Known commonly by its superhero moniker, "The Power of Four", Aspen Snowmass refers to the combined resorts of Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Buttermilk; together they amass 5,517 skiable acres, 335 trails, and 42 lifts, and loom above Aspen's quaint alpine streets like hulking giants ready to defeat ski-related crime at a moments notice. Or something like that. With terrain designed to please powder hounds, backcountry bombers, and novices alike, and a downtown full of eclectic eateries and rollicking bars, you can’t help but look up at Aspen Mountain as you're strolling around and hear it whispering, “soon”. But don't be creeped out, it's totally on your side.
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When to go: The Aspen season usually begins in late November to mid-December and runs through early to mid-April. Want to be there for the X Games? Well, they're going down at Buttermilk, January 23-26.
How to get around: Several hotels offer complimentary shuttles to the mountains. There’s also a free Aspen shuttle system which takes guests to and from all four ski areas, as well as the towns of Aspen and Snowmass.
Three runs not to miss:
1. The new Burnt Mountain terrain at Snowmass is a must-hit. And when you're done, be sure to visit the Elk Camp restaurant.
2. Ski Ruthie’s on Aspen Mountain -- the World Cup ski-racing course overlooks the town and provides one of the area's most iconic views.
3. Take advantage of the free First Tracks Program and hit Highland Bowl at 8a, before the lifts spin.
Dining: Like many mountain resort towns, Aspen dining runs the gamut from basic burgers to top-notch cuisine. Recently opened at the Little Nell, Element 47 showcases contemporary American cooking infused with seasonal ingredients and a Burgundy-rich wine list. Another newbie, Trecento Quindici Decano, features soulful and seasonally inspired Italian cuisine, while Justice Snow's peddles well-mixed cocktails with creative mountain vittles. For a simple pub meal (and a pint, of course), Finbarr’s Irish Pub & Kitchen is your move. For an adventure, grab a cab and head out to the Woody Creek Tavern, a funky spot serving margaritas and some Hunter S. Thompson history. Finally, for the ultimate in fine dining experience, snag a reservation at Chefs Club by FOOD & WINE magazine (at The St. Regis Aspen Resort), a collab resto where guests can sample dishes made by the country’s most promising up-and-coming chefs.
Local brews: Aspen Brewing Company's downtown tasting room is your go-to for local suds. Started in '08 by a University of Colorado grad, "Aspen's only microbrewery" pours a handsome lineup that ranges from their Czech-style Ajax Pilsner (a crisp lager celebrating the mountain's nickname) and super-hoppy 7% ABV Independence Pass IPA, to their Conundrum Red Ale and 10th Mountain Imperial Stout, a burly 9.3% ABV English oatmeal stout that pays homage to the WWII division that trained in the area. As always, don't leave without a growler for the condo.
Après: 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel rocks both indoor and outdoor seating and makes an ideal spot for après antics. Settle inside and enjoy your cocktail, or join the crowd around the pool and soak in the revelry. Wanna celebrate your awesome day on the hill with shots? Cantina's got one of those 6-glasses-mounted-on-a-ski shooters, and tequila's the grain of choice (natch). For a low-key game of pool, shoot for Eric’s Bar, although there's also a connected cigar bar if you're up for a stogie later in the evening. For a more relaxed après, Ajax Tavern is the place to chill out and recover from a great day of pow.
Nightlife: If there’s a good band playing at the Belly Up, get a ticket. The small club hosts world-class talent, and is a local favorite. On the other end of the spectrum is the Caribou Club, a swanky private joint where they dance late into the night -- although you're probably gonna need to know someone to get in. J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome offers the opportunity to sip Aspen Cruds -- a bourbon-infused vanilla milkshake or cream-topped hot vanilla tea and bourbon -- in one of Hunter S. Thompson’s old haunts, while Escobar, a nightclub/ bar/ lounge hybrid with an eclectic mix of music, is where you should close the night out.
Other than skiing/ boarding?
Hop a private snowcat and head out for either lunch in a backcountry cabin or a fondue dinner atop Aspen Mountain. Not enough action? Add a guided snowshoe trek with a naturalist. Or, wave to your friends as you glide over the slopes in a tandem paraglider with Aspen Paragliding. Although, no, you can't "jump off" the mountain. Finally, cruise across the snow with the sound of howling dogs in your ears on a Krabloonik dog sledding adventure. Guided tours are offered daily, and the price includes lunch or dinner at Krabloonik restaurant.
Where to stay: For quick access to the most trails, crash in Aspen. In fact, famed Little Nell sits right at the base of the mountain. For modern swank and proximity to the hill (as well as the après scene), the choice is the Sky Hotel. Other favorites include Hotel Jerome and the Limelight. And while Airbnb lists plenty of condos and townhomes, many aren't downtown -- make sure you check locations carefully. Finally, if you'd still rather stay away from the crowds, there're places to consider in Snowmass; the newly renovated Wildwood Snowmass and the Pokolodi Lodge are two worth checking out.
1. Chefs Club by Food & Wine315 E Dean St, Aspen
2. element 47675 East Durant Ave., Aspen
3. Trecento Quindici Decano315 E. Dean Street, Aspen
4. Justice Snow's328 E Hyman Ave, Aspen
5. Finbarr's Irish Pub415 East Hyman, Aspen
6. Woody Creek Tavern2858 Upper River Road, Aspen
7. Aspen Brewing Company304 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen
8. 39 Degrees709 E Durant Ave, Aspen
9. Cantina411 E Main St, Aspen
10. Eric's Bar315 E. Hyman Avenue, Aspen
11. Ajax Tavern675 E Durant Ave, Aspen
12. Belly Up Aspen450 S Galena St, Aspen
13. Caribou Club411 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen
14. J-Bar at Hotel Jerome330 E Main St, Aspen
15. Escobar Aspen426 East Hyman Mall , Aspen
16. Krabloonik2450 Divide Road, Snowmass Village
17. Wildwood Snowmass40 Elbert Lane, Snowmass Village
18. Pokolodi Lodge25 Daly Lane, Snowmass Village, Aspen
19. The Little Nell675 E Durant Ave, Aspen
20. Sky Hotel709 E. Durant Ave. , Aspen
21. Hotel Jerome330 E Main St, Aspen
22. The Limelight Hotel355 S Monarch St, Aspen
Chefs Club partnered with Food & Wine magazine to bring you a roster of Best New Chefs creating delicacies in the open kitchen, as well as celebrity chefs putting on live culinary performances.
Sample wines from their award-winning wine list (an on-site sommelier will be happy to make recommendations based on the 15,000 bottle wine cellar), or toast the mining town’s heritage with a Colorado brew.
This resto plates exquisite Italian cuisine at the St. Regis Aspen Resort.
Both hip and historic, this restaurant reinvented a landmark location next to the historic Wheeler Opera House, and serves contemporary fusion and handcrafted cocktails. Tip: Look for the antique doorbell medallions that hide peepholes showing vintage films.
We didn't expect anything less from a town like Aspen, but even its Irish gastropub is totally swank.
Don't let the dozens of colorful strings of lights and walls plastered with photos, magazine covers, newspaper clippings, and children's drawings distract you from the solid, down-home menu here.
Aspen Brewing Company is Aspen's only microbrewery, turning out award-winning suds at 7822ft.
Allegedly a favorite Playboy magazine destination, this claims to be the sexiest lounge in town. With an assortment of brews on tap, a full food menu, and a sweet hot tub, it's a claim that's easy to believe.
A fun and colorful Mexican joint serving organic margaritas, Cantina food is all produced in-house from fresh ingredients.
One of three bars in the Su Casa complex, this stylish, brick-walled lounge has DJs spinning, a billiard hall, and a cigar lounge.
Ajax was voted Aspen's "Best Place To People Watch" two years in a row, and the food ain't bad either. Signature dishes include Poached Rabbit Tagliatelle, Grilled Colorado Striped Bass, and the famous Ajax Double Cheeseburger with Truffle Fries.
Belly Up is one of Aspen's best live music venues, featuring both national acts and local favorites.
If you have 20k to spare for a lifetime membership, then this super-stylish private club is for you.
This hotel bar puts others to shame, pouring specialty cocktails and craft brews for the masses in Aspen.
Purple lights and mirrored walls will disorient you into having the night of your life at this swanky nightclub. The place's got some killer grub and suds too, in case you get a little winded on the dance floor.
In an unprecedented but brilliant combination, Krabloonik Restaurant and Dog Sledding, which is celebrating its 39th birthday, is a restaurant that features game and fresh fish as well as rookie musher dog sledding lessons and sleigh rides.
This colorful and cool, retro-chic mountain lodge has gotten the hipster treatment.
This little lodge claims that "Pokolodi is believed to mean 'The small lodge of welcome and happy dreams'".
The Little Nell is Aspen's only five-star, five-diamond property, and the only hotel with ski-in, ski-out access to historic Aspen Mountain.
This luxury boutique hotel somehow manages to meld mountain rustic with tropical chic with far from horrifying results.
Founded by Macy's co-owner Jerome B. Wheeler, the ultra-swank Hotel Jerome is housed in a brick structure built in the 1880s that is often described as one of the city's major landmarks, and was listed (appropriately) on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
A hotel with history, it was originally the Ski and Spur Bar, then the Limelite nightclub and dinner theatre in the 1950s, before expanding into the Limelite Lodge. It was was the first lodge in Aspen to install TVs, phones, A/C, and fridges in its guest rooms, until it was razed in 2005 and rebuilt as the brand new 126-room hotel you see today.