Ski, Savor and Sojourn: How to Plan the Most Unapologetically Aspen Experience

Expect to be wowed by Aspen's thrilling ski runs and high-end stays, a true paradise for adrenaline junkies.

Image: Snow-covered mountains at daytime.
The Little Nell. The Little Nell

Aspen, perched at the southern tip of the Roaring Fork Valley, is where Colorado’s wild heart meets upscale flair. Each mountain here dishes out its own thrill: Aspen Mountain’s deep powder, Snowmass’ sweeping groomers, Buttermilk’s progressive parks and Highland Bowl’s rigorous slopes. It’s not just about the terrain at Aspen Snowmass—it’s the exhilarating ride each run offers.

The big news this season is over at Aspen Mountain (also known as Ajax): the debut of Hero’s. The terrain once known as Pandora’s has transformed into Hero’s, an ambitious, 153-acre expansion featuring a state-of-the-art quad lift. This bold development does more than just enlarge the snow-sure slopes; it’s a forward-thinking response to the challenges posed by climate change, designed to bolster Aspen’s renowned ski seasons well into the future.

Aspen’s game-changing move with Hero’s at Ajax Mountain epitomizes why it stands out as a top-tier destination. Here, the fusion of luxury and heart-pounding ski action sets the stage for an unparalleled winter experience. Expect to be wowed by Aspen’s thrilling ski runs and high-end stays, a true paradise for adrenaline junkies. Beyond the slopes, Aspen amps up the experience with outstanding dining, exclusive shopping and a cosmopolitan cultural scene. The winter season is packed with action, featuring the high-energy Wintersköl and X Games (both in January), and February’s star-powered Palm Tree Music Festival. Gear up and hit the heights of Aspen adventure with this essential guide for the ultimate winter thrill.

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Where to Stay

Image: Bedroom interior of Mollie Aspen.
Mollie Aspen. Mollie Aspen

Mollie Aspen

111 S Garmisch St, Aspen, CO 81611

Slated for a December 2023 launch, Mollie rises from the site of the former Mollie Gibson Lodge. This 68-room boutique hotel swaps the alpine chalet aesthetic for “Japandi,” a fusion of Japanese simplicity and Scandinavian functionality. The real game-changer? Head to the rooftop for some serious downtime, whether you’re diving into the pool or sipping a masterfully mixed cocktail. And with Gin & Luck (from the masterminds behind mixology innovators Death & Co.) at the helm, expect a culinary experience that’s nothing short of legendary.

Image: The Little Nell exterior.
The Little Nell. SHAWN O'CONNOR

The Little Nell

675 E Durant Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

The Little Nell hits you with low-key luxury right at Aspen Mountain’s base. Step under the porte-cochère and enter a world where top-tier bellhops hustle to get you settled. The lobby is a portal to Aspen’s high life—think a cozy fireplace lounge, seasonally rotating art and views of the posh outdoor scene. Open since 1989, The Little Nell stands tall in the elite ski resort league, shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Verbier and St. Moritz.

Image: Aspen Meadows Resort exterior.
Aspen Meadows Resort. Eric Stein

Aspen Meadows Resort

845 Meadows Rd, Aspen, CO 81611

This year, the Aspen Meadows Resort unveiled the hotly anticipated revamp led by Suomi Design Works of JFK’s TWA Hotel fame. Set within Aspen Institute’s vast grounds, the retreat now features 98 suites decked out with a blend of natural textures and a Bauhaus-inspired palette. Design aficionados will fawn over the mix of restored mid-century classics like Saarinen tables and Bertoia chairs alongside custom beds and bold lighting. Foodies also have something to look forward to with a new restaurant and bar helmed by chef Rachel Saxton, slated to open in January. 

Image: Bedroom interior of The Limelight Hotel Aspen.
The Limelight Hotel Aspen. The Limelight Hotel Aspen

The Limelight Hotel Aspen

330 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611

Fresh from a 2021 revamp, this property is one of the more family-friendly spots in town, boasting 126 rooms, suites and twin rooftop terraces. Spearheaded by New York’s Stonehill Taylor, the renovation amps up the Limelight’s game as Aspen’s go-to spot for relaxed luxury. Think saturated colors, natural materials like walnut and white oak, plus metallic and plush accents crafting a welcoming yet upscale feel. 

What to See

Image: Exterior of Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies.
Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies. Bernard Jazzar

Resnick Center for Herbert Bayer Studies

610 Gillespie Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

Spanning 7,000 square feet, this museum dives into the world of Herbert Bayer, an Austrian-American trailblazer and Bauhaus art school alum. Bayer, who called Aspen home from 1946 to 1974, was a key player in molding the city’s post-war growth. He’s the brains behind the Aspen Institute’s 40-acre layout, a hub for big-ticket events like the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Aspen Music Festival and School. Plus, he’s the guy who created the Aspen Skiing Company’s original leaf logo—a symbol that’s become synonymous with the city’s ski culture.

Image: Ashcroft town in Aspen.
Ashcroft. Paul Jebara

Nearby Ghost Towns: Ashcroft and Independence

Just 10 miles from Aspen, Ashcroft Ghost Town and Independence Ghost Town offer a dive into the Wild West’s storied past. Ashcroft, once a bustling silver rush town with saloons and miners, now stands as a relic of rapid booms and busts. It’s an eerie yet fascinating journey through Colorado’s mining history. Nearby, Independence Ghost Town echoes a similar fate. Founded in 1879, it flourished briefly before its decline. Famous for the 1899 ski escape, where miners skied to safety on homemade skis, it now invites adventurers to explore the rugged remnants of a once-thriving mining community. Both towns offer a unique glimpse into the high-mountain miners’ lives, blending history with adventure.

Image: Exterior of Aspen Art Museum.
Aspen Art Museum. GC Images

Aspen Art Museum

637 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

The Aspen Art Museum, a standout in modern art circles, is housed in a striking Shigeru Ban design. It features six galleries and a rooftop garden, firmly placing it at the forefront of contemporary art. This isn’t just any museum—it’s a deep dive into cutting-edge creativity and sustainable design. Their café, run by The Farmer & Chef, serves up dishes like caviar-topped salmon toast alongside a strong lineup of wines and local beers. Make sure to head up to the rooftop on ski season Saturdays for drinks and unbeatable Aspen views.

Where to Eat

Image: Interior of Sant Ambroeus.
Sant Ambroeus. Sant Ambroeus.

Sant Ambroeus

520 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

Sant Ambroeus brings a slice of Milan to Aspen. This coffee bar and eatery is a fusion of rugged mountain aesthetics and slick Italian design courtesy of Giampiero Tagliaferri Studio. With a setting that features bold Mario Bellini sofas and vintage Carlo Ratti chairs, it’s a place where you can kick back in style. 

Image: Duck dish from Bosq.
Bosq. Karl Wolfgang

Bosq

312 S Mill St, Aspen, CO 81611

Led by local chef-owner Barclay Dodge, Bosq is a culinary force in downtown Aspen. It’s one of only five restaurants in Colorado to bag a Michelin star in 2023, making it a top pick for food enthusiasts. Dodge turns local foraging into a high-end culinary experience—you can pick your own adventure with their à la carte options or dive into a curated experience with their four- to seven-course prix fixe menu, complete with wine pairings.

The Wild Fig

305 S Mill St, Aspen, CO 81611

The Wild Fig, an Aspen classic for two decades, sticks to its roots with an unchanged menu and vibe, even as it shifts next door. This spot is a favorite for those craving Mediterranean flavors, with a lineup featuring the best of Spain, France, Italy and Greece, zeroing in on top-notch seafood. The place sports a well-thought-out wine list that pairs seamlessly with each dish. It’s got the feel of a no-frills Parisian brasserie, complete with French subway tiles, bistro mirrors and a standout marble bar. 

Image: Dishes from Mawa's Kitchen.
Mawa’s Kitchen. Darren Bridges

Mawa’s Kitchen

305 Aspen Airport Business Center F, Aspen, CO 81611

Mawa McQueen, a global culinary veteran, has been an Aspen staple for over two decades. At the heart of her McQueen Hospitality empire, located just outside town, this James Beard semifinalist nominee serves up a fusion of healthy and gourmet French-African meals. This season, she’s adding a new flavor to the mix with the opening of Mawita, a Latin-inspired eatery joining the ranks alongside The Crepe Shack in Snowmass Base Village.

Cache Cache

205 S Mill St, Aspen, CO 81611

Since 1987, Cache Cache has been a cornerstone of Aspen’s dining scene, mixing classic steakhouse vibes with contemporary culinary craft. Chef Chris Lanter brings his French cooking chops to the table, focusing on local ingredients for dishes ranging from steak to rotisserie chicken. And don’t skip out on their standout mac-and-cheese or the extensive wine list, with over 100 bottles.

Where to Drink

Image: Interior of bar area at Hooch.
Hooch. Hooch

Hooch

301 E Hopkins Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

Hooch is Aspen’s answer to the classic speakeasy: think top-tier cocktails under cool chandeliers with a chill seating setup. The bar’s got a lengthy cocktail menu with over two dozen choices, perfect for both cocktail connoisseurs and those just looking for a good drink. It’s a place where traditional mixes get a modern twist, and each drink comes with a symbol guide for easy picking. 

Ponyboy Aspen

550 S Spring St, Aspen, CO 81611

Ponyboy, the nightlife heavyweight from Brooklyn, is shaking up Aspen’s scene in a big way by teaming up with W Aspen for the second year. Known for its trendsetting vibes back in Greenpoint, Ponyboy brings its mixology mastery and cool factor to the ski town. spelling a new chapter for the upscale hotel with Ponyboy’s signature urban swagger.

Image: Interior of Bar area at J-Bar.
J-Bar. J-Bar

J-Bar

330 E Main St, Aspen, CO 81611

Situated within the opulent Hotel Jerome, J-Bar has stood as an Aspen classic since 1889. This saloon-style spot is anchored by a vintage maple bar, tin ceilings and leather seats—perfect for enjoying a well-mixed cocktail and bar eats like the famous J-Bar Burger. Don’t miss the historical touch: a register featuring the names of every bartender who’s served here over the past century.

Image: Exterior of Woody Creek Tavern.
Woody Creek Tavern. Woody Creek Tavern

Woody Creek Tavern

2858 Upper River Rd, Woody Creek, CO 81656

Just a stone’s throw from downtown Aspen, Woody Creek Tavern throws you into a world where quirky meets classic. Picture a tavern lined with Polaroids, heirlooms and antlers from top to bottom. The menu? It’s a wild mix—think no-frills bar grub alongside sophisticated picks like German Veal Schnitzel and Colombian Cazuela de Mariscos. The drink lineup is just as diverse: locals here swing from downing crisp Coors Lights to splurging on top-shelf wines. 

Where to Shop

Kemo Sabe

217 S Galena St, Aspen, CO 81611

Kemosabe is your go-to for authentic Western gear in Aspen. With walls lined with cowboy boots and a ceiling decked out in hats you can personalize with your initials, it’s the real deal. It’s more than just a spot for typical tourist finds, with a dizzying array of Pendleton blankets and a solid collection of salvaged turquoise jewelry.

LD Ceramix

630 East Hyman Ave. #104, Aspen, CO

Ceramic artist Lori Dresner’s new studio showcases stoneware that’s as original as Aspen itself, breaking the mold of the traditional potter with large vessels, mugs and arty plates and platters. Dresner, who found her passion for clay at nine years old, has honed her craft with degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and the University of Michigan, and an MFA in video arts from the Art Institute of Chicago. After globetrotting from Chicago to Paris, Dresner settled in Colorado in 2008 to focus on her art.

Image: Interior of Bayer Center Store.
Bayer Center Store. Brandon Huttenlocher

Bayer Center Store

610 Gillespie Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

The Bayer Center’s new shop is a modernist’s treasure trove, showcasing a dynamic array of Herbert Bayer prints spanning different eras, alongside a curated selection of Bauhaus-inspired goods including a mix of home essentials, jewelry and textiles, plus original Bayer prints. 

Daniel’s Antiques

431 E Hyman Ave, Aspen, CO 81611

Family-run Daniel’s Antiques is Aspen’s go-to for a unique blast from the past. Walk in and it’s like time-traveling, with a curation of items like pristine WWII binoculars priced at $65,000, vintage Louis Vuitton trunks and late 1800s Black Forest sculptures.

Ski, Savor and Sojourn: How to Plan the Most Unapologetically Aspen Experience