I sat in silence staring out the window at the snow-capped mountains trying to recall the last time I was on a snowboard. Growing up in Canada you learn to make the most of winter. My mom, in an effort to get us out of the house, repeatedly signed us up for Snowhawks Raven Ski & Snowboard School every year. This meant my brother and I would be up early on Saturdays trying to catch the Snowhawks bus so we could spend the day at different ski resorts snowboarding and hanging with friends. It was during these weekend that I fell in love with winter.
Now though, sitting in my window seat 30,000 feet in the air on my way to Aspen, I couldn’t even recall when I had last touched my snowboard. Somewhere along the way life pulled me away from the one thing that made me love winter, but now as I drew closer to my final destination, that was all about to change.
Although I’ve heard people rave about how amazing skiing in Aspen is, I have never been. In truth I wasn’t really sure where it sat on the spectrum of ‘extremely pretentious to completely approachable’ but I was super excited to find out. Thankfully I had Adam with me who was equally excited about the trip and itching to get on the slopes, so I knew no matter what it was going to be fun.
While in town, Adam and I would be staying at the Limelight Hotel, a contemporary hotel located right in Aspen Village that came with many perks including complimentary breakfast, ski shuttle service, 2 hours car loans and airport car service! Once we landed at Aspen Airport and gathered our bags, we were greeted warmly by a Limelight driver who was ready and waiting. He ushered us into our very own private Audi Q7 (part of the hotel fleet) and within 15 minutes we were at the hotel.
Eager to check out the area Adam and I quickly dropped our bags in our room before heading out to explore. The room was large and had, wait, two queen beds? LOL! Adam and I had to laugh at this because he always complains that I am like sleeping next to an inferno and having his own bed would be the icing on the cake for him… and my needy nightmare. Regardless of the sleeping situation we were on a mission to find ski gear because Adam and I kind of showed up to Aspen with no outerwear and no gear… That’s right, NOTHING!
Thankfully a stones-throw from the hotel was 4 Mountain Sports, a full service retail and rental shop that offered an array of premium ski and snowboard gear starting as low as US $60 per day. It took Adam and I less than an hour to get fully fitted with all our gear – snowboard for me, skis and polls for him, boots and helmets for both – which, besides our helmet and boots, we didn’t even need to take back to the hotel because they deliver your gear to the slopes. Whaaatttttt!?
Now that we had our gear sorted all we had to do was get fitted for outwear. To help us overcome this challenge we turned to Lorenzo at Suit Yourself – a local skiwear outfitter who brings jackets, pants, gloves, and goggles to your hotel room so you don’t have to freeze your butt off on the slopes. He hooked us up with premium Helly Hansen outerwear for an average of US $50 a day and just like that, Adam and I were ready to hit the slopes!
By the time we finished all our errands it was nearing 3pm and, considering the 7-hour travel day we just endured, a drink was much needed! Enter Meat and Cheese, a cute eatery and marketplace where you can sit down and enjoy an array of artisanal breads, meats and surprise, surprise, cheese! This place came highly recommended by the hotel as well as the folks at Four Mountain and we were not disappointed. Their menu consists of a variety of charcuterie boards and featured mostly locally sources ingredients that were completely up our alley. Knowing very well that we were going to sit down and have dinner in a couple hours Adam and I decided to grab a couple drinks and share a couple charcuterie boards to save some room for dinner.
Two things I quickly learned about Aspen, Colorado was that 1) altitude can really affect your tolerance when it comes to alcohol, and 2) eating out can quickly become expensive. Thankfully one of the reasons why Meat and Cheese came so highly recommended was because their lunch specials are pretty affordable in comparison to other restaurants located on ‘restaurant row’ in Aspen Village. Also since it only took me one glass of Prosecco to start feeling buzzed, Adam and I were also able to save a little money there. LOL!
That night’s dinner was at another local favourite and one of the oldest restaurants in Aspen, L’Hostaria. Located less than a 10-minute walk from the hotel L’Hostaria is an authentic Italian restaurant that was described by many locals as their ‘go-to date night spot’, and upon walking in we could see why. The traditional, cozy, white table cloth, candle-lit Italian restaurant ambiance was in full effect and not only was the dining room completely packed with patrons but so was the bar. Having essentially saved ourselves for this meal Adam and I were starving so we started with a selection of appetizers including their eggplant parmesan which was phenomenal! For our mains Adam and I shared the mixed seafood pasta and the lamb chops only to politely fight over who would get the last bites. By the time we left we were both stuffed to the gills and ripe and ready for bed.
Eager to seize the day on the slopes Adam and I got up early and made our way down to the restaurant for breakfast. It wasn’t until we sat that we remembered we had forgotten to sign up for the hotel’s complementary ski shuttle service the night before and were faced with the hard truth that it was fully booked up. Thankfully the hotel informed us that the Aspen bus station was only a 5 minute walk up the street and RFTA buses to the slopes were not only free but they departed every 30 minutes. The only downfall we learned to taking the bus was that your commute takes an extra 20 minutes but, alas, beggars can’t be choosers and a free ride is a free ride!
One thing you should know about Aspen is that there are four mountains to choose from; Aspen, Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk. Aspen and Highlands are the hardest of the four mountains and have the most single and double black diamond runs. Snowmass offers more of a variety of terrain while Buttermilk is great for novice skiers and beginners. Since our trip was early in the ski season all the mountains except Buttermilk were open (it would open on our second day), and since I hadn’t snowboarded in ages we decided on start on Snowmass Mountain.
Once we finally got to the base of Snowmass, grabbing our gear and lift tickets (you can order them ahead of time online) was easy! Before Adam and I knew it we were at the top, strapped in, and ready for our first run. Although I was feeling slightly nervous about not having snowboarded in nearly a decade, it really only took me a couple of runs for the muscle memory to kick in and before I knew it I was carving confidently down the hill, whizzing by people and cutting through trees without any problems. Sure I may of wiped out half a dozen times but I was having so much fun! By the end of the day I was back to my old ‘winter loving’ self again.
After a full day of skiing, Adam and I were looking forward to getting some much deserved drinks at one of Aspen’s best après-ski spots, Venga Venga. Weeks earlier, while researching the destination I had seen quite a few mentions of the Mexican cantina and tequila bar, and since it was at the Snowmass Mall close to where we drop off our gear, we thought we would give it a try. Turns out Venga Venga is quite the perch! With panoramic views of the slopes and fire pits on the patio to keep you warm, people gather to drink cold brews and unwind after a big ski day. Soon after we showed up a DJ arrived, followed by even more people and before you knew it we were in the midst of a full on aprés party! If we didn’t have dinner plans at Crêperie du Village that night we would have probably stayed there drinking sangria and eating tacos well into the night.
Much like Venga Venga, I first came across Crêperie du Village while researching Aspen and instantly became smitten with its French Alpine Bistro aesthetic. With its cozy, candle lit corners, and sheep skin covered chairs I knew I was just going to love this place. The restaurant was quite busy when we arrived for our dinner reservation, a great sign that the food was going to be equally as good as the ambiance. In no rush, Adam and I ordered a cocktail followed by the escargot (my fav), foie gras (Adam’s fav) and the steak tartar (both our favs). It was easily my most treasured meal of the entire trip and the perfect restaurant for a romantic evening. Adam and I wined and dined like Aspen royalty and deemed Crêperie du Village definitely worth the splurge.
After dinner Adam and I stopped by J-Bar at Hotel Jerome for a quick nightcap. The recently renovated hotel is actually one of Aspen’s most beloved historic landmarks and is often referred to as Aspen’s crown jewel. The bar inside, which is said to be haunted, has for years been the favoured watering hole for many who visit Aspen. Expectedly, the cocktails were on the pricier side but that didn’t stop Adam and I from getting cozy in front of the roaring fireplace and cheering to a perfect day in Aspen.
Having thoroughly enjoyed our day of skiing at Snowmass, Adam and I decided to yet again get up early and hit the slopes. This time though we had remembered to book the shuttle the night before and instead of having to wait the 30 minutes for the bus we were at the slopes in a speedy 15 minutes. Since we had plans to go snowmobiling in the afternoon and were only going to spend half the day skiing we decided to check out Buttermilk Mountain as it was opening day and apparently had the best views of Pyramid Peak – a choice we did not regret. For someone who hasn’t skied in a while I would even recommend going to Buttermilk before Snowmass as I felt their green and blue runs were easier than Snowmass’.
After another amazing morning Adam and I headed straight to T-Lazy 7 Ranch for our snowmobiling tour. T-Lazy 7 Ranch has been an active ranch and lodge in Aspen for 80 years. About 50 years ago they started offering 2-4 hour snowmobile tours and Adam and I were told their tours were the best way to see the Maroon Bells – the most photographed peaks in North America. Having never snowmobiled before, we didn’t know what to expect but once we arrived and checked in we were quickly escorted over to the shed to be fitted with helmets and boots. Once we were fully decked out and ready to go, we were paired with a snowmobile and given a short safety lesson before heading out. The tour took us through the picturesque Maroon Creek Valley (the road is closed to cars in the winter making snowmobiling or cross country skiing the only way in or out) all the way to the base of Maroon Lake where we enjoyed a cup of hot chocolate and took in the beautiful view of the Maroon Bells. Once we got all our pictures we headed back to the ranch where our instructor guided us to their designated track where we got to open up the snowmobile and go as fast as we wanted! So fun!
By the time we finished snowmobiling it was time to après! Adam and I headed back to Aspen Village to check out Shlomo’s Deli & Grill, who’s après ski session is apparently best on Saturdays. By the time we arrived the bar was packed and the party was in full swing. There were girls on the bar dancing to old school hip hop like House of Pain and the whole crowd was going wild. It was definitely the youngest and rowdiest après ski party we encountered while in Aspen. Adam and I loved all the music the DJ was spinning and stayed there partying and dancing for hours until we started to get tipsy and needed to eat. Craving some pizza, Adam and I decided to headed back to the Limelight Hotel for their famous oven fired pizza which totally hit the spot – yum!
Although Aspen can be expensive there are definitely ways to get around paying premium prices and spending and arm and a leg. For example, rates for accommodations are lower at the very beginning of the ski season (late November early December) as well as later (early April) for closing parties. If you stay at the Limelight you can also save some money on food and drinks by using the hotel’s car loan service (complementary with your stay) to stop by the grocery store as some of the rooms have kitchenettes. Alternatively, some restaurants do offer lunch/après specials like Meat & Cheese and the Limelight Hotel or even try the bar menu for dinner at L’Hostaria. If you are willing to splurge and spend some dough, dinner at Crêperie du Village and snowmobiling with T-Lazy 7 Ranch were amazing, quality experiences that added great value to my overall trip.
Unfortunately our weekend of fun in Aspen came to a close and although short it sure was sweet. We both agreed to come back again, next time for at least a week, and perhaps with a group of friends in tow. In the end our trip to Aspen reignited our love for winter and we both walked away promising to plan more ski vacations together in the future.
ADDITIONAL PHOTOS FROM THE TRIP