Not all accommodation in Aspen is high end – though there is shortage of accommodation aimed at mere mortals. You’ll notice that most of our pick of accommodation is in Aspen, as opposed to Snowmass, eight miles down the valley. That’s because Aspen is where all the action is – and if you’re going to go all the way to Colorado to see it, you really ought to stay there, too. Snowmass is well-designed and is the better base for families – and has had a billion-dollar makeover – but it doesn’t have Aspen’s sense of history, or its glamour. Highlands is strictly for serious skiers who catch the first lift and go to bed early.
How not to spend a fortune in Aspen
Ritzy Aspen is known for some of the highest hotel prices of any resort in North America. But lower-cost alternatives do exist. The sacrifice you make for the mouthwatering package that is Aspen Meadows Resort is the location. This campus-style property – set in a 40-acre park – is a 20-minute walk (from the centre of town. Thankfully, there’s a shuttle bus available both day and night, but chances are you’ll end up dropping a few bucks on cabs, too. But hey – just check out those rooms. They’re suites! All 98 of ‘em?! And while they’re maybe a touch too polite to be cutting edge (a bit more colour wouldn’t go amiss), they’re big, immaculately-kept, and well-equipped.
The Durant is another good-value location in town. It’s a well-kept bed and breakfast, only two blocks from the main Ajax lift and right by a bus stop too – giving easy access to the resort’s other three mountains. The cheaper rooms are fairly small, but cute and clean, and if it’s location you’re after, for a reasonable price, this is the place. Hotel Lenado is a small and homely B&B. However, the most moderate choice we’ve found in the resort is the St Moritz Lodge & Condos. Besides its regular hotel bedrooms, it also has some ‘hostel rooms’ where you book a single bed in a shared room and use the shared bathroom down the hall – one for men and one for women. It specializes in long lets – from $31 per night for 30+ days in 2012-13.
Slightly pricier is the Limelight Hotel, right in the centre of town. The hotel has large, well-equipped rooms and suites, some with kitchens, sitting rooms with fireplaces and terraces. There’s an in-house restaurant serving complimentary breakfast, pizzas and pasta. The Gant is a condo-hotel with some very good rooms.
The happening hotel
You don’t stay in the Sky Hotel on account of the rooms. They’re fine – expensively decorated and well-furnished – but they still retain the proportions of the old motel-y Aspen Club Lodge which used to occupy this site.
No, what you come for is the 39 Degrees bar – which is far and away the most happening place in town once everyone’s got off the slopes, had a shower, and changed for dinner. By 5.30pm each evening, the place is heaving, and the action spills out across the lobby and all over the fancy terrace beyond. Just to be able to say “I’m staying at the Sky, come and meet me here for drinks,” obviously means a lot – and so the hotel can charge what it likes for people to stay.
The hedonistic hideaways
The trio of hedonistic hideaways begins with The Little Nell, which at first sight might seem impossibly grand – like Badrutt’s Palace in St Moritz. In fact it’s a remarkably low-key place – conservative in style and unassuming in nature, but busting a gut to keep its guests happy. The rooms are large, and the location – one of only a handful of properties in town that’s ski-in, ski-out – superb.
Hotel Jerome is the original Victorian inn, with oodles of character. The hotel’s J Bar has been Aspen’s favourite watering hole for well over a century. It has just been given a complete update, with a dramatic interior transformation. There’s a new restaurant and, for the first time, the hotel will house a spa. The only part that will remain the same is the J Bar. Largest hotel in all of Aspen, the St Regis Resort, is conveniently based at the Aspen Mountain base. A few years ago singer Mariah Carey moved out of her Aspen townhouse and into a suite here for two nights over Christmas when her heating broke down.
Best p(a)lace in Snowmass
One of the highlights of the Snowmass Base Village is The Viceroy. It’s ski-in ski-out at the base of the Assay Hill chair-lift, with some gorgeous rooms and suites, a library, an 87-foot-long glass-topped apres-ski bar and two restaurants including Eight K which serves a delicious breakfast. The Viceroy’s vast spa has some of the most unusual treatments we’ve ever come across (including a two-hour Bear Dance Ritual and other Ute-inspired treatments) and there’s an outdoor area with lovely heated swimming-pool. Most useful is the in-house ski hire shop, Four Mountain Sports (+1 970 923 2337), which transports equipment between the four mountains.