Spring Skiing. Is there anything better? The words are music to our ears. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining, spring is almost upon us and yet, there is still powder to chase. Sunshine on your back and confectioner’s sugar at your ski tips, it’s our favorite way to hit the slopes.
While the El Niño year has been a let down on the East Coast, it’s proved plenty generous to the West, where it’s been dumping all winter long and the magic just keeps on coming. Aspen Snowmass very rarely disappoints, and this year has surpassed expectations.
We headed out a few weeks ago to see what this town that hosts incredible slopes and a Gonzo-rich history was all about. In the winter of 1879, Aspen was known was “Ute City” and was settled as a miner’s town. By 1930 only 705 of the hardy citizens remained, but the town slowly began to thrive again and the mountain proved to be the rock (pun not intended) that would hold the city together.
By 1967, the “Summer of Love”, three adjacent ski areas had also been developed – Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass. Aspen didn’t just help to popularize skiing in the U.S., it was well on the way to becoming an international lifestyle destination. In a time of social tumult, Aspen became a rollicking, bohemian, even outlaw haven. In 1970, infamous “Gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson ran for county sheriff on the “Freak Power” ticket. He advocated grassy pedestrian malls instead of paved streets, banning buildings tall enough to block the view, and de-criminalizing cannabis…ideas that have all found their way into the world half a century later.
Once you’ve had a chance to get your ‘ski legs’ back and stretch out all that office and airplane stiffness, it’s time to get out-of-bounds.
Aspen Mountain Powder Tours lets you indulge in some of the best stashes in North America. Luxurious snowcats (outfitted with Dom, if you request) take you to prime untracked glades and runs on the backside of Aspen Mountain. Fresh tracks guaranteed and gourmet lunch is included.
A typical day averages 10,000 vertical feet of ungroomed wilderness skiing and boarding in an expanse of 1,100 acres that features open bowls, meadows and glades. Two guides and a driver lead each 12 person snowcat group, selecting terrain according to daily snow conditions and the group’s experience. They’ll help guide you, but this is not an easy intermediate day—it’s an experience for expert skiiers only, rocking out and skiing powder like never before.
The best place to unwind after a truly spectacular and taxing day on skis is The Little Nell. Luxurious and the epitome of slopeside chic, The Little Nell is one of our favorite Aspen haunts that accommodates everything you could possibly need.
Chicago designer and Aspen resident Holly Hunt styled the 52 guest rooms, 26 premium guest rooms, 8 suites and 6 signature suites. Contemporary works of art offset the “Aspen Modern” plush, textured fabrics and palettes of cream, blue and chocolate. The suites include a soaking tub, minimally chic living area, gas log fireplaces, and private balconies to watch the sunrise. Room with a view? All accommodations overlook Aspen Mountain, the Red Mountain range or Continental Divide, Durant and Spring streets, or the courtyard and pool.
The Little Nell is the quintessential Aspen experience. The staff is super accommodating, and everyone goes a very long way to make you feel at home. The little things really matter, which is why they are focused on constantly keeping up to date (renovations were just made) and never losing sight of that ‘welcome home’ feel.
Pop downstairs for a private tour of the coolest wine cellar around (and that’s saying a lot from these Napa-addicted oenophiles), an urban grunge speak-easy that encourages graffiti notes and houses multiple vintages and wines from a roster of the world’s biggest names, from a 1945 Domaines Barons de Rothschild Chateau Lafite Rothschild to a 1926 Chateau Mouton Rothschild. A glass of champagne is poured upon entry, Joy Division may whine softly in the background, and you’ll probably end up staying much longer than anticipated, speaking with the ever so charming in-house Master Sommelier and Wine Director, Carlton McCoy.
Also Little Nell adjacent and Aspen ski-in ready is the Ajax Tavern, where truffle fries are actually addicting and the atmosphere euphoric. For après ski at Snowmass, ski down to Venga Venga for some kick ass margaritas and fresh tex mex bites that soothe the bruises of whatever conquests the day brought.
Don’t leave without checking out The Artisan at Stonebridge in Snowmass. The seasonal menu, innovative and imaginative, is fresh and fun without being overly experimental. Chef Steve Sterritt offers handcrafted, locally sourced cuisine featuring the finest ingredients of the season and creates unique works of culinary art. As a result, the Artisan Restaurant and Bar sets the standard for restaurants and dining in Snowmass Village. The tasting menu can range from Colorado Venison with Truffle Parsnip Puree, Caramelized Brussel Sprouts and Cranberry Demi, or the signature Artisan Ruby Red Trout in a Brown Sugar Bourbon Sauce. The handpicked wine menu mimics the breadth of the dinner menu, and has been created with the goal to guide your pallet to the perfect wine companion.
Piñons is a favorite over at Aspen, just a short walk from The Little Nell featuring fresh, familiar ingredients perfectly executed. They create an experience that is unique yet comfortable; create food that is creative yet approachable. A fantastic spot for a expertly cooked steak and bold slap-you-in-the-face sort of wine, with melt in your mouth desserts created by the pastry chef who doubles as your friendly coat check hostess.
Aspen is more than a glamour mountain. Sure, the streets are lined with fur and fashion, but it’s much less superficial than you’d imagine. It’s friendly. It’s familiar. It’s inviting and exciting, glamorous and cozy all at once. Find the sunshine and ski the love.