgeable.  They’ve got an extensive range of equipment to suit every individual need.  Typically rental equipment is poor quality with sub-par performance.  That is not the case at Incline.  My bindings were brand new, taken out of their original package, for my use.  Yes. As in I was the first person to ever use them.  Incline conveniently has locations at Aspen & Snowmass Village so if you end up getting adventurous and switching mountains, you’ll be able to return at either location. Or, if you’re like me and have the inclination to try skiing after a 10 year hiatus, you can swap out your board for the last few runs problem free.  Saver Tip: Order online to save 20%. Also feel free to name drop me.Snowmass vs Aspen

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Explore the Town: Wander the streets, take a horse and buggy ride, go ice skating at the Grand Hyatt, purchase a custom cowboy hat from the ever popular Kemo Sabe, swing by Explore Bookstore for a new read, bar hop, high-end shop until your bags are too heavy to carry home… whatever your interests, Aspen most definitely has something to tickle your fancy.

aspen in the winter

Dogsledding: I mean… where else outside of Alaska can you get pulled around on a sled by a team of gorgeous Husky fur babies?  It’s a dream come true!  Although pricey, dogsledding is the perfect activity for a couple looking for a day off of the slopes. Krabloonik seems to be the only place consistently recommended and they also have an acclaimed wild game restaurant worth the notable mention.

Snowmobiling: For the more adventurous (with less romantic intentions) of you, snowmobiling in Aspen is a once in a lifetime adventure.  Picture gliding over fresh powder, leaning your body weight to take you around a sharp mountain bend with Maroon Bells looming in the distance.  My advice is to go with Western Adventures over Lazy 7 for the sheer reason that Lazy 7 is exactly what their name implies: lazy.  Tours with them will be a large group puttering single file behind a tour guide brimming with history facts and stopping frequently for photo ops. For less money, you can book a 2-hour tour with Western Adventure and join a small group that moves swiftly through the winding trees up to an enormous open field with a snowy ‘race track’ where you can punch it until your hearts desire.  You won’t get a gourmet burger lunch, but you will get hot cocoa and a more adrenaline-sparking adventure.Best snowmobiling Aspen

Cross Country Ski to Pine Creek CookhouseOpen for lunch and dinner, this adorable cottage restaurant is only accessible by sleigh ride, ski or snowshoe.  I suggest making a reservation for lunch so that you can truly enjoy the jaw-dropping views and you don’t have to cross country ski home in the freezing cold dark after indulging in a bottle of wine (which actually does kind of sound fun for some reason). Dinner is prix fixe with supplemental options while lunch is a la carte.

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Ajax.  Sit on the patio, order truffle fries and a glass of wine and bear witness to some of the best people watching money can buy.

J Bar at Hotel Jerome: Hop off the slopes early to hit up this charming old-school bar located in the front of my favorite hotel (maybe ever!), Hotel Jerome. If it’s too packed, head to the back bar and sit in front of the fireplace with a spicy margarita while you chat snow conditions with the neighboring tables.

Venga Venga: If your last run leaves you at the base of Snowmass, be sure to grab a margarita and order of guac from Venga Venga while the live band jams out.

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Fuel: Breakfast. Almond milk latte & California wrap at Fuel in Snowmass is where it’s at.  Make sure to add bean and corn salsa.   Pair with a ginger shot to keep your immune system humming.

Eight K at the Viceroy: Lunch. Okay, the truffle grilled cheese sandwich is absolutely one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.  It is an absolute must.  Actually, while I type this on my flight home to LA, I just took a break to look up how I could quite possibly ever recreate this magic at home.  Pair with bubbly.

(Talk Dirty to Me) Truffle & Hazelnut Butter Grilled Cheese: 17 semolina bread, cacciotta al tartufo, peach pepper jelly, green apple, arugula salad

Best lunch in Snowmass

Up 4 Pizza. Lunch.  On Snowmass; the only place in the world where you can eat pizza at 11,835 feet above sea-level.  Is the pizza delicious? Nope.  It actually is pretty bland – like a mix between Ellios pizza and bagel bites.  But they have ranch dressing, so it’s all good.  The real gem here (besides the obvious killer view) is the fresh baked cookies.  You’re going to want to order a chocolate chip & a white chocolate macadamia nut.  Both will be the gooiest most satisfying morsel you’ve ever feasted on after a morning of shredding through all that fresh pow pow.

Cloud Nine.  Lunch. Disclaimer: you might end up sprayed with champagne. This lunch can get a little… wild.  Book considerably far in advance (like before you buy your plane tickets) for your boozy & bougie lunch halfway up Aspen Highlands.  Just try to remember that however much you consume… you still have to get down the mountain on your skis afterward.  Failing to book in advance, we regrettably missed out on this party-right-of-passage experience, but I’m already plotting my return trip, and Cloud Nine is a must.

L’Hosteria. Dinner. I’m a sucker for a traditional Italian joint where the owner is walking around greeting guests.  Order the goat cheese crusted rack of lamb atop truffle mashed potatoes and die happy.  Also a must order is the ‘melt in your mouth burrata’ appetizer.  I suggest grabbing a seat in the bar area where you’ll have access to the bar menu in addition to the pricier dinner menu.

Other options:

White House Tavern. Tops the list of every publication on best of Aspen, so I figured it was worth a notable mention.  Small bar-like menu specializing in burgers located in probably the world’s most adorable cottage setting. But at the end of the day, it’s still a Houstons.  And as much as I hate the mediocracy of chain restaurants, I especially have it out for Houstons.  That being said, next time I head to Aspen, my curiosity will likely lead me into one of their booths.

Matsuhisa.  I live in a land of Nobus, so I’m not particularly inclined to seek out sushi when I travel to the middle of America.  However, this location is supposedly the Nobu mastermind himself’s baby. Like Little Tavern, this staple is also situated inside of a snow covered cottage on a quiet corner of town. Sure to be a scene. Sure to be expensive.  Sure to be delicious.

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FYI, Après dinner is not a thing.  Well at least not until this blog post catches on.  Post dinner I prefer a snowy stroll to whichever bar tickles my fancy at that particular moment.  After a heavy meal, a mulled wine by the fire of the St. Regis.. or if it was lighter fare maybe Ajax for a specialty cocktail.  If you’re looking for more then check out who’s playing at Belly Up – the local venue that gets some pretty big names coming through.  Or for the party enthusiasts – the night club chain Bootsy Bellows will gladly take your money for a table and bottle of Grey Goose.

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Flying into Aspen is 100% recommended and you 100% do not need to rent a car.  Everything is within walking distance or a short uber ride, but word in the village is that the public transportation is incredibly reliable and efficient.   The drive from Denver to Aspen can be absolutely frightening – that is if the road hasn’t been closed due to pile-ups or AVALANCHES.  Yes, the day after we arrived, an avalanche shut down the I-70 for 2 days.  That is no joke.  Of course, if you do drive from Denver (we did because we rarely listen to reason & love a good road trip), you’ll have the opportunity to stop in the ever stunning Vail for lunch at the infamous Mountain Standard.  Might I suggest the lamb salad?

Colorado Standard lunch

After lunch, explore the Vail village and swing by the Four Seasons for that last spiked cocoa before you make it back to Denver.

Okay really, driving 4 hours turned 7 in a blizzard is UNSAFE and travelingfig advises against making the drive to Aspen. BUT, if you decided to be like me and not listen to reason, here’s a glimpse of what you’ll see on the 200 mile stretch through heaven:

Driving from Denver to Aspen

things to do in aspen

PS I didn’t choose the snow bunny life, the snow bunny life chose me.

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