How to Aspen in 2021
Aspen is where outdoor living meets extravagance and feels like something we all are craving right now. Nestled in the Roaring Fork Valley of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, Aspen has something to offer travelers every season- hiking in the summer, skiing in the winter, and beauty every second of the day.
With four ski resorts and expansive terrain to explore on snowshoes or cross-country skis, Aspen is a major winter outdoor recreation hub. Plus, after you come in from the cold, you can warm up at the chicest après-ski scene in the country.
Here’s our take on weekend trip to Aspen. Note that Pitkin County, which includes Aspen, is currently requiring all visitors to obtain a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before arriving (or quarantine for 10 days), and sign a traveler affidavit agreeing to an array of local coronavirus precautions and rules. Don't forget to read the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines before you head out as well.
December to early April, Aspen is all about skiing and snowboarding at its four resorts—Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass—which have varying terrain types and difficulty levels (as well as lessons if you need a refresher). You can ski right into downtown from Aspen Mountain, known locally as “Ajax,” which has 64 miles and 3,267 vertical feet of terrain, and end at Snow Lodge for an apres cocktail. If you want to try all four mountains, you can choose from several multi-mountain ski passes. For a backcountry-esque adventure that’s still in-bounds, try hiking up to the 12,392-foot summit of Highland Bowl, then skiing the double black diamond terrain down—you’ll want to be in peak physical shape and be an experienced skier for this one.
Then comes the shopping… a trip (or two) to Kemo Sabe is a right of passage during any trip to Aspen for hat, boots and jewelry, then wander through luxury brand stores like Prada, Gucci, and Ralph Lauren lining the walkable brick streets downtown. To round out your shopping trip, browse for unexpected treasures—like a vintage Louis Vuitton suitcase or a pair of World War II binoculars—at Daniel’s Antiques. Explore Aspen’s robust arts and culture scene by strolling through the Aspen Art Museum and the many galleries around town, including the Gonzo Gallery and the Cha Cha Gallery.
Get a sense of Aspen’s natural environment with dinner at Bosq, where chef and co-owner Barclay Dodge creates dishes and cocktails highlighting local ingredients he foraged himself in the surrounding wilderness. If you can’t get a table (try to make a reservation at least two weeks in advance), Bosq also has a delicious takeaway menu. Batula is another favorite- with live a live DJ spinning melodic tunes every night, and a dining room filled with beautiful people, plan for an all night dinner and drinks.
For lunch, stop by White House Tavern and order the spinach artichoke dip and a crispy chicken sandwich. If you’re in the mood for a wine fueled cozy den of crepes and fundue, head to French Alpine Bistro. Breakfast or brunch (depending on how late you get up) at Bear Den Aspen. If you’re heading out for a day outdoors, stock up on artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and pickles from Meat and Cheese, a hybrid restaurant and specialty food store.
Hotel Jerome has been an Aspen landmark since 1889, and the hotel’s rich 130-year history, coupled with its stunning design and serive, makes it a ‘must stay’. Centrally located downtown, it offers the perfect blend of modern luxury and historic Old West charm in its 99 guest rooms, complete with mounted wooden deer heads and burnished leather bed frames. Post up in the lobby living room for fireside wines and people watching.
The Little Nell is another Aspen icon, offering high-end accommodations and ski-in/ski-out access to Aspen Mountain for guests in its 92 rooms. Even if you don’t stay there, at least stop by for a glass of wine at the new Wine Bar at The Nell or a steaming mug of their popular hot chocolate, made with rich Dutch cocoa.
Aspen has everything so if you’re needing a refresh on wardrobe or travel kit, it’s the perfect place to pull a ‘forgot to pack’. During COVID times, be sure to pack your face mask (you’re required to wear it everywhere in public), and hand sanitizer.