We just finished up four amazing days in Aspen, arriving on Sunday on the United non-stop SFO-ASE flight. That flight may just be a regional jet, but wow it sure is convenient to be able to fly non-stop from home to Aspen, Colorado. It takes so much hassle out of the entire experience. The flight was very smooth, and landing in Aspen is quite beautiful. The snow was falling pretty heavily when we got there, and I’m excited to say it kept going for almost three consecutive days! I was in Aspen for a work-related trip, and we were all booked at the St. Regis. The complimentary shuttle picked us up, and within ten to fifteen minutes, we had arrived.
The Aspen St. Regis is a very nice hotel. For a company-paid stay, I was quite happy to be there. There’s a ski rental place built right into the resort, and they serve you snacks and hot cocoa while you’re fitted. It’s definitely the nicest rental facility I’ve ever been to. The gym and spa are also quite nice, with the gym having a good selection of machines and free weights. The lobby is quite classy, with a great bar and lounge area. It has a very understated mountain lodge feel to it.
However, as a St. Regis, it is trying to compete with hotels like the Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, and in this regard, I think it fails. The service was fine, but I didn’t feel like they ever went out of their way to check on us. The “butler” service there is also mediocre, as they forgot to do turn-down service in our room one evening. Breakfast at their buffet will run you about $40/person after tax. We were disappointed that even though we at breakfast there four mornings, it was the EXACT same offering every single day. The eggs were often cold and the french toast seemed soggy. I was also surprised that they didn’t have a make-your-own-omelette station or anything like that. So while our stay at the St. Regis was great, if I had to pay the rate that you find at spg.com, I would not have been so happy.
We didn’t visit Aspen for the St. Regis. We came for the SNOW! And wow did we get a lot of it! Before having two of the best snowboard days of my life, we went on a snowmobile trip at the T Lazy 7 Ranch. I was actually somewhat disappointed by our snowmobiling trip. We could not go up to see the Maroon Bells, due to avalance risk. Therefore, our trip involved going up and down a flat run of about 5 miles, going in a circular track a bunch, and that was pretty much it. There was no “freestyle” time to drive around in the snow. Very lame. Other snowmobiling trips I have done in the past gave more freedom. In any case, it was still fun, just not as fun as it could have been.
Dinner the first couple nights was catered by the hotel, but one evening we went to the restaurant on the top of Aspen Mountain via gondola. What a great place! We had the entire restaurant reserved, and the bill was picked up by my company so I can’t comment on the price. However, the food was top notch.
Dining up there is worth it for the gondola ride alone. They give you blankets and hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows to accompany your ride. I was surprised to see that the Aspen gondolas have iPod docks in them! Unfortunately, they are solar powered so they did not work at night… I also enjoyed Bad Billy’s. They have a shuffleboard table there, and if you’re looking to escape Aspen’s over-the-top glamour, this is a great place to go for some good bar food and entertainment.
We also really enjoyed a sushi place called Kenichi. Word of warning: like many things in Aspen, this place is expensive. That being said, it tasted extremely fresh. The preparation and ambiance was also top notch. We also enjoyed CP Burger, pretty close to the base of Aspen mountain, right next to the ice skating rink.
As for the skiing / snowboarding, we had two fantastic days at Snowmass and Aspen Highlands. If you like your mountain steep and deep, you can find both at these places. The greater Aspen area actually consists of four different mountains:
- Aspen Mountain: Runs right into the base of downtown Aspen, very convenient, not much beginner terrain
- Buttermilk: Mostly a beginner’s mountain with the exception of its famous Snowboard Park – host of the 2011 Winter X-Games
- Aspen Highlands: Mostly advanced mountain, famous for its hikable Highlands Bowl
- Snowmass: the most skiable acres of any of the four mountains; large variety of terrain
The first day was spent at Snowmass. I thought Snowmass was a lot of fun, but I really don’t like mountains that require a decent amount of traverses to go across them. Mountains like Heavenly, Breckenridge, and Snowmass leave skiers spending too much time going across the mountains, rather than down. That being said, the snow conditions were outstanding, and there was a lot of fun terrain there. To get a feel for how soft and light this snow was, take a look at this video below of yours truly in the powder:
The next day we went to Aspen Highlands. This day was even more epic as not only did we have multiple feet of new snow, but there was not a cloud in the sky! Days like these don’t come very often so we seized the opportunity, making sure to hike to the top of the Highlands Bowl. I really enjoyed Aspen Highlands. Unlike Snowmass, it is very vertically oriented, and besides my hike to the top, I never had to walk or traverse to get around. There was a lot of great terrain there. Absolutely phenomenal.
Aspen was a blast! I can’t wait to go back. Of course, our trip didn’t end there. Nope! We drove from Aspen to Telluride and spent a few days in Telluride. I’ll save the details for another post, but I will tell you that I liked Telluride even more than Aspen!