Photo Courtesy of Matt Power
Aspen is known for its winter glitz and glam, but it also has a rich cultural atmosphere and offers travelers the ultimate outdoor lifestyle. Visitors to Aspen will find a Aspen has big-city mentality in a small-town casual setting, with world-class festivals, renowned shopping, and incredible cuisi…ne, all against the backdrop of picturesque mountains. With plethora of outdoor delights available—skiing and snowboarding in the winter, hiking and biking in the summer—you’ll never be at a loss for things to do.
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Aspen is a world-class ski resort in an area with an arid climate. That means fluffy powder in the winter, warm days and cool nights in the summer, and 300 days of sunshine. Ski season begins on Thanksgiving and runs through mid-April. For the best deal on a ski vacation package, book your trip for early December or April. The epic powder days come in late February and March. Summer season kicks off in mid-June, when the town is bustling with activities and festivals, and starts winding down in September. Late July is a beautiful time to see the wildflowers in full bloom, and in September the mesmerizing foliage on brilliant yellow groves of aspen trees covers the hillsides. May, October, and November are considered the mud months, when many stores and restaurants close down and locals go on vacation. Even though not as vivacious as in summer or winter, Aspen is still a wonderful experience in these months—and they are definitely the cheapest times of year to visit.
Aspen Airport is three miles from downtown Aspen. Most hotels offer airport pickup service, and there is always a line of taxis waiting in the arrival area, ready to whisk you into town for around $24.
Most things in Aspen are within walking distance. RFTA, the public transportation system, is another great resource. It has free routes throughout the different neighborhoods of Aspen and to Snowmass Village.
In summer, another way to get around town is to rent a bike from We-Cycle. The bikes are available at stations throughout Aspen and, with credit card authorization, can be used for free for rides of 30 minutes. Anything longer and you'll be charged an extra fifty cents per minute.
Car rentals are available for day trips to remote hiking trails, a ride over Independence Pass, or a quick trip to Vail or the surrounding areas. Stay Aspen Snowmass offers a wealth of information about accommodations and can help you book your entire vacation package.
A ride up the Silver Queen Gondola can’t be beat. Get a bird’s-eye view of Aspen as you travel 3,267 vertical feet to the top of Aspen Mountain. Once on top, lounge at the sundeck as you take in the views of the Elk Mountain Range and its majestic snowcapped mountains.
A restaurant has to be good to survive in Aspen, given all the top-notch competition. Using fresh ingredients and supporting local producers are every chef’s mantras here. Classic standbys that have been in town for years and new innovative restaurateurs all vie to stake their claim in the Aspen food scene.
Visitors to Aspen enjoy a wonderfully diverse range of cultural activities. The Aspen Institute brings to town the best and brightest minds from around the world for seminars, workshops, and lectures. Take in a remarkable performance by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet or see Theater in the Park. Music lovers can enjoy the sounds of classical music in the summer and jazz throughout the year. Art aficionados may choose to explore exhibits at the Aspen Art Museum, a phenomenal repository of contemporary art, or tour the numerous galleries around Aspen⎯or both!
Aspen knows how to entertain, with a surplus of events and festivals throughout the year. One signature winter festival is Winterskol, Aspen’s “toast to winter.” A weeklong celebration of Aspen living with everything from ice-sculpture contests to dog shows, it finishes with fireworks cascading over Aspen Mountain. Summer is packed with festivals, some nights even proffering a double bill of entertainment. The fun begins with the Food & Wine Festival in June and doesn’t end till the JAS Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival.
- The weather can change on a dime. What seems to be a glorious day can very quickly turn into a thunderous downpour of rain. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
- Aspen has four ski mountains to choose from, all accessed through one lift ticket. You could spend the morning skiing the bumps of Aspen and the afternoon cruising on Snowmass Mountain.
- RFTA, the public transportation system, offers skier shuttles that frequently leave Aspen for the other mountains.
Holly Upper lives in Aspen, Colorado. She was born and raised in the Aspen Snowmass area and has spent the majority of her life in the area. She has worked for Stay Aspen Snowmass - Central Reservations and while there helped develop the Aspen / Snowmass Vacation Planner, which won 2005 Adrian Silver Award. She currently works for a local non-profit called Jazz Aspen Snowmass with a mission of music education and performance programming. When she is not behind a desk she can be found outside experiencing the great outdoors through skiing, snowboarding, hiking, biking, and anything that gets her out there.