Between the first big melt and when the crowds arrive for the summer festivals, Aspen plays host to a slate of outdoor and cultural activities for savvy travelers looking to beat the rush. Luxury Travel Advisor just got back from a weekend in Aspen, and we've rounded up our top picks for how to celebrate spring in the mountain town.
We checked in to the St. Regis Aspen, where we stayed in room 352, a one-bedroom suite. Suites offer complimentary butler service, as well as a marble bathroom with a double basin sink and separate shower and deep soaking tub.
We arrived around dinnertime after a drive from Denver, so we grabbed a bite to eat at The Wild Fig, a local spot with a patio overlooking one of the main pedestrian shopping areas of Aspen. The restaurant serves Mediterranean-inspired food. We tried the three-course prixe fixe menu, starting with a salad of the titular figs and blue cheese, continuing with an ahi tuna and heirloom tomato risotto and finishing with a hazelnut gelato.
Hiking and Biking Around Town
The next day for breakfast we ate at the St. Regis' newest restaurant, the Trecento Quindici Decano, in the just-opened-for-the-spring outdoor seating in the courtyard. The Decano serves food inspired by Italy, particularly Puglia, from where the chefs source their balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Guests dining there receive special Puglian souvenirs: purse hangers for the ladies and corkscrews for the gentlemen.
Thus fortified we set off for the Aspen Art Museum, a non-collecting contemporary art museum that currently houses two galleries of rotating exhibitions of contemporary art. Admission is free as part of the museum's mission of bringing contemporary art to the broader public.
While we were there the museum was abuzz with preparations for a new building, set to open this August. The new building will increase the available exhibition space from two galleries to six, and it will play host to Aspen's first public rooftop space, which we hear will offer great views of Aspen Mountain (Ajax to the locals).
Architecture buffs, and those interested in sustainable buildings, should take note that the new structure is designed by Shigeru Ban, who first rose to prominence with his work on humanitarian pop-up architecture with the United Nations. The design incorporates a unique lattice of synthetic wood veneer that absorbs the UV rays of the harsh mountain sun. Ban will also be the focus of one of the new museum's inaugural exhibits, "Shigeru Ban: Humanitarian Architecture," which will look at his work developing projects for the relief of natural disasters over the past two decades. Other opening exhibits will look at Yves Klein and David Hammons, Tomma Abts, Rosemarie Trockel, Jim Hodges and Cai Guo-Qiang.
After the museum, it was off on the bike ride along the Rio Grande trail. This scenic bike path along the Roaring Fork River was once a rail line in Aspen's silver mining days, but it has since been turned into a bike route stretching to Glenwood Springs.
After a nine-mile easy downhill stretch, we stopped for lunch at the Woody Creek Tavern which, according to local lore, was once Hunter S. Thompson's favorite watering hole. From there the trail extends an additional 33 miles before arriving in Glenwood springs, but we loaded our bikes into a car and drove back to town. (Savvy advisors may wish to arrange the same with their clients' hotel - nine miles downhill and nine miles uphill are entirely different prospects.)
In town we had a spa appointment at the St. Regis' recently remodeled Remède Spa. We opted to sample the one-hour massage with paraffin wax for the feet and rosemary-scented oil, but the spa offers a variety of "Farm-to-Massage-Table" treatments that bring locally sourced ingredients into spa treatments.
Relaxation complete, we grabbed a quick drink at the Ajax Tavern in The Little Nell. Situated at the foot of the gondola, we hear that this is the spot to be for people-watching. For clients looking to try a local specialty, recommend the truffle fries: even in spring, they'll make you think of après.
From The Little Nell, it was off to HOPS Culture, one of Aspen's newest restaurants. Despite what the name may imply, the restaurant's selection of 200 beers encompasses enough variety that guests of every palate (and hops tolerance) can find something to enjoy. The wait staff is trained in steering guests to a beer they'll enjoy, and three-beer flights offer an option for those who want to sample.
Stay tuned to www.luxurytraveladvisor.com for Part Two of our Aspen in the Spring coverage, where we visit the Maroon Bells and guided hiking with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.