Aspen is one the world's premier resorts and undisputed queen of USA ski towns. A former silver-mining boom town, it retains much of its elegant Victorian-era architecture, tastefully renovated and housing many upmarket hotels, swanky restaurants, and chic boutiques. Many Hollywood film stars, showbiz and sports celebrities, high-profile US politicians and wannabee Presidents have homes here; and the quality and prices of the services in the resort reflects that. Many visitors are drawn to Aspen to see and be seen and to rub shoulders with the stars, but most snowsports enthusiasts are drawn here by the celebrated quality and scale of Aspen's superlative ski terrain.
'The Power Of Four' has been Aspen's strapline for a number of years, alluding to the four separate ski areas associated with the resort: Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax) rises immediately next to the town; Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk sit side by side some 5 km away; plus there's Snowmass, located about 15 km to the west and really a separate resort in its own right.
The nearest international airport is Denver, around 320 km to the north-east, but Aspen also boasts its own local airport (Aspen/Pitkin at Sardy Field, just 5 km from downtown Aspen), which handles regional connections and many of its regular celebrity visitors' private jets.
The Aspen-Snowmass Four Mountain area lift pass covers all four of Aspen's ski areas: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. All four areas are linked by free ski bus.
Aspen Mountain is the resort's flagship ski area, rising directly above the town and served by a base-to-summit gondola and fast chairlifts; renowned for its long high-end 'groomers', glade areas, tree-lined steeps and mogul fields, this is intermediate and advanced in-bounds skiing and snowboarding terrain par excellence.
Aspen Highlands is another classic mountain for intermediate and advanced skiers and riders, but also has a good selection of green-graded slopes too and so is great for mixed-ability groups; the headline draw at Aspen Highlands though is the legendary Highland Bowl, an experts-only zone of ultra-steep faces and powder-filled chutes on some of the steepest in-bounds terrain in North America.
Buttermilk is often described as Aspen's beginners' mountain, although the area does contain a handful of popular black-diamond runs and is home to the resort's superpipe and one of the longest slopestyle parks in the world; the majority of the terrain here though is indeed very novice-friendly, almost the entire mountain is groomed every night and the nursery slopes and beginners' trails are first class.
Snowmass is the second-largest ski resort in Colorado in its own right, with a sizeable base-area village and a balanced mix of terrain for visitors of all ability levels; for further details please see our separate guide to Snowmass.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Downtown Aspen is platinum-card retail heaven, and a fabulous place for window-shopping; filled with designer boutiques and art galleries, and boasting over 100 high-quality restaurants. The town also has an ice rink, two cinemas, and even an opera house. It's altogether a very different class of resort than most mountain ski villages, and yet it's welcoming and affordable to all-comers and contains a wide selection of amenities and facilities across a range of price points.
With a choice of over 100 restaurants and bars, plus a selection of hip nightspots, apres ski in Aspen Town is some of the best that the USA has to offer. There's everything here from informal traditional-style pubs, through lively sports-bars and music-bars, to classy cocktail bars and sophisticated lounges; whatever your preference and pocket, Aspen can accommodate.
Apres ski kicks off in a handful of slope-side and base-area bars: Cloud Nine over at Aspen Highlands is often the liveliest on-mountain venue, whilst the lively Ajax Tavern and hip 39 Degrees lounge are two of the prime spots at Aspen itself. Later on in the evening, live music sets the pace at hip hangouts such as Syzygy and Belly Up, followed by high-energy dance-floor action in the town's upscale clubs - Shooters and Club Chelsea are the leading venues.
NB: 21 is the minimum legal age for consuming alcohol in the state of Colorado.
Bars and clubs
Hickory House Ribs