ASPEN - COLORADO
Aspen - Colorado - Luxury Travel Magazine
|By: Jenny Caspersonn, Issue 43 – Winter 2010|
|(Aspen – Colorado, United States of America) |
|AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S ULTIMATE SKI RESORTS ASPEN HAS IT ALL. JENNY CASPERSONN RETURNS TO ASPEN’S DRY POWDER SNOW, CULINARY DELIGHTS, SHOPPING AND GLAMOROUS APRÈS.|
|It is said that the Ute Indians, the original occupants of Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, put a curse on those who visited the region to always return. Some may call it a curse. I call it re-booking for next year.|
To many, Aspen epitomizes the ultimate in ski resorts: scenic, glamorous with the dry powder snow for which Colorado is famous. Aspen blends its charming history as an old silver mining town with the splendid comforts of a high-end snow destination and completes the package with quality skiing across a choice of four mountains.
The Ute Indians occupied the “Shining Mountains” of the Roaring Fork Valley for centuries until the discovery of silver in the late 1800s saw Aspen become a prosperous mining town. After the silver boom Aspen entered the “quiet years” when the population dropped to just 700 people. It was in the 1940s that Aspen’s potential as a ski destination was recognised and in 1947 Aspen Mountain opened with the world’s longest ski lift. Back then the chair lift ride was 45 minutes and lift tickets cost a couple of dollars. These days there’s automated bar code gate access, gondola hill uplifts and the very latest in accommodation, dining and retail experiences.
Aspen is at its busiest for the Christmas New Year period but its appeal is constant throughout the season. Australian families have long populated the slopes there traditionally visiting in the Australian January school holidays but Aspen Spring skiing is a joy. Enjoying the oft-repeated boast of Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine a year, skiing in late February and March when the temperature is up but the crowds are down is hard to beat. On my latest family holiday we chanced a pre Christmas mid December visit. Mindful of the risk of poor snow but constrained by kids’ school commitments we took the opportunity to explore Aspen “pre-season”. We were not disappointed. Fortunately generous snowfalls arrived just as we did and thereafter followed a week of perfect sunshine, deserted slopes and low rates. Restaurant and activity reservations were not necessary and cheery low-key locals inhabited the town before the tourists jetted in. The energy of impending Christmas celebrations was clearly evident but the prices and crowds were not.
The town itself is clustered prettily around the base of Aspen Mountain which offers a steep mix of 76 glade runs, steeps and cruisy groomed runs, over 673 acres. Be sure to look for the quaint snowy shrines to various celebrities hidden in the trees; John Denver, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe are there. Accommodation in town ranges from lodges, condominiums and hotels, with the famous Little Nell in premier position at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola. Little Nell’s 86 rooms and suites have recently undergone a US18$million facelift by designer Holly Hunt. The look is contemporary residential and the materials are elegant and inviting – stone, iron and timber - but not rustic. Not a log in sight except in the fireplaces.
Just metres away the Nell’s new relation, Residences at The Little Nell, is offering another kind of luxury. Enormous three and four bedroom residences are available for rental and sale. The proportions are grand and the handsome appointments very mountain-inspired, with exposed timber beams and imposing stone fireplaces. The series of rooftop heated pools are irresistible after a day on the mountain and afford a lovely 360-degree panoramic vista of the town. The Residences operate like a hotel providing a seamless ski in/ski out snow experience enhanced no end by the charming and efficient ski concierge crew. No boot too tight, no glove too wet, it’s all magically taken care of while skiers sip warm teas and hot chocolates and kids raid the freshly baked cookies. An elegant complimentary après ski lounge is available for guests and friends and, when it’s time to move, a driver will whisk guests around town in one of the Residences’ sleek black Cadillac Escalades.
A few blocks away The Gant remains a favourite for Australian ski families. With a range of two, three and handy four bedroom condos, this complex has a generous pool and spa area as well as conference facility. The Gant bus is something of an Aspen institution ferrying guests efficiently around the haunts of Aspen.
Just a few miles down the road Aspen Highlands enjoys the status of the locals’ favourite mountain. The Highlands bowl, with its summit hike of 12,392 feet, is not for the faint-hearted. Lunch at the Cloud Nine Bistro should be an inclusion on any Aspen visitor’s agenda. It’s located in an old ski patrol hut at an elevation of 10,900 feet with outside deck and cozy inside seating. Nighttime snow cat visits are available but best to go daytime to enjoy the 40-mile jaw-dropping vistas of the Maroon Bell peaks. The European menu featuring items such as wild boar chop and elk soup is a carnivore’s delight but perhaps the highlight was, long after the lifts had closed, being escorted down an empty mountain at dusk by the obliging ski patrollers.
Buttermilk Mountain attracts beginners and leisurely skiers with its open trails and gentle hills but it is also home to ESPN Winter X Games and boasts an award winning pipe and terrain park.
Snowmass, the fourth of the Aspen Mountains, is the ideal destination for families with kids. The mountain has a fantastic range of slopes and family-friendly accommodation and is just minutes by road via shuttle from Aspen town centre. A complete redevelopment of the Snowmass Base Village has been undertaken including the US$17million Kids Treehouse facility. But don’t be fooled by Snowmass’s reputation as a kid-friendly snow park. With 3,132 acres of terrain Snowmass is the second largest ski field in the US and at 4,406 feet it has the highest vertical rise in the country. It offers majestic skiing and with the completion of the new Viceroy Hotel, a new dimension of upscale chic ski in/ski out hotel accommodation. The Viceroy has a welcoming contemporary Lobby Bar and outstanding dining in the Eight K Restaurant. At the Viceroy’s impressive Spa the Ute curse was at it again with Ute Indian Ritual a two-hour bliss-out signature treatment guaranteed to entice a return visit.
The truth is Aspen has so much to offer on so many levels tailoring events and activities to suit all. Ski and snowboard programs created especially for women such as the Girlfriend Getaways and Women’s Edge Extreme Camps are designed to develop skills and confidence in all abilities from beginners through to Double Black Diamond daredevils, and Gay Ski Week runs in January. In the evenings Aspen has a plethora of restaurants and bars for all budgets and tastes from the fine dining of Montagna at Little Nell to great milkshakes and fun of Boogie’s Diner clothing warehouse and restaurant, to the amazing Japanese food at Matsuhisa. The Sky Hotel’s buzzy 39 Degrees bar has great bar snacks and is a perfect kick-off for an evening out. There’s the Ajax Tavern where the martinis are way too good or for something more relaxed a fireside drink in the Lobby Bar at the St Regis features live music on some nights. High-end retail includes Prada, Burberry and Dior to name just a few with fine art, antiques stores and ski outfitters into the mix.
I first discovered Aspen as a carefree twenty something in 1982. I’ve been back many times whenever the opportunity has arisen. On every visit my Aspen experience was slightly different but always enchanting, leaving me wanting to return. A curse they say? No way, that’s a blessing.
|Residences at The Little Nell|
|The Gant Aspen |
|Viceroy Hotel Snomass |
|GETTING THERE: |
|V Australia offers direct flights from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to Los Angeles. Connecting flights are also available from other destinations across the Virgin Blue Airlines Group and throughout the US on interline partners. Aspen/Snowmass is accessible by two airports in the mountains – Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (3 miles from Aspen) and Eagle County Airport (70 miles from Aspen).|