Whether you love skiing, snowboarding and the wintery outdoors, or not, you’ve heard of Aspen, Colorado, famous for massive mountains, challenging terrain and the rich, famous and flashy. For some, a vacation with that much glitz is a magnet and for others, a deterrent. We can’t lie… for us, it was originally the latter. We had some preconceived notions about the town that just weren’t that appealing… that the mountain would be mediocre, the people would be unfriendly, snotty and unwelcoming to snowboarders (being one of the last resorts to allow the sport) and that the town would be unaffordable. As a result, we’ve traveled to a plethora of major ski towns around the world, and essentially left Aspen for ‘last’. So finally, we made the trip. It was time. It could be all the terrible things we envisioned, but at this point we had to see for ourselves. Well let us tell you… what idiots we were! We’ve been enlightened… kicking ourselves that we missed out on all Aspen has to offer for so many years. Can we go back next year? How about right now… just for the weekend? Oh man, Aspen is amazing and we’ve been thinking about it since we left!
As per our winter time norm, it was time for A+L+M to put together our annual snowboarding excursion… our big trip out west. A+M definitely had to do some convincing to get L to agree to our trip to Aspen. He had the most reservations. But A+M laid it on thick and he had no choice but to agree. Our final March plan… a quick ‘sneak away’ extended weekend in Aspen, with a late night flight into Denver airport, a 3 hour (at a minimum!) midnight drive to the hill, an early morning arrival at the condo, 3 full days of riding Aspen Snowmass and the red eye home. We know… you’re exhausted already. Tell me about it. A 2+2 standard ‘vacation’ always includes maximizing time and fun. The type of ‘vacation’ you need a vacation from.
After our anticipated 3 hour drive through the mountains became a grueling 6 and a half hours along the snowy pass, we made our 7 am arrival at our condo. We were wired from the nail biting drive and were in need of some comfortable beds. Lucky for us our Aspen condo, just on the outskirts of town, was warm, welcoming and gorgeous! Complete with vaulted ceilings, high end furnishing and an amazing steam shower, we realized that we hit the jackpot! After an hour or so of ‘sleep’, we were wide awake and ready to explore the town. L+M first fetched some fuel. Just a couple of blocks away was the Main Street Bakery Cafe. Although sit down service is available, the boys picked up some caffeine and an assortment of sugar-coated carbohydrates to-go. There is nothing like a belly full of carbs and coffee to start your day! Now time to hit the town…
One thing that we’ve learned over the years is that Colorado knows how to do ski towns right! Vail and Breckenridge are two of the cutest snowy villages and Aspen is no exception. The town is picturesque, full of adorable quaint shops, high end chains (think L’Occitane and Theory) and a luxury retail row with Dior, Gucci and Fendi all making appearance (although A couldn’t find Chanel anywhere!). When you aren’t window shopping, there is a giant selection of dining and drinking options on nearly every block, with tons of variety. Our heads were spinning!
How would we fit in all of the must see locales in only 4 nights? The alluring aroma of truffles made our first dining decision simple (as truffles normally do!). Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain has quite a tasty menu for both food and drink, but their famous fries take the cake. Whoa! So good! We absolutely filled up on fries (ok, and booze) and decided to call it an early night. We had a huge day coming up.
In order to be at our best, our first day of riding was backcountry at Aspen Mountain! Everyone was super excited… the boys in the traditional smiling way and A in the petrified way (as per her normal pre-backcountry nerves). Having previously conquered heliriding and backcountry mountaineering, it was time to check ‘CAT’ riding off the list. Aspen Powder Tours offers a full day of luxury snowCAT riding along the backside of Aspen’s main mountain. We met our driver at the tippy top of the main gondola, put on our avalanche beacons (eck!), loaded our gear and hopped in. The CAT ride was cushy with comfy seats, heating and plenty of wholesome snacks! We hit 13 epic powder runs that day with the gorgeous blue bird sky setting the perfect “woohoo!” mood. We cruised through steep bowls, tight glades and wide open fields of fresh, untracked powder. It may have been our best day of riding to date! What better way to end a day of unbelievable pow than a little Apres.
We spent the day collecting recommendations from our CAT riding companions and 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel was on everyone’s lips. Located right at the base of the mountain inside a super swank, modern hotel, 39 Degrees was jumping! Outside there were people in the pool and hot tub, a dude sipping a martini pool-side in a leopard print robe (ok, sorry… just had to throw that in there… you should’ve seen it… What!?) and groups reclining in the outdoor seating. So needing a break from the cold, we headed inside to shed some layers. We sooo luckily secured the corner of the bar and set up shop. The modern venue was mobbed with snow bunnies and gappers, and everyone in between. Laughter was everywhere, as well as tall tales of the day’s endeavors… “so then I jumped off this 100 ft cliff… that then there was nearly an avalanche… and then I narrowly escaped a charging moose… you should’ve seen it!”. Sigh… alcohol makes winter sports stories so much more interesting. After downing a couple… ok, many, of 39 Degrees’ signature cocktails, as well as filling up on some delicious apps, we decided that we were too tired for any more fun. Wow. We are old! 22 year old us would be reaming us right now for being ‘totally lame’.
After an 8 pm collapse on our beds still in full gear, we slept like logs due to pure exhaustion, but awoke the next day refreshed and ready to ride! Aspen Mountain is technically a part of the Aspen Snowmass conglomerate which consists of four epic mountains, each with a little something different. We hit all but one of them… unfortunately we had no time to experience Buttermilk, the 10 time location of the Winter X Games. However, Aspen (or at least its backcountry), Aspen Highlands and Snowmass were all on the agenda. The most famous, Aspen Mountain, is a narrow, but tall mountain, full of steeps and empties right into the main town. As demonstrated above, this place is great for experienced riders who love Apres!
Aspen Highlands lies right on the outskirts of town, just a quick free shuttle ride away. Its claim to fame is unmistakable… the hike-able Highland Bowl. After a ride up the lift, hop in the back of a (non-luxury) snowCAT for a ride to the base of the trail. The hike, let alone the double black diamond bowl that awaits you after the hour-long climb, is not for the faint of heart. The narrow (we are talking just about 3 feet wide at some points) path ascends 12,392 feet into the oxygen-lacking sky. Make a conscious decision if you really want to do this, because after beginning the climb, there is literally no going back… there simply isn’t enough room for two people to walk side by side on the path. It is strictly one way!
L+M made this very conscious decision on our second day, with A declining, having no interest in huffing and puffing along a steep mountain ridge for the next hour. So who made the right decision in the end? Well they both turned out pretty amazing. L+M’s ‘be back in an hour’ excursion became a two hour, life changer. The hike was exhausting, a bit scary, but totally worth it. Reaching the crest was an accomplishment and descending the ‘hill’ was the ultimate reward. However, when they arrived at the lodge to meet A, after her 7th run, mock three sessions of steep groomers (with not a mogul in sight!), they were beside themselves. It was quite amusing. After 3 additional runs with A, we called it. To the bar!
The third mountain in the group may have been our favorite. Snowmass is absolutely massive! Enormous! We were blown away by the size, the variable terrain, gigantic freestyle park, and amazing attention to grooming. We cannot express the level of detail that has been poured into this place. We arrived on a Monday. There was NO ONE on the line. It was empty… and the entire mountain was perfectly groomed with ridiculous corduroy lines on every single trail, including in between the trees! Every run looked like an advertisement or an image out of one of our snowboard ‘pipe dreams’. It was epic. By far this place was the most snowboarder friendly (based on the number of snowboard features offered) and the most snowboarder visited (It may have actually been a 50/50 split as compared to the number of skiers). However that didn’t stop us from getting a ‘talking to’ from a riotous skier who proclaimed that “Snowboarders like US are NOT welcome at (all of) ASPEN SNOWMASS!”. Wow, really?! What a kill joy! But don’t worry, we didn’t let ASPEN SNOWMASS’ self proclaimed Mayor stop us from finishing our good time. Unfortunately, because we hit up Snowmass on our day of departure, we didn’t even come close to exploring all of the terrain… but we saw just enough to know that Snowmass is a destination all its own. Topped off with its extensive, brand spanking new base area, complete with high end hotels, condos and shops, this mountain should be on everyone’s radar.
To round out our trip, we completed the adventure with several memorable dining experiences. The Willow Creek Bistro located within the Ritz Carlton Hotel at the base of Aspen Highlands had an unforgettable breakfast. Gigantic cups of gourmet coffee, Elk sausage and plenty of finishing touches made the meal a great start to the day. Based on a TON of recommendations (seriously… everyone literally recommended this place!), we spent our last night in town dining at L’Hosteria. The bustling venue boasts friendly service despite the slew of patrons trying to grab the next table. The Italian dishes were all pretty tasty and the atmosphere was fun and inviting. It was easy to see why this place is a crowd pleaser.
So the bottom line… yes, Aspen has the rich and the famous; yes, it is predominately filled with skiers; yes, there is tons of fur and high end shopping and dining, BUT, it is also filled with super fun and friendly people, lots of New Yorkers, great deals in dining and some of the most pristine, picturesque powder on the planet. Please… Don’t miss it!
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Winter and Summer Activities
Aspen Powder ToursSilver Queen Gondola Building, Base of Aspen
970-920-0720 Powdertours@AspenSnowmass.com For More Information Private Guided Powder Tours in Luxury Snow CATs, Backcountry Aspen
For those of you that have truly ridden powder, you know that nothing can compare. Being out in the wilderness and conquering the backcountry provides an unexplainable sense of accomplishment and an experience that can’t be mimicked by anything else. If you are in need of this ultimate adventure, Aspen Powder Tours can accommodate you just fine. Sign up for your excursion in advance ($399 per day), on the internet or over the phone, and meet your group (a total of 13 people per CAT) at the main base of Aspen Mountain on the day of your outing. Together you will ride the gondola to the peak and load up.
Now a couple of words of advice… backcountry riding is amazing… but equally as dangerous. The risks are great, the most serious being an avalanche, which is quite common in the backcountry. Luckily your experienced guides (you will always have two) know the deal… which areas are safer, which have just been blasted (with dynamite that is), etc. But that still doesn’t mean that an avalanche can’t occur. To air on the side of caution, your guide always descends the path first and provides guidance on how to hit each steep, as well as warnings on which areas have cliffs, open streams and crevasses. Backcountry riding is for advanced skiers and riders only. In addition, everyone wears an avalanche beacon to help in the rescue should you, or one of your crew, become buried… that is some heavy stuff! Now let’s just hope that doesn’t happen and get out there and have a great time- Woohoo!
The terrain is a combination of wide open steep bowls, super fun glades, and massive fields of pow. You are ALWAYS making fresh tracks and whipping up a ‘tail’ of the fluffy stuff in your wake. Although not the most extreme stuff we’ve ever hit, it was by FAR, the most fun. The type of day when you conclude every run with slashing your stop at the base, flipping up your goggles and gushing about how that was the best run EVER! The guides are there to keep that vibe going and did a great job of reading everyone’s ability level and introducing the type of run that would suit the crowd. The terrain was unbeatable.
In true Aspen style, a tour of the woods can’t be complete unless it’s luxurious… but of course. The CATs are pristine, with comfy seats and pumping heat and music. It sure beats the windy chair lift! There are plenty of drinks and snacks on the CAT for munching on in between runs, as well as a full lunch on the mountain in their adorable hut. ‘Real food’ (not sandwiches people) is brought up via snowmobile and heated on their wood burning stove. We entered starving to a spread of homemade soup, a cheese plate, salads, roasted chicken and potatoes and peanut butter brownies! It was one of those ‘icing on the cake’ moments, like those scenes of Greek gods getting a massage while being fed grapes one at a time. Does it get any better? The answer is, for those that love the snow… no, it definitely doesn’t. Be warned. Once you ride powder like this, nothing else will do.
Aspen MountainAspen, Colorado 970-925-1220 www.AspenSnowmass.com Luxury Resort with Challenging Terrain
Although not the biggest, it is one of the most challenging of all four mountains, and known for its black-diamond terrain. There are no green trails on this hill. You will find steeps, glades, and bumps that will keep you busy all day long. If you feel like more of a challenge and love the back country, head to the Aspen Mountain Powder Tours desk and book yourself a spot on their backcountry tours. Jump onto the SnowCAT and get some of the best fresh powder you can find on the backside of the mountain.
If you love to ‘Après Ski’, then this is the mountain base you want to be at around 4:00pm. Head to Ajax Tavern or 39 degrees; either will not disappoint. Some say the Après here is better than the skiing and snowboarding on the mountain (we think it comes really close). Be careful, you might end up staying until the dinner crowd arrives. The Village area here is the most popular of all the mountains. All the shuttles from every mountain can get you here. So if you don’t get to ride or ski here, you will still probably end up coming for some local shopping and late night drinking.
Aspen HighlandsAspen, Colorado
970-925-1220 www.AspenSnowmass.com Groomers and Expert Terrain
The base of the Highlands offers a small, warm, at-home feeling, with not too many shops or resturants. Just the right amount to make for a good, wholesome time. Stop in for a delicious breakfast at Willow Creek Bistro before you get on the chair lift. On the mountain itself, there are great groomers to cruise (for boarders especially). We are not talking easy groomers, but perfect, packed-powder blacks begging for you to bomb full speed.
The most popular part of this moutain is the Highland bowl, which offers an inbound backcountry experience. There is no lift access to the top; it’s a 12,392 ft. hike up (bring water and a camera). It will take a little while to get up there. You may stop a couple of times on the way and think about turning back or dropping in early, but just don’t do it. Once you get to the summit, you will see the view at the top and know it’s all worth it. The double black diamond ride down is steep and thrilling! If you are in Aspen and you miss this, then you might as well have stayed home.
SnowmassSnowmass, Colorado 970-925-1220 www.AspenSnowmass.com Massive, Snowboarder Friendly, with Pristine, Challenging, Cruisers
Located the furthest outside of the town of Aspen, the 15-20 minute drive will make you wonder if the trip is worth it. Believe us… it surely is. Spanning 3,132 acres, the massive Snowmass offers every kind of terrain for all ability levels. We focused our attention on the blue and black cordoroy cruisers that were steep, and perfect for hitting up full speed. The picturesque wide open field at the top of the Sheer Bliss lift was our personal favorite section of the mountain with tons of dips, turns and jumps through wide glades and a view that stretched for miles.
With 91 trails and 4,406 feet of vertical rise, you would need several days to conquer this hill. If you love hitting the park, the features at Snowmass are on par with every other detail they’ve poured their attention into… impressive. One massive jump after another pass beneath your feet as you watch the ’show’ from the lift. These kids are killing it on enormous kicker and rail combinations. After wrapping up your session, this self-contained resort can cater to your every whim. The brand new town at the base of the mountain boasts shops, restaurants and tons of accomodation selections. This place is a complete destination.
If you think Aspen has a vibrant winter culture, there is just as much to do in the summertime! Rock climbing, backcountry jeep tours, and hot air ballooning are just a few of the warm weather activities that Aspen has to offer. From May to October, Aspen Whitewater Rafting, a reputable Aspen company, offers rafting and inflatable kayak adventures on the Roaring Fork and Arkansas Rivers. Rafting not your thing? How about biking? With four central locations, Aspen Snowmass Bike Rentals provides deluxe mountain bikes for $37 a day. If you’re planning to camp or stay on the mountain for a week, bikes can also be rented on a weekly basis.
While mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing are not for the faint of heart, those who are really looking for a unique adventure should definitely plan a Hot Air Balloon experience. Be ready to glide over the mountains in the crisp morning air (year round!). And at the end of your journey…enjoy a champagne brunch accompanied with all of the delectable accoutrements. Above it All or the Unicorn Balloon Company will pick clients up at most Aspen hotels, just before sunrise; flight times run 60-90 minutes.
Don’t worry, Foodies, there’s something in the Aspen ‘bag’ for you…. the 29th annual Aspen Food & Wine Festival runs from June 17-19, 2011. This year’s festival features demonstrations, tastings, wine seminars, and meet & greets with notable chefs, such as Daniel Boulud, Jacques & Claudine Pépin, Ming Tsai, Mario Batali, and Tom Colicchio. For more information on tickets and packages, visit Food & Wine Classic in Aspen 2011.
Pastries, Coffee, Aspen
L+M found this place by simply hopping on the bus and hitting the stop request button as soon as they saw something come up. We were hungry and tired from the ride in from Denver; we needed some fuel to start our day. The cafe is steps away from the bus stop. It’s simple, small and quaint. It looks like most ski town cafes we have been to. The counter was stacked with some pretty attractive and delicious treats to eat. Everything looked good: pastries, pancakes, french toast…the list goes on and on. A was back at the room, so we had to make it a to-go breakfast. L+M started picking random pastries that looked awesome (that only means trouble ). We ended up with a long list that started with Crossiants, Maple Glazed Donuts, Long John Eclair, Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin, Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondie, and finally ended with a few (free) buttermilk biscuits. We ordered some hot drinks and headed back to the room to wake up A with the array of treats. Everything was good, but some things stood out more than others. The Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondie was one of the front runners. The free biscuits came in as a close second. We tried to get there again for some eggs and a sit-down breakfast, but due to the tight schedule we had, we never made it. We will definitely be back here on the next visit to Aspen before we hit the hill.
What we ate…
- Cappuccino (A)
- Latte (L+M)
- Buttermilk Biscuits
- Maple Glazed Donuts
- Long John Eclair
- Lemon Poppy Seed Muffin
- Coconut Chocolate Chip Blondie
Willow Creek Bistro
0075 Prospector Road, Aspen Highlands 970-429-2327 www.WillowCreekBistro.com American Bistro, Cocktails/Wine, Aspen Highland
Located right at the base of Aspen Highland and part of The Ritz- Carlton Club, Willow Creek Bistro has found a way to take simple home cooked meals and make them gourmet. The breakfast is nothing short of amazing. The choices we finally picked were: Banana Bread French Toast topped with walnuts, and the two eggs (any style), Elk Sausage and Potatoes with baby leaf spinach. The staff was great; they were always filling up your (gigantic) cup of coffee and providing great suggestions and information about the dishes. Most, if not all, of the food served here is local and fresh.
Although we didn’t get to stay for lunch or dinner, everything sounded just as great as the breakfast. Some of the the signature dishes they have include: Crispy Rocky Mountain Trout, American Kobe Beef Meat Loaf, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, and BBQ Chicken. If you find yourself here on a warm-weather day, grab a table on the outside patio to enjoy your meal, along with the amazing views of the mountains. Willow Creek is open from 7am to 9pm daily.What we ate…
- Coffee (A+L+M)
- French Toast [Banana Bread, Walnuts] (A)
- Two Eggs, Elk Sausage, Potatoes with Baby Leaf Spinach, Sour Dough Bread (L+M)
Après Ski and Dinner
Ajax675 East Durant Avenue, Aspen 970-920-4600
French-American, Cocktails, Aspen
Right at the base of AJAX mountain (aka Aspen Mountain), is the oasis of Ajax Tavern. Attached to the very famous Little Nell Hotel and Residence (Aspen’s only Ski on Ski off Hotel), Ajax Tavern is the place to start your après ski after a long day of shredding the gnar on the mountain. Ajax couldn’t be more stereotypically complete with people dressed in one-piece ski suits sipping fruity drinks and talking about their trip to Bali last month. Along with being the place to see and be seen, Ajax has a small and well put together menu of food and drinks.
Besides the scene, we were drawn in by the overwhelming smell of french fries, parmesean cheese and truffles. It’s like they pump the odor outside to draw you in. As if the music and crowd aren’t enough. After a long day of freezing outside, we scored a booth in the restaurant and immediately ordered a delectable mound of shroom and cheese covered spuds. After downing them with a Rum Rum Mule, a Rogue Dead Guy Ale and a Whisky drink made with Maple Sugar, we were ready for a second course. How about a beer, a gourmet double cheeseburger, and fries for just $16? Gourmet and delicious, it was maybe the best deal in town, considering where you are. We also went with the grilled brie cheese on country bread with a side of housemade tomato soup. A true Aspen experience.
What we ate…
- Rum Rum Mule [With Ginger Beer] (A)
- Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka, Coffee and Kahlua Martini (A)
- Rogue Dead Guy Ale (L+M)
- Whiskey and Maple Sugar (M)
- Hand Cut Fries with Truffle and Parmigiano (A+L+M)
- Tomato Soup with Toasted Country Bread and Brie (A)
- Ajax Double Cheeseburger with French Fries [Milagro Ranch Grass Fed Beef, American Cheese, Onion Aioli Frites] (L+M)
39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel
709 East Durant Avenue, Aspen
970-925-6760 www.TheSkyHotel.com American, Cocktails, Aspen
All the locals will say (and believe us, we asked) that after a day of cruising the slopes or exploring the backcountry, there is only one way to finish off your ultimate day…at the very hip and happening 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel. Located directly at the base of Aspen Mountain, right in the heart of town, this indoor/outdoor lounge, complete with bar, couches and pool, is mobbed come the 3 o’clock hour. Patrons ride right to the entrance, prop up their equipment on the racks and enter, rosy-cheeked and goggle-tanned, ready for some unique creations. The hotel and venue are modern with oversized “Alice in Wonderland” style chairs, futuristic globe lights and bold colors… not that you can really see any of the details they’ve incorporated, as the space was elbow to elbow with fun loving ski bunnies.
On our visit, we ponied up to the bar and ordered some house specialities, recommended by our super friendly bartender, Lauren, to start. ‘A’ through back several Asian Raspberry martinis, which mixed Vodka with Asian Citrus Liqueur, Aloe Vera and fresh fruit juices. It was outstanding. L+M couldn’t get enough of the extremely dangerous Aspen Slush, which incorporated a stiff serving of Bourbon integrated with Grand Marnier and Apricot Puree (among other ingredients). The result was a lethal and delicious slushy that is sure to sneak up on you… the Bourbon is well complemented and goes down smooth… too smooth.
By this point, we were starved! We had spent a full 13 runs in Aspen’s backcountry and it was time for some dinner. We’ve found that if you want to taste a restaurant’s best, asking for recommendations are a sure fire guarantee. Sabrina assisted us with our choices, and she knows her stuff. We were not disappointed.
We decided that the lounge atmosphere lent to noshing and decided to order three snacks to share. The Mongolian BBQ Grilled Lamb Lollichops were perfectly cooked to a medium rare and were complete with a tasty mongolian marinade. They were quite tender and we were so tempted to order seconds. The Shrimp Dumplings are a house favorite and were accompanied by a crispy tempura zucchini. They were a perfect light snack. We finished off with the show stopper: Gnocchi Mac and Cheese with some of the most delicious additions ever. Shitake mushrooms. Sauteed spinach. Crusted breadcrumbs. And Truffle oil! What! Why isn’t all mac and cheese made like this! Absolutely genius.
After some additional cocktail selections (hey people! we were on vacation!), we decided to walk it off all the way back to our condo. The dishes, drinks and atmosphere we experienced at 39 Degrees were hands down the most memorable of the trip. A can’t miss.
What we ate…
- Asian Raspberry [Kettle One Vodka, Ty Ku Asian Citrus Liqueur, Aloe Vera Juice, Raspberry, Mint, Lemon Juice, Simple Syrup] (A)
- Grey Goose with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur (A)
- Aspen Slush [Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Grand Marnier 100th Anniversary, Apricot Puree, Lemon Juice, Orange Bitters, Sage] (A+L+M)
- Grey Goose on the Rocks (L)
- Ginger Mule [Sky Infused Ginger Vodka, Ginger Beer, Lime Juice] (M)
- Grey Goose and Soda (M)
- Mongolian BBQ Grilled Lamb Lollichops [New Zealand Spring Lamb Rack Chops, Mongolian BBQ Marinade, Jasmine Rice, Cilantro Salad, Chinese Mustard]
- Umami Shrimp Dumplings [Steamed Shrimp Dumplings, Tempura Zucchini, Tobiko Mayo, Serrano Chili, Sweet Soy, Sesame Seeds, Seaweed Salad]
- Gnocchi Mac & Cheese [House-Made Potato Gnocchi, Sauteed Spinach, White Cheddar Cheese Fondue, Shitake Mushrooms, Truffle Oil, Seasoned Bread Crumbs]
Italian, Wine/Cocktails, Aspen
Everywhere we went people kept talking about L’Hosteria. It went something like “Did you guys go to L’Hosteria yet?”; “You have to go to L’Hosteria!”; “When are you going to L’Hosteria?”; “It’s impossible to get a reservation at L’Hosteria.” Enough already!
So after the twentieth time of hearing about the dang L’Hosteria, we decided to make it a point to get there on our last night in town. Expectations were high when we arrived and nothing short of an amazing meal would do. Manny and Lee ordered some make shift Gold Rushes and Angela went with a Grapefruit and St. Germain cocktail concoction suggested by the very funny and informative bartender. Sitting near the bar seemed like a good idea at the time since there were tables available and the place was packed. Unfortunately for us the bartender was doubling as waitress and server for all the tables near the bar. This made grabbing her attention a little difficult (until some locals who we met the night before showed up that coincidentally knew the bartender). Moral of the story… make a reservation or meet some locals.
We combed through the menu and ordered the portobello salad with prosciutto, fried calamari, and tomato bruschette as starters. The salad was nice but the kitchen forgot the prosciutto. Fortunately, our waitress/bartender brought us out another order. Well worth it. The calamari was slightly chewy but we managed to clear the plate. The one appetizer mistake we made was ordering the bruschette, which was rather tasteless and starved for seasoning.
With expectations still high and after another round of drinks, the entrees arrived. Best of the group was easily the goat cheese crusted Colorado lamb chops. Cooked to a perfect medium rare and accompanied with truffle mashed potatoes and grilled zucchini. Manny and Lee both ordered homemade pasta dishes for which L’Hosteria is famous. Though the wild boar ragout was tasty, the gnocchi were seriously overcooked. The tagliatelle and shrimp were nicely cooked, but the flavor was uninspiring. Luckily for us, dessert was fantastic. We washed down the succulent Tiramisu and Panna Cotta with some Limoncello, said goodbye to our new friends and called it a night.
- Grapefruit and St. Germain Cocktail (A)
- Gold Rush [Whiskey, lemon, honey] (L+M)
- Limoncello (A+L+M)
- Insalata di Portobello e Prosciutto [Warm, prosciutto rolled portobellos, raspberries, mixed greens, aged balsamic and Tuscan extra virgin olive oil] (A)
- Calamari Fritti [Lightly fried calamari with spicy marinara] (L)
- Tomato Bruschette [Chopped tomatoes, garlic and basil on crostini with mixed Mediterranean olives] (M)
- Costolette d’Agnello [Goat cheese-crusted Colorado lamb chops, rosemary sauce, truffle mashed potatoes, grilled zucchini] (A)
- Gnocchi [Wild boar ragout, artichokes, Tuscan extra virgin olive oil] (L)
- Tagliatelle ai Gamberi e Pomodoro [Homemade fettuccini with sauteed shrimp in a light tomato sauce] (M)
- Tiramisu dell’Hostaria [Ladyfingers, mascarpone, cream, coffee, cocoa]
- Panna Cotta ai Frutti di Bosco [Traditional vanilla custard, fresh berries]
Accommodations in Aspen are plentiful and expensive. Your best bet is to book early in the season or even before the season starts. This is when you will find the best deals on lodging. We wouldn’t normally say this, but some of the best deals can be found directly on the Aspen Snowmass website. Check out their packages and last minute offerings for the best bang for your buck. Strike while the iron is hot. Deals can pop up and be over before you know it.
We like to stretch out on our ski trips and are typically more inclined to rent a condo than to book a hotel room. You may wind up on the edge of town, but most likely have triple the square footage of a hotel room and the added bonus of a kitchen for some lite cooking. We searched high and low and wound up booking a condo right in Aspen through Aspen Signature Properties. To be honest, we found the condo on the Cyber Rentals website, one of our absolute favorites for finding condos, houses, and apartments around the world. From there we were linked to Aspen Signature Properties. Our representative, Jason, was extremely attentive and accommodating. They have a full service property rental agency and can make dinner reservations, pick up lift tickets, arrange transfers, and even get you groceries.
If a hotel is what you are looking for, here is a small list of our favorites. Some expensive (high on the list) and some not so expensive (bottom of the list), but all very good choices for your stay. For the most part, it’s less expensive to stay outside of town or in Snowmass, than directly in Aspen. Remember the Aspen Snowmass area is huge!
Via Denver Airport: Most, if not all, major airlines offer reasonable tickets to Denver. Jetblue is always at the top of the list for the best deals. We snagged a great one-day deal for $259 round-trip from NYC. Once you arrive, you have a couple of choices: rent a car, grab a bus, or get a luxury car service to take you the rest of the way to Aspen. From Denver Airport, it’s about a 4-hour drive. The weather and the time of day you are planning to take this trip may influence which method you use to reach the town. On a nice day, the drive is beautiful and easy. But beware, this drive can turn into one of the most challenging events you do on this trip. If the weather is bad, you will be driving in the heart of it. That 4-hour drive could turn into a 6 to 8 hour adventure. Sometimes if the weather is really terrible, the Vail pass is closed and you might be spending the night at the nearest hotel. Just keep all this in mind when considering whether to be a driver or just a passenger. However, once you reach Aspen, it will all be worth it.
Via Eagle Airport: In the winter, many airlines will get you from NYC to Eagle Airport, located in Vail Colorado. American, Delta, and United all fly here. What you spend on the flight, you save on the ride to the mountain. Located only 2 hours from Aspen, this will cut your travel time in half and you can get to the slopes that much quicker.
Via Aspen Airport: Of course this is the closest you will get to the mountains of Aspen. Hop off your plane, jump onto the local shuttle, hop off, strap in, and get on the lift line. The tickets are more costly and the flights are not as frequent as the other airports. And due to the location, flights are often canceled and the airport is shut down when the weather is severe. However, dealing with a four hour drive will be some other silly person’s problem.
In Aspen: There is a free shuttle service that will pick you up and take you to every mountain from wherever you are staying in the Aspen area. Once you arrive in Aspen, all you need to get around are your own two feet.