With picture-perfect scenery, the city of Aspen, Colorado, sits in a valley high within the Rocky Mountains. Though commonly regarded as an international winter playground for the rich, there still remains a small-town feel to this western ski resort with a population of under 6,000. Winter sports, powdery mountain peaks and buoyant holiday crowds give way to spring’s lush green parks, hot air balloon rides and outdoor music festivals.
There are four mountain resorts within the town. Aspen Mountain is the most centrally located, and there are convenient (and free) buses that regularly transport skiers to and from the other three -- Buttermilk, Snowmass and Aspen Highlands. Aspen Mountain is serviced by a gondola in the center of town and is easily accessible to skiers and snowboarders. The terrain is the steepest of the four mountains, and there are no beginner trails. Buttermilk is known as the beginner’s mountain, and has a highly regarded ski school, as well as being the host for the Winter X Games for nine consecutive years. Snowmass is the most family-friendly of the resorts, and is the largest of the area’s mountains, while Aspen Highlands is more of a local mountain with a combination of steep trails and back country access.
For stunning scenery in any season, visitors should not pass up a trip to the Maroon Bells. The surrounding lake, hot springs and 14,000-foot mountain peaks are some of the most photographed landscapes in Colorado. Hiking the trails and camping amongst the wildflowers are popular activities for both locals and tourists in the spring and summer months. Other outdoor adventures like mountain climbing up granite crags or white water rafting down the Roaring Fork River are ways visitors can experience Aspen at its best.
As alluring as its glistening ski slopes, Aspen’s downtown (Main Street) is a high-end playground chock-full of posh designer boutiques, restaurants serving haute cuisine and a nightlife that will heat up the frozen temperatures outside. Just a short walk from downtown, the Aspen Art Museum is located in a historic brick building on the Rio Grande Trail. The museum features thought-provoking contemporary artwork from around the world and, like its neighbor the Wheeler Opera House, infuses this nature-rich society with international culture.
Chowhounds from around the globe flock to Aspen for its renowned restaurant scene. The town hosts the annual Food & Wine Classic, where foodies and gastronomy biz pros gather to sample cutting edge cuisine and wine from industry legends. Located at the base of Aspen Mountain, Ajax Tavern serves upscale French bistro food made with sustainable local ingredients. For a unique Latin American dinner experience, check out Zocalito Bistro and try house staples like shrimp and tilapia ceviche or chicken mole with beans. For a rowdy pub with good eats, try Zane’s Tavern Aspen for beer specials and a nearly perfect authentic Philly cheesesteak.
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, known as Sardy Field (ASE), is the area’s only commercial airport and caters to most major carriers. Besides walking, the best way to get around is by taxi or shuttle. The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and the Free Skier Shuttle provide bus service to the mountains as well as some downtown attractions.
Aspen is a tourist destination that is beautiful to visit during every season. The city enjoys low humidity and year-round sunshine. The summertime temperatures can reach up to 80° F in mid-July and become much cooler in the evening. Though winters can dip down to a bone-chilling 0° F in January and February, thousands of visitors brave the cold each year as this is Aspen’s peak tourist season (and the most expensive time to visit).