When many people think of Aspen, the first thing to pop into their minds is probably skiing. Being one of the most popular ski resorts in the country, that makes sense. However, in the late spring and summer, Aspen is less crowded and nestled in one of the most beautiful settings in the West.
Arriving just prior to sunset on a Friday afternoon, acclimate yourself to both the climate and the scenic setting with a ride on the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain and enjoy sunset from the high-altitude sundeck. Afterwards, enjoy fine dining and good wine al fresco at Pacifica Seafood Brasserie (www.pacificaaspen.com), at the sophisticated Syzygy (www.syzygyrestaurant.com) or the long-time local favorite Pinons (www.pinons.net).
Saturday’s agenda emphasizes Aspen’s outdoor splendor. Take it all in on a sunrise tour aboard a hot air balloon in an hour-long experience offered by Above it All Balloon Company (www.aboveitallballoon.com). After enjoying the gorgeous views, you are treated to a champagne brunch. By the time you’re back in town, you can walk off the bubbly and baked goods at the Aspen Saturday Summer Market. Pick up some fresh picnic makings and enjoy them while on one of the myriad easily accessible scenic hikes. In the late afternoon, stroll downtown’s pedestrian-only streets or widen your circle for eclectic shopping. Grab a table at one of Aspen’s fine restaurants early to avoid crowds, and plan to spend the later hours at a nightlife venue like Jimmy’s (www.jimmysaspen.com), with its regular Saturday night hot Latin dance music, or at BellyUp Aspen (www.bellyupaspen.com) with its high-energy and eclectic array of live performers.
Enjoy sleeping in a little Sunday morning before heading back out to explore the majesty of Aspen. If you’re a golfer, there are several public courses around, and of course, the scenery is outstanding. However, if you can get an invite to the semi-private Snowmass Club (www.snowmassclub.com), the setting and particular challenges make for a distinct experience. There is also limited public admission in the afternoon, which is worth exploring. Otherwise, opt for an afternoon of your favorite outdoor activity be it mountain biking, fishing, hiking or photography. Aspen has it all. Close out your weekend away with an early dinner, preferably on a patio with a view, and you’ll wrap up a memorable trip.
Aspen offers a wide variety of accommodations for a relatively small area, but here are a few options you might want to consider.
Hotel Jerome: The lavish, AAA Four Diamond Award-winning Hotel Jerome features 94 richly appointed guest rooms and suites, several restaurants and the ever-popular J-Bar. Built in 1889 to emulate the great European hotels such as London’s fabled Claridge’s, it has retained that elegance. www.hoteljerome.rockresorts.com
The Little Nell: The Little Nell is Aspen’s only Five Star hotel, and recent renovations featuring the designs of famed designer Holly Hunt have only accentuated its elegance. Spectacular accommodations abound, ranging up to a selection of different suites, and all promise views from this unique slope-side setting. The Little Nell’s level of customer service is legendary. www.thelittlenell.com
Aspen Square Hotel: These condo rentals offer convenient location directly across the street from Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola, as well as comfortable condominium suites. A well-equipped kitchen, wood-burning fireplace, deluxe king or queen bedding, flat screen TV, central air-conditioning, private balcony and more highlight each unit. www.aspensquarehotel.com
At a Glance
Nestled high in the Elk Mountains branch of the Rockies, Aspen and its sister town of Snowmass Village service four major ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk – the highest concentration anywhere in Colorado.
Access: Several airlines service Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Aspen is a four-hour drive from Denver.
Population: Approx. 6,000
Climate: Rocky Mountain high altitude, low humidity, intense sunshine, temperature varies by season.
Main attraction: Outdoor sports year round, considered a ski mecca, busy festival season including the Food and Wine Classic in June.
Drive: Summer is the only time to traverse Independence Pass from Denver to Aspen, and it provides spectacular views and can be a bit faster than the longer route through Glenwood. To take this route, travel south from Copper Mountain exit off I-70 through Leadville.
Stay: Visitors will be lining up to see the elegant, newly renovated St. Regis Aspen Resort when it re-opens in mid-June.
Must See: John Denver Park features lyrics from the most popular songs of the country/folk music artist and one-time resident, inscribed in the creekside boulders.