The Best Things to Do in Aspen This Winter—When You’re Not Actually Skiing, That Is
We’re in the throes of another North American winter. And word has it that the Rockies have been blessed with fantastic snowfall, turning the region’s most desirable mountain towns into a winter wonderland, the likes of which haven’t been seen in years. This means Aspen, perhaps the US’s most sought-after winter destination, is now busier and buzzier than ever. Its legendary slopes, luxury hotels and exciting après-ski hangouts—see-and-be-seen hot spots regardless of snow conditions—are thriving.
Take Buttermilk, one of the four skiable mountains that make up Aspen-Snowmass. It’s coming off a $23-million investment that will include a transformed base area complete with a 9,000-square-foot fully electric skier services building, a renovated restaurant and the Backyard, a bar and heated outdoor patio. But for those looking to take advantage of Aspen away from the slopes, here’s what you need to know.
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For Aspen’s most popular hotels, winter is the time to show off. A relentless barrage of seasonal launches is how they stay top-of-mind among affluent jet-setters.
The Little Nell, the premier ski-in/ski-out hotel at the base of Aspen Mountain, is never the same place twice; there’s always something going on. This time around, it’s launching the Nest at the Nell, an outdoor lounge experience curated by EKS Events with plush seating, fire pits and après-ski service. There, you’ll find weekly wine classes, jazz nights at Element 47 (presented in part with Jazz Aspen Snowmass) and frequent dinners paired with delicious vino hosted by some of the world’s most celebrated vineyards, including the February 11 event with Napa’s Promontory Wine that costs a $1,000 per ticket.
On the other side of town, Hotel Jerome has been similarly busy. This is the first ski season for its just-opened spa Yarrow, where botanicals sourced in and around the Rocky Mountains are at the core of the treatment menu. One of the massages, for instance, uses a CBD oil (featuring cold-pressed grapeseed oil, arnica, chamomile and Vitamin E) from Colorado’s Steamboat Springs. The hotel also just debuted an après concept where it’ll serve you caviar (from Petrossian’s exclusive “Hotel Jerome Selection” Ossetra) and Champagne while you relax in the property’s pool.
New York City’s Taikun Sushi, a super-exclusive eight-seat omakase bar in the Lower East Side, is taking over Bad Harriet this winter, too, with a nine-course meal priced at $225 per person.
There couldn’t be a more exciting place to eat and drink than Aspen in the winter. And after putting in all the work on the slopes, it’s time to indulge a little—or a lot.
The Snow Lodge—brought to you by the team behind Montauk’s the Surf Lodge—is part supper club, part contemporary art gallery, part concert venue, and it’s back at the St. Regis this season. There’s a new Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne room, draped in navy hues and pops of pink furniture; throughout the season, expect blue-chip DJs to set the mood: Zedd was there during the holidays and Diplo popped in during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
For about three months this winter, the top of Aspen Mountain will be transformed by the whimsical hands of photographer Gray Malin into AspenX Beach Club, a sand-meets-snow après-ski concept exclusive to 100 bookings a day. And every Saturday this season, the rooftop cafe at the Aspen Art Museum becomes a DJ-led indoor-outdoor party with Aspen Mountain as the backdrop. If you decide to roll up straight from the slopes, fret not: The staff will loan you plush slippers for added comfort and safety.
Also new is Madame Ushi, a Japanese steakhouse, bar and nightclub from French DJ Cedric Gervais. It’s already impossible to get in. National outlets such as Ponyboy, a cocktail bar in Brooklyn, and Chica, a pan-Latin Miami restaurant, have local pop-ups through the winter calendar, too.
If you’d rather spend your time shopping than shredding, there’s always plenty to get into in Aspen, especially this season, when the retail scene is especially robust. There’s a Max Mara pop-up in Hotel Jerome, where you can sip on hot chocolate (from an adorable cart) while perusing cashmere coats and alpaca mittens. Another European fashion label makes its presence known here this year: French skiwear brand Fusalp has a standalone storefront downtown now—its second in the US after the NYC opening last year. Expect to find exceptionally designed ski gear, but even more special is the selection of pieces from its collaboration with Pucci, including a head-turning ‘70s-inspired ski suit in the Italian brand’s iconic Iride print.
But the AspenX boutique at Gondola Plaza is the hottest place to shop this season. In November, it released a collaboration with Aether full of winter-ready pieces, such as a down poncho and an insulated merino-wool button-front shirt-jacket. And to close out 2022, there was another collection launch, this time with Prada. There are wool beanies featuring Paula Crown’s artwork of Aspen trail maps and oversized wind-resistant jackets fashioned out of fabric made from ocean plastic waste.
Art lovers should pop into the new Bayer Center, an exhibition space dedicated to Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer (after whom it is named). There are a few shows up for viewing this this season, including one that surveys over 150 of his paintings, drawings and watercolors. Also on-view is a collection of Bayer’s sculptures, murals and earthworks, most of which helped define Aspen’s midcentury aesthetic. More walk-throughs with Bayer’s former studio assistant Richard Carter, which are held monthly until February 1 but are currently sold-out, may be offered later this season. Sotheby’s has also put its hat into the ring with its recently opened downtown Aspen gallery, filled with a Sol Lewitt painted wood sculpture, glazed Michael Dickey ceramic vases, multiple originals from Ed Ruscha and Robert Ryman originals and displays of luxury watches and handbags.
And finally, party animals should time their Aspen visit to the weekend of February 24, 2002, when Kygo’s Palm Tree Musical Festival lands in the Rockies with performances by Jack White, Forester and the renowned Norwegian DJ himself.
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