City Guide: Aspen

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The Aspen Art Museum.

Diamond in the Wild

Aspen’s small-town, jet-setter appeal.

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Hotel Jerome.

By Annie Fitzsimmons
 
GO FOR
Surrounded by thousands of miles of outdoor recreation areas, Aspen delivers the beauty and thrill of a small mountain town with the high-level culture and global appeal of a big city with big-name galleries, a lauded contemporary art museum, and The Aspen Institute, one of the most respected leadership forums in the world. Summer brings hiking, biking, and festivals, but Aspen remains the ultimate winter playground, according to Los Angeles-based advisor Kara Slater. “There’s a romantic mystique that makes you never want to leave,” she says. “It’s as chic as it gets for both the ski and après-ski crowd.” The historic town is laid out on a small grid at the foot of Aspen Mountain with an easily walkable core of great restaurants, shopping, and stylish hotels, while its other three ski mountains – Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass – are a short drive away.
 
EAT
At sexy hideaway Steakhouse No. 316 (316 E. Hopkins Avenue), indulge in crisp onion rings, Boursin creamed spinach, and steak, balanced by the addictive kale salad with pine nuts and Parmesan.
 
Slater loves Meat & Cheese (319 E. Hopkins Avenue), a bustling all-day eatery and marketplace featuring artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and craft beers. “It’s my go-to for anyone seeking a casual but gourmet spot,” she says.
 
Charming Pyramid Bistro (221 E. Main Street), on the second floor of Aspen’s Explore Booksellers shop, serves a nutritarian menu inspired by chef Martin Oswald’s experiences at Austrian health spas. Dishes such as sweet potato gnocchi are healthy, delicious, and filling.
 
DRINK
Most of Aspen’s restaurants offer a condensed version of their menu at the bar, with lower prices and the same portion sizes. Even more to love: At upscale French bistro Cache Cache (205 S. Mill Street), the bar also has the best social buzz.
 
Mismatched leather furniture and vintage chandeliers enhance the dark and cozy vibe at Hooch (301 E. Hopkins Avenue), Aspen’s newest craft cocktail bar.
 
Champagne corks pop as a rowdy après-ski crowd gathers for drinks, cheese fondue, and apple strudel at legendary Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, located midway up Aspen Highlands.
 
SEE & DO
Family-owned Pitkin County Dry Goods (520 E. Cooper Avenue) stocks the town’s best high-end clothing for women and men – and beautiful Italian leather jackets.
 
Many of the pieces at sophisticated consignment shop The Little Bird (525 E. Cooper Avenue) still have their original tags on them. Recently spotted on the racks: items from Isabel Marant, Jimmy Choo, and Alexander McQueen.
 
Find top-quality cowboy boots and real western wear at family-owned Kemo Sabe (434 E. Cooper Avenue), one of the friendliest shops in Aspen.
 
Make tracks to the Aspen Art Museum (637 E. Hyman Avenue) for contemporary exhibitions in a stunning 33,000-square-foot space; a new exhibit of Julian Schnabel’s famous plate paintings opens for the winter on November 4. Save time for the rooftop café and its great Independence Pass and valley views.
 
STAY
Aspen’s only ski-in/ski-out hotel, the 92-room Little Nell has coveted winter adventure programs, such as First Tracks, which grants early-morning access to Aspen Mountain lifts, and the Snowcat Academy, which gives guests hands-on lessons in how to operate snowcats. Its ski-up Ajax Tavern hosts the preeminent après-ski patio in town (and also serves our editors’ favorite truffle fries on the planet). Doubles from $394, including breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
 
The 127-year-old Hotel Jerome’s red-brick Victorian facade retains its historic appeal, but inside, the 93-room property sparkles with a modern Wild West glamour. Book a post-ski treatment at the Auberge Spa, and don’t miss two of Aspen’s most iconic dining draws: J-Bar for the burger, and The Living Room for cozy cocktails. Doubles from $345, including breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.
 
Families love the 179-room St. Regis Aspen, an elegant sanctuary located between Aspen Mountain’s two main ski lifts. Acclimate in the 15,000-square-foot Remède Spa, which has a complimentary oxygen lounge, and be sure to enjoy the rotating menu of seasonal, signature dishes from top chefs around the country at Chefs Club. Doubles from $399, including breakfast daily and fresh fruit in room on arrival.
 
Originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Virtuoso Life.
 
Photo Credits: (ASPEN MOUNTAIN) EFRAIN PADRO/ALAMY, (MUSEUM) VIEW PICTURES LTD/ALAMY, (HOTEL JEROME) MORGAN LEVY