Guest Blogger, Brittany Autry, tells us of the perfect four days in Aspen in the winter, from a Southerner’s point of view.
If you google “best ski towns in America”, Aspen is at the top of the list. Many people view it as a playground for the rich. I had one friend tell me that despite its reputation as an upper crest destination, it is actually a pretty cool town with a chill vibe. That is what we were looking for and we surely found it.
Our trip started off a little rocky, no pun intended. We made the journey, in snow, from Denver airport. This is no small fete for southerners that pretty much never drive in slushy and icy rain. As frightening as that drive was, it was also exciting. The postcard views amped our anticipation the entire way. When we arrived in Aspen, we made a stop in downtown to do some shopping before heading to our lodging quarters. When I pulled our rental minivan into the street parking space covered in ice and snow, I had a bad feeling we might get stuck. We did some light shopping and tried to pull out of our parking spot to no avail. A man walking down the street with a shovel saw us struggling and came over to assist us. He attempted to dig the front tires out of the ice and even push the car off the ice while I gunned it in reverse. This went on for 20 minutes which felt like an eternity! With the assistance of 3 other pedestrians joining in to help, we finally, safely, made it out of that treacherous patch of ice. My friends and I rejoiced and comment that if this is Aspen, where strangers walking down the street will physically push a car to safety, we were in the right place!
Once settled in our Frias Properties condo rental for the weekend, we decided to go back out to grab lunch. We all agreed we had no desire to drive anymore during our stay so we downloaded the Downtowner app to get around. The Downtowner is a free car service that has door-to-door drop off in their service area around downtown Aspen. This app was our gateway to explore what Aspen had to offer. Our friendly and knowledgeable driver suggested that we try Red Onion for lunch. It turned out to be just the casual dining we were hoping to enjoy. We all opted for burgers and sweet potato fries. I was especially excited to try the bison burger which did not disappoint.
Weeks prior to our arrival, we made dinner reservations at the top restaurants in Aspen. Our first night we went to Matsuhisa, part of the Nobu family, for sushi. I’ve been to Nobu in Malibu, Miami, and New York so I was excited to see what this location had to offer. The service was impeccable. We started the evening with a signature Nobu sake recommended by our waitress. We ate through the menu trying their famous yellow tail sashimi with jalapeños and a couple of sushi rolls. The ambiance was on point, with coat check at the door, knowledgeable staff, perfect lighting and mood music. Despite the flawless setting, we were honestly exhausted. We turned in early after our tumultuous day of traveling to prepare for our ski lessons the next morning.
Friday morning was the big day, the day we would all go skiing for the first time! We started our morning with breakfast at Jour de Fête to prepare for a very physical day. I had the delightful egg and bacon croissant sandwich. We took the free Aspen bus service to Snowmass. The gondola ride to the top of Snowmass had breathtaking views. By sheer luck alone, we were blessed with private lessons for the 3 of us even though we signed up for group lessons! Our instructor Karen was so very patient with us as she took us through the basic fundamentals of skiing. We progressed well throughout the day, but not to the level of skiing from the very top of Snowmass, which was just fine with us. We enjoyed lunch at the Elk Camp Restaurant on top of the Elk Camp Gondola at Snowmass. Imagine a cafeteria set up with gourmet food. It was just what we needed to power through the second half of our ski lesson. That night we were so wiped out that we ordered takeout through A La Car and turned in early. We were really missing out on the Aspen nightlife so we entered Saturday with something to prove.
Saturday started with a fancy lunch in town at Prospect in Hotel Jerome. We took advantage of our central location and walked to lunch enjoying the sights of downtown Aspen. The lobby at Hotel Jerome was the perfect backdrop for a photo shoot. The staff also directed us to the 4th floor terrace for a rooftop view of the city that allowed us to absorb the uniquely inspiring architectural design of Aspen. Our lunch and service was yet another Aspen five star experience. From there we went to Heaven on Earth: A High Altitude Day Spa to have our highly recommended massages with the owner, Pila. I opted for the signature massage. Pila “walked on my back” while supported by bars hang from the ceiling which allowed her to give moderate to deep pressure. The spa had a very serene and relaxing energy. We checked out the Aspen antique and art scene, and did some consignment shopping at The Little Bird. We retired home early to get ready for our grand finale dinner at Jimmy’s.
Jimmy’s American Restaurant and Bar exceeded all of our expectations. We had baby lamb chops grilled to perfection, an amazing cut of steak, macaroni and cheese, and brussel sprouts to name a few dishes. We also enjoyed craft cocktails and wine to complement our entrée selections. Towards the end of our meal Jimmy, the owner himself, sat down for a brief chat with us. The hospitality and attentiveness we had was unmatched. Another group of diners had sent over some shots of Patron for us earlier in the evening. As it turns out, Vueve Clicquot champagne, Patron shots, craft cocktails, red wine, and high altitude leads to a pretty sauced existence. We had no choice but to retire home lest we risk ruining our reputations in Aspen!
Sunday morning, we packed up our minivan and had one more adventure before heading back to Denver to fly home. On a whim, we decided to book a snowmobile tour with Western Adventures Inc. Our tour guide Bob took the time to impart a lot of history and geology knowledge as we went 11,500 ft elevation to one of the best views I have ever witnessed.
Aspen was a great weekend escape. We are looking forward to returning to see the city in the Summer and for another winter experience. The people are friendly, the views are epic, and the food is top notch. I’m an avid international traveler but I am happy to have such beauty and adventure right here in my backyard.
Author Bio: Brittany Autry received a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Auburn University in 2010. She works and lives in Atlanta, Ga but loves to travel over the United States and internationally. She highlights her travel on her lifestyle Instagram account @be.autry
Photographers: Ashlea and Jamese