Despite the buzz, there’s more to Aspen than skiing. Great restaurants, bars – even consignment shopping – all add to its appeal. Carol Hooper from The Little Nell hotel shares local secrets.  Shhhh…

Winding down

When my friends are in town, I take them for a drink at Ajax Tavern, right here at The Little Nell. I love the jalapeño margaritas and the oyster bar. The bar has a good vibe and is great for people-watching – particularly during après-ski on a sunny day – so it’s popular with both locals and visitors.

Dining with view

The restaurant that best shows off Aspen is Piñons steak restaurant. It’s quite contemporary, with windows that beautifully frame Aspen Mountain. The ambience, food and service are excellent and they also serve fish and vegetarian dishes.

SEE ALSO: A Quick Guide to Skiing near Vancouver

Local secret

If you want to eat at a restaurant that’s popular with locals, go to L’Hostaria, which feels like you’re in a little Italian village. It’s authentic Northern Italian, high energy and a lot of fun. They make their own pasta daily and have an amazing wine list.


Aussie-made coffee

And for a caffeine fix, I go to Victoria + Co Espresso + Wine Bar. It serves good coffee and attracts an interesting, diverse crowd: skiers, non-skiers, families… The owner is an Aussie so you can expect to get the best flat whites in Aspen.

Taking it to the top

My favourite run in Aspen is Highland Bowl. You take two ski lifts then ride in a snowcat, which takes you to the start of the hike. The climb brings you to the edge of the bowl and on any given day the views are spectacular. To reach the top is a victory – it takes 45 minutes – and then to ski the steep terrain is just exhilarating and only for experienced skiers.

Get out of town

And outside of Aspen I like Long Shot at Snowmass Mountain. After a 10-minute hike up Burnt Mountain from the top of Elk Camp, you arrive at Long Shot. It’s an eight-kilometre blue [intermediate] run that starts in cruise mode, adds in a few glades then a number of easy mogul fields [slopes covered in bumps]. You can ski freely through the Aspen trees with wonderful mountain views.

SEE ALSO: Where to Ski in Japan

Fun for the kids

A good tip for young families is to drop the kids off at The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center in Snowmass Village or The Hideout at Buttermilk Mountain. They learn to ski and enjoy playing with other children their age while the adults tackle more challenging terrain.

The great indoors

If there’s a blizzard, spend the day at Remède Spa at the St Regis or visit the Aspen Art Museum. There are some interesting exhibits and a rooftop café with 360-degree views of Aspen. Also check out Belly Up Aspen for world-class live music in a small and intimate venue.

Grab a bargain

If you want to shop, Aspen is a wonderful place to find second-hand high-end designer items. The Little Bird consignment and vintage store is a go-to. Other stores include Susie’s Limited Consignments and Amber’s Uptown Consignment. You should also check out The Thrift Shop of Aspen, where you can get some real bargains.

You must remember this …

For the perfect memento, you can’t go past, the Emporium and Flying Circus. It’s an eclectic store filled with crafts from local artisans and gourmet food options. It is very cute and funky and has lots of character.

Hidden treasures

The town’s best-kept secret is the shrines on Aspen Mountain. You can ski to them in winter but they’re tucked away so you may need a local or ski instructor to assist you. There’s one for John Denver, Jerry Garcia and even Elvis Presley.

SEE ALSO: Neil Perry’s Tips for Dining in Aspen

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