Well known as a mountain retreat for America’s rich and famous—movie stars (Goldie Hawn, Kevin Costner) and business moguls alike (Michael Eisner) flock here—Aspen has the skiing chops to balance its reputation as a mini mountain Tinseltown. If you love to ski, you’ll find endless enjoyment across the four mountains that make up the resort.
However, the proximity of so many well-heeled individuals means that unlike many American resort towns, Aspen has a whole lot to offer off the slopes as well as on. It might be one of the best ski resorts in Colorado, but for those days when your legs need a break, or if skiing is just not really your thing, here are 7 great reasons why you’ll love a winter vacation in this extremely stylish Rocky Mountain town.
1. Chic Mountain Shopping
Aspen takes its shopping so seriously that the downtown sidewalks are heated to ensure no amount of snow and ice will stand in the way of you and your retail therapy. Label lovers should head straight for Galena street—where you’ll find all the major names, from Prada to Ralph Lauren, to chic ski wear brands like Moncler.
When you need a break, head for some of the best coffee in town at SO cafe in Aspen Art Museum, located right downtown. After your coffee break, enjoy the revolving exhibits of work by contemporary artists at the museum.
2. Five-Star Dining
With an emphasis on local ingredients and farm-to-table dining, Aspen has been a leading light on Colorado’s culinary scene for decades, and there are seriously tasty options for every meal of the day.
For an early morning coffee fix, locals swear by Peach’s Corner Cafe—you’re likely to meet a local cop stopping in on their way to the station. However, this is Aspen, and even in cozy corner cafes the oatmeal is organic and steel cut and poached eggs come served over herb roasted vegetables with pistachio sausage.
Lunch is all about fresh ingredients sandwiched between pieces of delicious bread—or so say the owners of the ever popular White House Tavern. Try the classic French Dip: prime rib piled on a homemade roll, or the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, served on homemade torta with spicy slaw.
Dinner is a chance to try one of Aspen’s top fine dining restaurants, Element 47 at the most celeb-friendly hotel in town, The Little Nell. Named for the town’s silver mining heritage (silver is element number 47 on the periodic table), the restaurant is sleek and chic – a mixture of grey banquettes and slate blue chairs, low lighting and an illuminated, glass-walled wine cellar that takes up an entire wall – and the food is exemplary.
3. Indulgent Spa Treatments
Treat yourself to a day of pure pampering at one of Aspen’s bliss-inducing spas. Remede, at the St Regis resort, promises to transport you into a world of relaxation, with indulgent treatments like the Remede Customized Bath—a 30-minute soak in an oversized tub scented with aromatherapy oils, juniper and honey—or an award-winning facial. We can’t think of a better way to escape from winter temperatures. Once you’re suitably warmed up, you can enjoy a champagne afternoon tea by the fireside while the snow falls gently outside. How’s that for a winter wonderland?
4. Ice skating Under the Stars
At the base of Aspen Mountain, the Silver Circle outdoor rink, lit by flickering fairy lights, is the perfect way to round off a day in the mountains. OK so the rink is not huge, but a few turns around with the object of your affection and you’ll have stars in your eyes. Round off the romance with a hot chocolate (rum-spiked if you choose) at The Living Room at Hotel Jerome, where the Hot Mama is a very grown-up version of the sweet treat. The living room has one of the best apres-ski scenes in Aspen, so you’ll be in good company.
5. Snowshoe Trails
Even if you don’t ski, you’ll still want to get outside in all that beautiful snow once you arrive in Aspen. The good news is there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great winter outdoors without boots and poles. First up is snowshoeing, for which all you need is a pair of rackets and a sense of adventure. One of the most popular snowshoe trails is the easy, under 4 mile Tom Blake trail, through the aspen tree groves in Snowmass. The former mining outpost (now a ghost town) of Ashcroft is another popular spot with over 20 miles of groomed trails to explore, and a great spot to stop for lunch, the Pine Creek Cookhouse. For trail maps, the Aspen Nordic Center is a great resource—and your Luxury Retreats concierge can organize equipment rental and guided hikes to make the most of your surroundings.
6. Dog-Sled Adventures
To get your adrenaline pumping, try a dog-sled ride through the snow-covered forest, a truly exhilarating experience. Snuggled under a blanket (each sled takes up to two adults and a small child) with a team of Alaskan huskies in front of you, it’s like going back in time to the days of Wild West exploration. For added romance, set out at twilight and watch the sun go down over the mountains as you race through the pristine snow.
Experienced dog sled outfitters Krabloonik offer a twilight ride that starts off just before sunset, takes in a campfire stop halfway through so you can warm your hands under the stars, and finishes with refreshments in their own mountain restaurant. A good night’s sleep is guaranteed!
7. A Night at the Opera
Aspen might be a former mining outpost in the mountains, but the influx of influential residents has brought world-class music and arts performances to the town, which even has its own opera house, the Wheeler. The theater puts on a wide variety of shows throughout the year – from opera performances (and showings of Live at the Met) to comedians and pop music shows, so no matter when you’re in town you’ll find something to please.