What’s the best time to visit Aspen?

Winter is the time for skiers and snowboarders to visit Aspen — that much is obvious. But what isn’t as commonly known is that Aspen probably has more to offer in the summer months, in terms of activities and happenings, than it does in the winter. You can hike, bike, go white-water rafting, Jeeping and even zipline through Independence Pass, and the mild climate and sunny weather make it one of the best places to be when it’s hotter at lower elevations. Fall is also a wonderful time of year to plan your trip, when fall foliage and beautiful weather take the scenery to another level. It’s also important to note that fall is considered “off season,” when some of the best deals for lodging can be found around town.

  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best places to ski in Aspen?

    Many first time visitors are not prepared for how vast the skiing at Aspen is. Aspen is actually four resorts in one, with four completely different mountains, each with its own base village and facilities. One of these, Snowmass, is by itself the third largest ski mountain in the nation and could easily be a weeklong destination on its own. The key to a successful ski trip here is picking the right mountain for you, which may mean changing each day – almost all lodging is in town Aspen or at Snowmass. Buttermilk is one of the best places in the world to learn to ski or snowboard, full of greens and blues and basically an entire mountain devoted to less challenging skiing, free of intimidation and with little chance to accidently get in over your head. It is popular with families and learners but most skilled skiers skip it altogether. Aspen Mountain (or Ajax), the one in town, is surprising to many visitors because it is the only major ski resort in the country with no green terrain. It has plenty of blue but is not the place to learn to ski or for first times. It is generally a “vertical” mountain, high relative to its width, with a lot of steeps and sustained pitches, good skiing for intermediates and advanced. The best true expert terrain is at Aspen Highlands, just outside town, which has a much more down to earth “ski bum” feel than posh Aspen Mountain. The main attraction here is Highlands Bowl, which requires a short hike up the boot packed rim trail before dropping in – it is famous in skiing and a rite of passage of visiting experts. Snowmass, the furthest for town, is a world unto itself, with excellent skiing for all abilities and vast terrain. You can learn, cruise, or get in over your head here, with plenty of steeps and chutes, especially on Hanging Valley Wall. A new intermediate glade area of nearly 250-acres was added for this season. Some visitors stay at Snowmass the entire week and never leave, but even if you stay in Aspen it is worth at least two days.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    Should visitors rent a car in Aspen?

    Only to get here and only if you are not flying into the very close but often weather affected Aspen airport. If you are coming from Eagle/Vail (90 minutes) or Denver (a 3 hour drive), you likely want a car, though there are some shuttle services available. From the Aspen airport, most hotels pick up and taxis are a short ride. Within the town of Aspen itself you can walk to everything easily, and there is a very efficient and extensive public bus system all throughout the Roaring Fork Valley. Every day the bulk of skiers staying in Aspen who want to ski the outlying mountains of Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk find it easier to jump on the free bus than to drive themselves. Likewise, those staying out at Snowmass have little need for a car since everything is condensed on the mountain, and even shuttling between Snowmass and the town of Aspen, the longest route in these parts, is easy by free bus. Finally, top luxury hotels like the Little Nell and St. Regis have complimentary in-town car service for guests.
  • On January 22, 2013
    Larry Olmsted answered the question: Larry Olmsted

    What are the best outdoor activities in Aspen?

    If you decide to take a break from skiing one of its four mountains, Aspen is a great place for trying other winter fun. Dogsledding with Krabloonik kennels has long been about the most popular extra-curricular in these parts, fun for everyone from couples to families, offered as 2-hour morning or afternoon rides or as a twilight package with delicious 4-course dinner. If you haven’t been, dogsledding is a blast and the dogs love it even more than the people. Two different companies in Aspen offer sunrise hot air balloon flights over the snowcapped Rockies, about 3 hours in total: Above It All and Unicorn Balloon Company. Twice each day, naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies lead guided snowshoe tours from both Snowmass and Aspen Mountains, for adults and kids as young as 7. The $61 fee ($49 youth) includes gear, snacks, lift ride and hot drinks. And if you feel a little stiff, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in ski season, free pre-ski yoga classes are offered from 9:30-10:30 on the Sundeck at Aspen (Ajax) Mountain.
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  • On November 21, 2012
    Jordan Lawson answered the question: Jordan Lawson

    What are the best things to do over the holidays in Aspen?

    While skiing is the obvious choice for the best thing to do in Aspen over the holidays, you’ll want to make time for these festive off-the-slopes activities too.
     
    The entire town gets involved in the 12 Days of Aspen from December 20 to 31. The exhaustive lineup of events includes a free ice-skating show, teddy bear story time, dog sled demonstration, visit with Santa’s reindeer and free hot air balloon rides. Don’t miss the free DJ-hosted bonfire on December 31 with fireworks ringing in the New Year over Aspen Mountain.
     
    Aspen’s hotels have their own traditions. Five-Star The Little Nell adds some holiday cheer to its slopeside locale with annual surprises — the hotel’s been known to bring in elves, Bernese Mountain Dogs and gingerbread houses — but you can’t miss the hot chocolate with housemade whipped cream. And the Nell’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve dinners will be extra special this year, as they’ll be held in the brand-new Element 47 restaurant.
     
    Down the street, The St. Regis Aspen Resort kicks off its holidays on November 24, when the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotel will host a tree lighting for the first time, featuring carolers, a visit from Santa, a champagne toast and ornament decorating.
     
    The resort is also hosting a version of the Twelve Days of Christmas for guests and locals, with an event each afternoon from December 14 to 25. Festivities include four teddy bear tea buffets, to which each child should bring a new teddy bear or toy to donate. Meanwhile, the resort’s afternoon après tea buffet will debut on December 17 with a selection of snacks and a hot chocolate and tea station. Santa himself will read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on December 24, and Christmas Day brings the brunch buffet at The Buttermilk Restaurant.
     
    The St. Regis' Four-Star Remède Spa Aspen will also celebrate by adding holiday-themed scents, including sugar plum and peppermint, to their signature Farm-To-Massage-Table treatments.
     
    On or off the slopes, you’ll have a great selection of holiday activities in Aspen.
  • On October 19, 2012
    Jimmy Yeager answered the question: Jimmy Yeager

    What are the best Italian restaurants in Aspen?

    L'Hostaria is my favorite of the few here. I like sitting at the bar, but the whole place is good — it's good food served by good people, which is a great combination. For Italian on the more casual pizza, pasta and sandwich level, I like Bruno's. It's a great family-run place with big screen TVs and well-executed food.
  • On October 19, 2012
    Jimmy Yeager answered the question: Jimmy Yeager

    What’s the best time to visit Aspen?

    As a seasonal resort community, it is difficult to say. Winter is recreational and lots of fun and the early fall colors are magnificent, but the summer here is considered the ultimate season. And I have to agree — the summertime is close to perfect. The temperature is from 70 degrees to mid-80s with low humidity; sometimes there is a late afternoon shower and the evenings are cool.
  • On October 19, 2012
    Jimmy Yeager answered the question: Jimmy Yeager

    Which Aspen restaurants are best for brunch?

    Aspen isn’t a very big brunch town (except for the big hotel buffets). Instead, I recommend doing breakfast at one of these spots:

    1. Hickory House

    2. Poppycock’s

    3. Main St. Bakery & Café

    4. The Little Nell

    5. Jour De Fête.
  • On October 19, 2012
    Jimmy Yeager answered the question: Jimmy Yeager

    What are the five best things to see and do in Aspen?

    1. Ski and Snowboard. Being in the mountains and having fun is what living in Aspen is all about.

    2. Hiking. For the same reason as above, plus when you are hiking you have the freedom to explore much more of the natural environs.

    3. Music. Aspen Music Festival in the summer draws the highest levels of classical music in the world. The local venues and other festivals complete the spectrum of music.

    4. Lecture series. The Aspen Institute, Aspen Center For Physics and other think tanks hold interesting lecture series.

    5. Events. There are tons of amazing events all year, including the X Games, snow polo, film festivals, hot air balloon festivals, Ruggerfest and more.
  • On July 18, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best Aspen food experiences?

    No vacation to Aspen would be complete without exploring the best food experiences the town has to offer. Here are Forbes Travel Guide's editors' suggestions for must-eat fare:

    1. Pine Creek Cookhouse. Nothing beats the Pine Creek Cookhouse in terms of a food experience. The backcountry restaurant is 14 miles up the Castle Creek Valley, three miles past the road closure in winter, so the only way to reach it is by horse-drawn sleigh or by cross-country skiing on trails. The trek to the restaurant will have you humming “Over the river and through the woods,” and that’s before those glasses of wine you’ll enjoy with your wild game meatloaf or grilled quail salad.

    2. Matsuhisa. On the other end of the spectrum, Matsuhisa, a Nobu restaurant, has some of the most sophisticated Japanese food anywhere. The food is so artfully presented, you’re almost afraid to eat it . You’ll find ultra-luxe favorites such as oysters on half shell or Ankimo pâté with caviar, as well as classic sushi and sashimi rolls.

    3. Cache Cache. Chances are good you’ll run into Lance Armstrong at Cache Cache, the Tour de France winner’s favorite Aspen restaurant. Other than its celebrity clientele, it’s known for its outstanding French cuisine and extensive wine collection. Located on Restaurant Row on East Hopkins Street, it’s a place to eat and be seen because it’s always crawling with people - both regular folks and celebs.

    4. Casa Tua. Even in the winter months, you can experience a bit of Miami heat at Casa Tua’s outpost in Aspen. Savor the taste of Italy among the jet-setting elite. You’ll find knockout staples such as grilled octopus with potatoes and an elaborate caviar service.

    5. Jimmy’s. Finally, there’s nothing like a late night meal at Jimmy’s (also on Restaurant Row), where the dining room is open until midnight, the tequila selection is mind-boggling and the menu serves up everything from crab cakes (among the best we’ve tasted on this side of the Continental Divide) to Jimmy Mac, the house’s signature jalapeño mac and cheese.
  • On May 24, 2012
    Dean Weiler answered the question: Dean Weiler

    What is Aspen’s restaurant scene like?

    Yes, it's true that it's a revolving door in Aspen's restaurant season with new hopefuls every year.  Stay tuned into it on www.eatAspen.com
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