The White Stuff
Aspen, Colorado is a great destination for a package vacation.
If you ski, it’s paradise; if you don’t ski, it’s still paradise. If you don’t
like beach holidays, Aspen is almost certainly one of the best vacation
destinations for you.
Neither is Aspen simply the winter refuge of the west coast
aristocracy. Sure, the place has its fair quote of millionaire’s daughters and
movie stars, but many providers offer Aspen vacations that are well within the
budget of most families that feel like a US-based break. Aspen really offers a
value-added experience. Regular three-star vacation accommodation such as the
Aspen Meadows Resort on Meadows Road offers a taste of the high life for
travelers who don’t have millions to spend.
The Aspen Meadows offers excellent, spacious rooms and suites
that are billed as three-star but would probably be awarded four elsewhere. It
doesn’t have a restaurant on site, probably because guests like to get out in
the evening and soak up the atmosphere of the town.
And what a town! Aspen’s physical structure is a mixture of
traditional American styles – this was once a frontier town, after all – and
swish modern condominiums. The folks you’ll see in the streets are a similar
mix: you’ll meet a very wide range of people in Aspen – in fact, one of the
most rewarding ways to pass the time is to sit outside a coffee bar, drinking
your cappuccino, and simply watch the people go buy. Sit in a public place long
enough on a busy day in peak skiing season and you’re bound to see at least one
A-list movie star go past.
For all that it’s a haunt of the super-rich, Aspen is a
surprisingly down-to-earth kind of town. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly
– something which is particularly reflected in the local restaurants. There’s a
wide variety to choose from, and although some are distinctly more expensive
than others, it’s worth trying a range of Aspen eateries during your stay so
that you can fully appreciate the diversity of the town’s cooking. If your
taste runs to the European, try the Mirabella on South Monarch Street. The
cooking here is described as ‘Mediterranean’ – although some of the styles and
flavors you’ll find at work owe more than a little to the regional cooking of
more northerly areas of France and Italy. If you’re looking for the comforts of
a more distinctively American style of cooking you might consider the
award-winning House of Ribs on West Main Street.
Aspen, Maroon Bells
probably work up a considerable appetite if you’re in Aspen to sample the
area’s chief attraction – its fantastic opportunities for skiing. Aspen has
been a ski resort since the very first dedicated slope opened in 1914, and now
it’s the leading ski resort south of Canada. This is largely because of the
exceptional weather conditions. Basically, there are two types of weather in
Aspen during the peak ski season: heavy snow (the area’s slopes get around ten
feet of the stuff every year) and bright, hot sunshine. There are four ski
resorts around the town: Ajax, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Each one has
slightly different characteristics. If you’ve booked a ski course as part of
your vacation, you’ll probably find yourself heading to Buttermilk. It has the
best geography for learning if you’re a beginner, and you are less likely to be
intimidated by the expertise of the really hardcore skiers and snowboarders.
Expert skiers favor the more extreme challenges presented by Ajax. Snowboarders
are banned from that particular hill, and tend to congregate at Snowmass. If
you’re a family with kids who are keen to learn snowboarding, Snowmass is
probably the best place for you to start. As well as being the best location in
the area for getting instruction in this arcane form of snow athletics, it’s
also the most family-friendly of the four resorts.
The most popular resort in all of Colorado is a little way away
at Vail Mountain. Its popularity stems from its sheer size – so it rarely seems
crowded, as some of the resorts nearer Aspen sometimes do – and its
opportunities for enjoyment and relaxation after a long day on the pistes. The
Après Ski complex in Vail village seems almost as huge as the Vail Mountain
slopes themselves, and offers a seemingly unlimited number of options for those
wishing to eat, drink, relax and enjoy themselves.
Aspen is one of those towns that has an atmosphere: you could
put the place nearly anywhere in the world – the Sahara Desert or the middle of
the Pacific Ocean - and it would still feel special. That it happens to be
right beneath some of the finest skiing in the world only adds to the
enjoyment. Whatever your reason for visiting Aspen, whether it’s to ski, hike
and just chill out and have fun, you’ll certainly leave with the impression
that you’ve enjoyed a vacation somewhere very special indeed.