Ski and more: a Local’s Guide to Aspen, Colorado

Thinking of a trip to Aspen?

We asked Chris Jensen, an Aspen resident and life-long skier and snowboarder, for his take on how to best enjoy your time in this winter paradise. Here are a few of his insider tips and spots not to be missed:

One of my favourite parts about Aspen is the welcoming local culture. I’ve visited and lived in plenty of other ski towns throughout Oregon, California and Colorado, yet Aspen has stolen my heart for its kindness. You won’t find any rude localism here but instead will be asked to join in for an après pint with strangers. While our town and its four mountains boast some of the best skiable terrain in the United States, there are heaps of things to do besides sliding on snow.

Delicious dining

Aspen is a haven for top-shelf cuisine experiences, offering some of the best food from around the world. The Chef’s Club in the St. Regis Hotel sees the most coveted chefs from the Aspen Food and Wine Festival create a new mouth watering menu each winter. The average entrée is $70 AUD, so best suited for big spenders.

If a massive assortment of fine wine and unparalleled Italian sounds up your alley, the very cozy Casa Tua will surely delight. For the best sushi and Japanese cuisine in town, Matsuhisa on Main Street is the place to go.

For a great affordable quick bite to eat in town, I usually go for The Big Wrap. They serve a healthy menu, including salads, smoothies, wraps and sandwiches, yet you’ll also find a heavy breakfast burrito known by every local in town.

If you’re looking for a true American breakfast or brunch, there’s no better option than the Hickory House. Only recommended if your party has a serious appetite! Expect to pay around $20 AUD/person and be prepared for a nap after!

Lively nightlife

Unlike many sleepy ski towns, Aspen’s lively nights are on par with any big city.

For a great craft beer head to HOPS Culture or Aspen Brewing Tap Room on Hopkins Ave. For a serious beer experience, reserve a tour of the brewery across from the airport (be sure to email first).

To join the locals and the younger crowd for a drink and some live music, stop in the historical Red Onion. “The Onion” is the oldest bar and eatery in town, opened in 1892, and it seems their prices haven’t changed. During happy hour (3-6 & 10-Midnight) well drinks and domestic beers are approximately $2.75 AUD.

For live music and concerts, check out Belly Up Tavern. Have a look at their calendar to see if your favourite band will be in town:

As the night goes on, you’ll find most locals making their way to Eric’s Bar. The underground establishment is usually packed with guests from around the world, enjoying premium cocktails, billiards or the cigar bar.

For those looking to dance, the hottest club in town is no doubt Escobar Lounge. The venue is small, which creates an intimate atmosphere that has been host to some big name DJs. Eric’s and Escobar close at 2 a.m. but don’t forget there’s powder to ride in the morning!

Adventures: fireworks and thermal springs

A hike to the top of Smuggler Mountain on New Year’s Eve or 4th of July (American Independence Day) is the best place to watch the holiday’s firework show. During the winter you’ll need snowshoes or solid winter boots with poles for the 45-minute hike. Bring some hot chocolate and schnapps to best enjoy the show. (You may just see me there!) If you’re not in town during New Year’s, it’s still a beautiful winter hike any day of the week.

Relaxing in natural thermal hot springs is a must if you’re visiting Aspen Valley, and there’s nothing better after a long day of skiing. There are a few options, but in my opinion Penny Hot Springs has the best views and sits on the Crystal River. It’s about 40 minutes out of town but well worth the drive. If you want to avoid hordes of naked hippies, try coming during the week in the afternoon or opt for the more family friendly Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. The pool is manmade yet fed by natural waters and costs $20-30 AUD for entry.

Skiing and Winter X Games

Aspen is home to four different mountains, all covered under the same pass, and each with their own personality. In recent years, Aspen day passes haven’t been the cheapest, as an adult day pass will run you $200 AUD, with children’s passes $125 AUD, yet both steeply reduce in price if you purchase multiple days or even a season pass.

If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, Buttermilk or Snowmass will be your best bet. Buttermilk is known for its smooth beginner runs, as well as it’s world-renowned terrain parks that host the Winter X Games every year. The X Games are one of Aspen’s biggest, craziest events, held during January 25-28 and tickets are on sale now.

During the event, the whole town goes into party mode, and things are very busy, so keep that in mind when planning your visit.

Snowmass is twenty minutes out of town, yet has more terrain than the other three resorts combined. There are free buses running around Aspen and to and from Snowmass all day. It’s a great option for an all-day trip whether you’re just starting out, a veteran shredder, or wild park rider.

For steep chutes, trees, cliffs and just about any terrain you can think of, you’ll want to ride Aspen (aka Ajax) or Highlands. Both host thrilling expert runs and usually don’t have a serious lift queue in sight. If it’s a powder day, look no further than the renowned Highlands Bowl. For the best runs, follow the line of dedicated riders hiking up the ridge from the top of the Loge Peak lift. It’s a reasonably tough 20-minute trek up, but if you’re up for it, you’ll likely have the best turns of your life.

While there are nearly too many things to do around town, and plenty of wild nightlife temptations, don’t forget to get amongst the stunning peaks and hills these mountains have to offer.

Aspen is a great destination with so much to see, do and experience. Now you’ve got some great ideas for your trip to Aspen, don’t forget to arrange travel insurance as soon as you’ve made a booking. Get a quote today or call one of our friendly team on 1300 819 888 to discuss your requirements.


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