With its glamorous elegance contrasting with a quaint, small town vibe, Aspen, Colorado is a destination that beckons any time of year. Nestled nearly 2,438 meters above sea level, the picturesque mountain town also plays host to one of the most prestigious snow polo competitions—World Snow Polo Championship. Annually, this major event attracts top-seeded polo players and high-profile spectators from around the globe, all looking to relish the multi-faceted attractions that this former mining town-turned-chic luxury destination can offer.
The breathtaking wilderness of the Colorado Rockies makes the perfect terrain for snowy adventures. Offering consistently great weather, Aspen boasts of four mountains to serve as a playground for alpine sports. Snowmass is bigger than the other three Aspen areas combined, presenting nearly 1,400 skiable hectares and approximately 240,000 meters of trails suitable for various skill levels. Buttermilk is a relaxed spot for families and new skiers, with almost three-quarters of its runs rated either green circles or blue squares. The availability of shallow training slopes in this area also makes it easy for the youngest skiers to safely enjoy the sport. For a burst of adrenaline, expert skiers should head to Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands with their difficult grades of blue squares and black diamonds, as well as double or triple black diamond runs.
Whether having aced a black diamond slope or skidded down a bunny hill, strenuous activities warrant an invitation to partake of tasty tipples and to kick up your heels as the setting sun paints the mountaintops with a pinkish gold palette. A beloved part of skiing culture, Après-ski is an indispensable tradition that is nearly as old as the sport itself. As a globally-recognized skiing destination, Aspen is not bereft of salient Après-ski scenes, making mountain merry-making in this part of the world a much more elevated affair.
Perched 3,300 meters above sea level, Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro occupies a modest former ski patrol shack on the pinnacle of Aspen Highlands. The fabled enterprise has a long history of bringing the après-ski party to greater heights, offering an indulgent experience doused with copious amounts of champagne and bubbling raclette griddles.
Situated in a side entrance of the historic Hotel Jerome, J-Bar remains as Aspen’s social hub. With its lively yet casual atmosphere evocative of the Old West, this 19th-century classic in the heart of downtown Aspen is easily one of the best après-ski spots. Cozy, dimly-lit interiors play host to an eclectic crowd of ski bums and socialites enjoying vintage-inspired cocktails, craft beer, and arguably the best burgers Aspen has to offer.
Escobar is a heavy hitter in Aspen’s Après-ski options, serving up an incredibly sexy refuge for liberations and libations. Named after the infamous drug lord, the subterranean space’s heady mix of electronic lounge anthems and overflowing booze are almost single-handedly responsible for maintaining the ski town’s notorious reputation for shameless revelry. Climb into the shadow box behind the DJ booth or twirl around the stripper pole for exhibitionist inclinations. No worries: what happens in Escobar, stays in Escobar.
While Aspen has maintained its allure as a popular ski destination, it also earned a reputation in the global culinary scene with its delicious epicurean selections. The gastronomic diversity owes itself to the edible innovations of the town’s vibrant community of locals and migrants, all coming together as a delicious melting pot of dining possibilities.
Head to Matsuhisa, the intimate yet extraordinary outpost of the Nobu mini empire, for novel Japanese cuisine accentuated with whispers of South American influences. Special savories include a remarkably fresh yellowfin tuna sashimi with lashings of jalapeño heat, tiradito options enhanced by a masterful blend of Japanese and Peruvian flavor profiles, and the invigorating umami of a Limestone Broiled Black Cod marinated in Miso.
For a decidedly worldly menu, visit Bosq, Chef Barclay Dodge’s luscious homage to his hometown. His 30-year culinary experience has enabled the renowned culinary genius to coax phenomenal flavors and textures from fresh ingredients sourced directly from local farms, artisans, and foragers. Essential samplings include grilled turnips heightened by hazelnut miso, salted plums, pine salt, delicately smoked slabs of king salmon delightfully drizzled with pumpkin seed sauce, and divinely oriental servings of Peking duck.
Cap off your Aspen holiday with an exquisite meal at Element 47, a name that pays tribute to silver, the precious metal that first put Aspen on the map. Tucked away in The Little Nell, Aspen’s premier luxury accommodation, the James Beard nominee offers a stellar experience of contemporary Colorado cuisine complemented by a dizzying array of vintages and wines from their underground cellar. Standout picks include a full-bodied Wagyu tartare intermingling with the assertive yet earthy tones of gruyere and purple mustard, a decadent torchon of Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Pistachio Sponge bread served with sweet roasted pears and parsnips, and a Halibut that remains redolent of its oceanic origins served with a velvety beurre blanc.
The breathtaking natural landscape and storied past shaped Aspen’s culture. From its roots as a forlorn Victorian-era mining village, the area has since reinvented itself as an exclusive resort town, famous as an alpine capital of creativity.
To explore Aspen’s industrial and agricultural history, visit the Holden/Marolt Mining & Ranching Museum. It is located on the western edge of Aspen, the site of the largest industrial complex in the history of Pitkin County, the former Holden Mining and Smelting Company facility. Visitors can peruse restored buildings like a miners-cabin-turned-Victorian-home, a barn, and an outhouse. These architectural artefacts offer glimpses of a town caught between prospecting and prosperity and the community of European immigrants who helped shape the area.
The Aspen Art Museum is a sophisticated space whose size belies its role as a formidable catalyst in the contemporary art scene. Boasting of a Shigeru Ban-designed building that is as much a work of art as its contents, guests can soak in some of the world’s best contemporary art. Their rotating roster of exhibits feature artists like Yayoi Kusama, Yves Klein, and Miranda July.
The core of Aspen’s culture has always been centered on the corner of Hyman Avenue and Mill Street. Established in 1889, the Wheeler Opera House is considered a cultural icon of Aspen. The magnificent stone structure, designed by Willoughby J. Edbrooke, features a red brick façade with a mélange of elements from the Romanesque Revival and Italianate architectural styles. Today, the historic venue is a premier entertainment spot with an impressive lineup of concerts, movies, festivals, lectures, community events, opera, and more.