My love for the storybook ski town of Aspen, nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado’s snow capped Rocky Mountains runs deep. Here 8,000-foot elevation is met with some of the world’s best skiing, snow-filled outdoor adventures, culinary experiences, top-notch hotels and the chicest après-ski scene to be found in America. Any wonder Aspen has long been the fave of the celebrity set. Enjoy my insider guide to the best places to stay and the coolest places to eat, drink, hang and people watch. Oh and as I double as a DJ, I’ve also created the perfect soundtrack for your alpine travels. Pop the bubbly and enjoy Après Ski x Travel Curator
Skiing is the obvious winter activity of choice in this town with 5,527 acres of terrain accessible across four mountains—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Aspen Mountain or “Ajax,” rises from downtown Aspen with steep blue and black terrain best suited for experienced skiers. Ski lessons aren’t necessary however to enjoy its views, as the Silver Queen Gondola accesses its 11,212-foot summit with a daytime eatery overlooking the Valley’s fourteener peaks. Aspen Highlands is also an expert-skewed mountain with a bowl that summits 12,392 feet and is accessible solely by hiking. Buttermilk and Snowmass are the more beginner-friendly mountains, however don’t let the greens underestimate, as there’s plenty of steeps and exciting terrain for any level skier. In the summer months, the town is alive with a lively roster of arts, music, and cultural events and the once snow-blanketed mountains are filled with wildflowers and accessible hiking and mountain biking trails.
The Best Places to Eat and Drink in Aspen
A newcomer in town by Miami-based celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, CHICA is not only bringing the heat to Aspen’s dining scene, but also its après, scoring the coveted mountainside space at the Residences at The Little Nell adjacent to the Silver Queen Gondola on Aspen Mountain. With locations in Miami and Vegas, Garcia brings her unique Latin-influenced menu to the mountains, incorporating smoke and spice into the cocktails, entrees and dessert. Staples not to be missed are the Al Pastor Ribs, Ember-Roasted PEI Mussels Cazuela and Lobster Mac & Cheese with Calabrian chili oil. Cocktails, including half-off Aperol Spritz, start flowing early in the afternoon on the après-ski deck outfitted with colorful banquettes and heaters with a DJ spinning on weekends as the sun sets behind the mountain.
Woody Creek Tavern
Aspen’s infamous watering hole Woody Creek Tavern —known for its Polaroid-plastered interior of memories of blurry nights’ past and the strong margaritas that induced them—recently underwent a face-lift with new ownership by restaurateurs Samantha and Craig Cordts-Pearce. The kitschy Western vibe remains along with the beloved Tex-Mex menu of enchiladas, burgers, and salsa platters, with new additions including locally-sourced ingredients and a forthcoming saloon-style bar. In the summertime, opt for the 45-minute, mostly downhill bike ride along the Rio Grande Trail (located behind Clark’s Market) that leads directly to the restaurant. In the chance you imbibe on too many margaritas (which is a likely story here), there are convenient “bike taxis” that will transport you and your bike back to town to avoid the tipsy uphill route home.
Locally-owned businesses are becoming few and far between in Aspen, so I’m a huge fan of Ellina by local sommelier Jill Carnevale, who runs this favorite Italian eatery in the heart of Aspen’s downtown. The U-shaped bar makes dining or drinking solo a welcome experience, while the rustic stone dining room is one of the coziest atmospheres to split several courses of house-made pasta. In the summertime, the restaurant expands to the brick courtyard of Aspen’s most picturesque outdoor mall with lighter summer dishes and locally-sourced ingredients squeezed into refreshing cocktails.
Pine Creek Cookhouse
Summer or winter, the journey to Pine Creek Cookhouse, a picturesque log-cabin restaurant nestled at the base of the snow-capped Elk Mountains, is one you’ll not soon forget. In the winter, strap on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes and make your way through the serene pine tree forests on one of the several groomed trails that lead to the tavern. For those resting their ski legs for the downhill, there’s also a horse-drawn sleigh to transport guests on a short ride with cozy blankets and hot cocoa. During the warmer months, the road is accessible by car, however earning your Hot Toddies and platters of smoked trout and Momo’s (stuffed Nepalese dumplings) is the whole point to this adventure-filled dining experience, so opt for biking or walking along the trail and taking in the scenery. It’s recommended to make a reservation for lunch, the eatery’s most popular meal, however, the uber-adventurous type opt for a dinner reservation and make their way under a full moon lighting the path.
When St. Barths made its way to the mountains in 2018 by way of the restaurateurs behind Bonito, the iconic restaurant overlooking Gustavia Harbor in the French West Indies Island of St. Barth, it elevated Aspen’s chicness to a new scale at Betula. The interior is decked out in soft winter whites and cozy couches and banquettes that make an evening watching the snow blanket the town while sipping handcrafted cocktails even more romantic. The menu is an eclectic mix of French-Caribbean cuisine of fresh ceviches mixed with warming winter rotisseries and house-made seafood risottos. After dinner, opt for a fireside nightcap with a Betula Rumtini (cardamom-infused rum, coffee liquor, fresh espresso, togarashi cacao, and hellfire bitters) in the restaurant’s living-room-style lounge, where DJs spin nightly and the laid-back atmosphere caps off a perfect Aspen day.
The Wine Bar at The Little Nell
In Aspen, any old glass of Cabernet just won’t do. The highly awarded sommelier team behind The Little Nell and its 20,000-bottle wine cellar opened its own après wine-tasting lounge with a banquette style seating that fits up to eight people and a DJ spinning vinyl daily from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. An equally fancy appetizer menu is served alongside the wine with caviar, seafood platters, fondue, and of course, the hotel’s truffle fries with a serious cult following.
Snow Lodge Supper Club
Montauk’s trendy summer hotspot, Surf Lodge has set up its own alpine outpost Snow Lodge Supper Club in the St. Regis Aspen Resort with a full lineup of nightly concerts from DJs and bands with cocktails served by New York’s Dante, voted “The World’s Best Bar”.
The Best Places to Stay in Aspen
The Little Nell
The iconic ski-in/ski-out hotel nestled at the base of Aspen Mountain has been attracting skiers and snow bunnies for over 30 years. The 92-room hotel has a unique U-shaped floor plan, meaning most of the rooms include balconies facing or viewing the surrounding Rocky Mountains. The furnishings are plush, the seating areas are comfy, and the palette of cream, blues, and grays are complemented by the hotel’s impressive contemporary art collection. All rooms include gas log fireplaces, smart TVs, spacious bathrooms with bathtubs, heated marble floors, and luggage unpacking services. The dining and après-ski options feel endless with the fine-dining Element 47, casual-yet-elegant Ajax Tavern, The Wine Bar, a speakeasy lounge, and 20,000-bottle wine cellar with private dining experiences available. In the winter, a full-service ski concierge assists with rentals and setting guests up with ski instructors, while keeping ski gear warm and dry overnight. In the summertime, the hotel hosts biking, white water rafting, and Jeep tours. Let’s just say, this hotel’s high-altitude reputation lives up to its name.
Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection
For a true taste of Aspen’s storied Western roots, check into the oldest-yet-chicest hotel in town. With a spa, speakeasy, outdoor curling court, and new-this-winter Felix Roasting Co. coffee shop designed by San Francisco-based Ken Fulk, you’ll have to drag yourself out of Hotel Jerome, Auberge Resorts Collection to hit the slopes (and that’s really saying something). But don’t fret, all your friends will come to you — the hotel’s Living Room bar with gallery walls of old Western portraits, leather seating, and a roaring fire is the coziest place to warm up after a day in the cold.
Limelight Hotel Aspen
Aspen’s longtime downtown hotel and most local-friendly—the après scene includes acoustic bands, cheap brews, and wood-fired pizzas in a large lobby lounge—recently underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation with modernized alpine-inspired interiors by NY-based design firm Stonehill Taylor including the addition of gas fireplaces in each guest room. Limelight Hotel Aspen also worked with international art curating firm, Eaton Fine Art, to build an extensive contemporary art collection and new retail space with in-room items for purchase. It’s kid-friendly (they even get their own hangout space with Pac-Man), has a great outdoor pool and hot tub, and is more affordable compared to the slopeside prices.
Viewline Resort Snowmass
The ski-in/ski-out access isn’t the only amenity making this the hottest new property in Snowmass Village. Viewline Resort Snowmass also debuts a new Ayurvedic spa with several Eastern and Western wellness treatments, heated outdoor pool, fitness center, several event spaces, ski concierge, and New-American style tavern, Stark’s Alpine Grill.
Off-Piste Adventures in Aspen
Explore Aspen’s Art Scene
Spend an afternoon gallery hopping through Aspen with stops at Baldwin Gallery, Harvey Preston, Lik Fine Art, and the Aspen Art Museum, with notable international exhibitions, community programs, and events rivaling that of MoMA or the Whitney Museum. Get a sense of the local art community at the Red Brick Center for the Arts with weekly artist studio visits and Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village with an extensive summer artist programming of visiting painters, sculptors, and mixed media artists from around the world.
Live for Live Music and Theater
The red brick facade of the Wheeler Opera House has been an Aspen landmark since 1889 and continues to house a full series of events including comedy festivals, film series, and live music performances of all genres. Late nights in Aspen are best spent at Belly Up, another Aspen institution with a weekly lineup of live concerts with several surprise guest appearances. Classical music lovers should save their trip to Aspen for the summer when the Aspen Music Festival and School puts on an eight-week-long concert series of over 300 music events ranging from orchestra performances to fully staged opera productions.
Best Places to Spa and Shop in Aspen
True Nature Healing Arts
When you need to unwind from the action in Aspen, head down valley to True Nature Healing Arts a wellness sanctuary and spa in Carbondale (one hour from Aspen) with an extensive menu of therapeutic treatments—acupuncture, reiki, reflexology, and fire-cupping—along with an energy healing campus complete with a reflexology pathway, Japanese soaking baths and organic café for healing inside and out.
For a quick fix to nurture your windburned skin, soothe sore leg muscles from skiing or boost your glow before dinner, head to the full-service WestEnd MedSpa on Main Street to enjoy a lengthy list of beautifying treatments and immune-boosting shots to acclimate to the altitude.
Pamper your skin and upgrade your loungewear at the chic O2 Aspen pilates and yoga studio with an adjacent spa and fitness-focused boutique all in one.
Pitkin County Dry Goods
In the chance the Aspen airport lost your luggage, or you didn’t anticipate how cold the mountain climate would be, head to Pitkin County Dry Goods an Aspen staple with stacks of designer denim, cashmere sweaters, oversized scarves, blouses, menswear, and mid-priced jewelry that suit any Aspen invitation.
After you’ve skilled up from the blues to the blacks, upgrade your ski wear at AETHER, a Los Angeles outpost destination for high-performing, functional, and stylish ski and outdoor attire for men and women. Ski kits not only include safety essentials for advanced skiers—avalanche beacons, high-tech wind and waterproof fabrics, accessible pockets, and helmet-friendly hoods—but are also beautifully designed and functional for off the slopes and urban adventures.
No trip to Aspen is complete without a stop at its most famous cowboy store and bar. Kemo Sabe is easy to spot and hear from a block away as the country music fills the street and the vibe is always rowdy with groups getting fitted for custom cowboy hats and sipping whiskey while perusing the extensive jewelry collection and cowboy belts, flasks, boots and other accessories.