Aspen, Colorado, USA
Wanting some fresh mountain air and wide-open spaces to enjoy, I decided to head out to Colorado. This was my first trip to Aspen / Snowmass and it did not disappoint. Traveling in August, I experienced the most beautiful weather – the high 80s every day with extremely low humidity and beautiful, deep blue skies. For my accommodations, I chose the Viceroy in Snowmass and booked a 1-bedroom residence which offered a nice living/dining area, separate bedroom, huge bathroom with a massive soaking tub and walk-in shower, as well as an efficiency style kitchen including a Wolf induction range, Sub-Zero Refrigerator, Viking Convection Microwave, and a Bosch washer / drier and dishwasher. These amenities, plus toaster, pots, and pans, coffee maker, dishes, cutlery, etc. made it easy to make a quick breakfast in the morning or keep snacks and beverages on hand to enjoy out on the balcony, or even make an easy dinner. Just about a 15-minute drive to downtown Aspen, this was a great choice as it was a little quieter over in Snowmass but had all of the amenities that I needed including a few local restaurants, an extremely well-stocked grocery store directly across the street and so much more. The Viceroy offered great amenities including a nice pool area, with chairs properly distanced from one another, an outdoor restaurant, a spa, a well-outfitted gym, and more. The staff was excellent and very accommodating, and of course, the accommodations were so comfortable and well-appointed.
Aspen / Snowmass is a great spot for a summer getaway for those looking to experience a variety of fun activities including horseback riding, whitewater rafting, hiking, paragliding, biking, exploring the beautiful outdoors, and so much more. Residents and visitors to Aspen/Snowmass are reminded in fun ways through signs and banners about the mandatory mask policy and social distancing guidelines, and virtually everyone I observed took these policies very seriously. I felt very comfortable traveling to Aspen/Snowmass during the COVID-19 crisis.
One night I ate dinner at Toro in my hotel at the Viceroy Snowmass. The steaks were on par with both Ruth’s Chris and The Capitol Grill and were definitely a special treat. Both the ambiance and service were fantastic. Toro is also open for breakfast so if you’re in need of a filling breakfast, they have some great options, which in the nice weather, can be enjoyed out on their patio overlooking the beautiful mountains of Snowmass.
Yes, when I visited Woody Creek Distillers, I purchased a bottle of their Apple Brandy as well as a nice copper mug. I also collect pins from my travels so purchased a couple for my pinboard that hangs on my office wall – a fun reminder of the places I’ve been.
The height of the Independence Pass which I decided to drive across. With an elevation of 12,085 feet at its highest point, it is on the Continental Divide and offers some absolutely amazing views. However, drivers should be aware that in places, there are blind spots to oncoming traffic, and, in some cases, it is extremely narrow in areas so one has to be very careful with oncoming traffic. There are areas to pull off and take photos, or just stop for a moment to enjoy the scenery. The pass is obviously closed in winter and can close often in the summer if something like a big rig driver decides to ignore the warnings and tries to navigate an 18-wheeler across the pass, which simply won’t fit.
Be sure you take a drive out to Ashcroft Ghost Town which is approximately a 14-mile drive along Castle Creek Road which is accessed at the roundabout just on the west side of Aspen off Highway 82. This unique area, which was once home to more than 20 saloons, a school, plenty of homes, etc. is the location of a former silver mining ghost town. It’s an easy walk along the pathway from the parking lot and information center, where the visitor will be greeted by docents from the Aspen Historical Society who will provide valuable information about the history of Ashcroft and much more.
The distance and time it took to drive from Denver to Snowmass. We ended up flying into Denver and getting a rental car and driving over to Snowmass. On the map, 220+ miles didn’t seem that far, the longest part being on Interstate 70. But, given very heavy traffic on our arrival day, plus 11,000-foot mountains to traverse, it was not the most fun I’ve ever had driving. Then, after a fire started and shut down the interstate where I would have had to get back on to go to Denver, followed by the closure of the Independence Pass near Aspen, I decided to drop my rental car in Aspen and purchase airline tickets to fly back to Denver to avoid what could easily have turned into a 7+ hour return drive. For any visitor wishing to visit Aspen — I highly recommend flying directly into the very easy to access the airport and save yourself a lot of time and worry. While the airport is small, it is serviced by several of the major carriers including American and United, and hopefully, soon Delta will resume their service. There’s even a TSA pre-check for those customers eligible for the program. And of course, it’s perfect for those flying by private jet.
Traveling by cable car on a bright summer day to the top of Aspen Mountain at 11,000 feet was a highlight and a favorite thing to do. The views all the way up were incredible and being able to sit outside at the Sundeck Restaurant and enjoy a refreshing beverage while taking in the beautiful vistas was fantastic. In the summer months, the visitor can purchase a 3-day sightseeing package which is valid for 3 of 7 days and includes 3 days of gondola and chairlift rides in both Aspen and Snowmass, discounts on activities at the Lost Forest, a $10 lunch credit at the restaurants on both Aspen and Snowmass mountains, or the Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain as well as some additional discounts. The best part is the sightseeing package was just a mere $39 per person and we ended up enjoying a nice lunch sat out on the patio of the Ajax Tavern and were able to combine our 2 $10 lunch vouchers.
Just about 15 miles west of Aspen, in Basalt, I really enjoyed visiting Woody Creek Distillers which is a local distillery, tasting room, and a retail shop. Not only did I get to learn all about how they distill their own vodka from their locally grown potatoes, but at the end of the tour, it was great to take some time to sit outside in the fresh air on their patio and enjoy a beverage.
As a fan of BBQ and especially pulled pork and ribs, Hickory House, located right on the corner of West Main Street before you take the turn to head out of the center of Aspen was a favorite for me. Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they had a wide variety of the typical BBQ specialties, great lunch plates as well as daily specials. Plenty of outdoor seating with umbrellas, great service, and delicious food made this a fun place to eat.