If you’ve started a 2016 ski-trip list, Aspen should be at the very top. The turn of the calendar has ushered in a wave of new downtown boutiques, top tables, pro ski events, and tabletop dancing at Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Highlands Mountain, where epic powder days are capped with champagne-fueled dance-offs.
Attitude at Altitude
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at Aspen Highlands debuted a $1.1 million renovation this ski season, with coveted reservations often booking out 30 days in advance. The restaurant, where the 70’s-era Highlands Ski Patrol would famously jump the length of the original outdoor deck, bridges a storied past with a subtly modernized present. The facelift features expanded indoor seating, a larger deck with Instagram-enviable views, and a curated collection of black-and-white vintage photos courtesy of the Aspen Historical Society. If you’re looking to join the rowdier set, book the late seating (2 p.m.), known for copious amounts of Veuve Clicquot and tabletop dance-offs. Nosh on guilt-free raclette and fondue post-“Bowl” hike (the 48-degree vertical trek to the Highland Bowl is considered an adrenaline-infused Aspen rite of passage).
Work hard, play hard is the mantra of most ambitious Aspen locals and visitors. Whether in search of a quick morning fix-me-up after a rowdy night of last calls, an oxygen boost to combat Aspen’s pesky altitude, or sports recovery after tackling Aspen Mountain’s Ridge of Bell run, the new Rescue Lounge Aspen has your back. Helmed by a team of medical professionals, this elevated remedy room serves up oxygen therapy, IV hydration therapy (hangovers, be damned) and booster shots, as well as a doctor and traveling team of nurses. With this high-dose delivery system of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and anti-oxidants injected directly into the bloodstream, you’ll be back at 39 Degrees in time for après ski.
Nello Alpine, opened by restaurateur Nello Balan, has staked its claim just steps from the Silver Queen Gondola at the base of Ajax Mountain. Expect Italian cuisine in the mountain-chic dining room, while the bar and outdoor terrace serves fare from iconic global mountain ranges—Los Andes, the Alps, Mt. Fuji, and the Colorado Rockies. Lasso another top table at David Burke’s Aspen Kitchen, which opened New Year’s week to local applause. With Executive Chef Matt O’Neill at the helm (formerly of Ajax Tavern), Burke’s Aspen outpost is touted for a seasonally inspired menu, in-house, dry-aged steaks controlled in a room lined with Himalayan salt, and a rooftop terrace with 180-degree vistas. Downstairs, sip alpine-inspired nightcaps at the Rec Room Aspen, a retro nightclub inspired by a ‘70s basement party; neon Pac-Man games et al. Launched by club trailblazers Amy Sacco, John Meadow, and Bobby Rossi of Rec Room Miami, the Aspen outpost pays homage to town’s nefarious nightlife, including a Steve Martin-themed vignette (Martin was a regularly staged Aspen musician in the ‘70s), and a dizzying rotation of visiting celebrity DJs who spin tunes from a collection of 5,000 vintage vinyl records.
AETHER Apparel makes its mark on Aspen’s downtown core with a sleek line of outerwear and technical performance apparel for men and women. Launched by former movie producers turned L.A.-based designers Palmer West and Jonah Smith (whose production credits include Requiem for a Dream), AETHER is the brand du jour this ski season, and several well-known locals have been spotted sporting the Peak Down jacket. Located next to the historic Red Onion and Shakti Shala Yoga Boutique, you can shop, drink, and practice your warrior pose all in the same outing.
Stay and Play
Little Nell’s new adventure ski camp, Click-In With Chris Davenport (March 6-9, 2016), warrants serious bragging rights. The winter counterpart to the successful Clip-In With Christian Vande Velde—a summer cycling camp for road warriors—by day guests take private powder-cat tours on the backside of Ajax Mountain, chase ungroomed corduroy, and learn tips and tricks by Davenport. Additional star power includes Vande Velde and George Hincapie as co-hosts—intermediate skiers with a contagious passion for play. Come night, wine and dine with The Little Nell’s master sommeliers, who will uncork the town’s rarest vintages in the hotel’s treasured wine cellar.