Aspen ski resort is well known for its elegant Victorian buildings, luxurious hotels, great skiing and vibrant nightlife.
The centre of Aspen is pleasingly compact, making it possible to walk between all the main hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. The views of the surrounding Rocky Mountains are some of the best in Colorado and include the famous Maroon Bells, some of the most photographed peaks in the US.
Getting to Aspen is not as hard as some expect. For those who book early, one can fly via a gateway hub such as Chicago then direct into Aspen's own airport, located between Aspen and Snowmass (about 6 minutes drive from each). However, severe weather can close this airport - with ensuing transport chaos. For those getting the direct flight into Denver, you can get a shuttle or taxi from Denver International (about 4 and half hours). Another option is to fly via another hub into Vail/Eagle County Airport about 1 1/2 hours away.
Resort Altitude: 2,422m
Resort Skiing: 3,813m
Total Ski Area: 461km
Green Runs: 28km
Blue Runs: 198km
Red Runs: 78km
Black Runs: 156km
Cross Country: 65km
With such an extensive volume of slopes, you could spend your entire trip covering new terrain every single day. In Aspen, you can ski the same route that has hosted World Cup finals, ride through gladed powder stashes or burn your legs racing from top to bottom on some of the longest pistes you can find. Or if you're a freestyler, Buttermilk is home to the Red Bull Double Pipe event and the Winter X Games.
Aspen Mountain has some of the toughest skiing in the area, with lots of short but testing double-black-diamond runs such as Bear Paw, Short Snort, Aztec and Walsh's. Bell Mountain also offers some tricky blacks, with lots of fun intermediate runs as well. Buttermilk, just outside Aspen town, is a small area ideal for beginners and intermediates who want to build up their confidence. Snowmass is the largest of the four areas and a 20-minute free shuttle bus ride from Aspen, perfect for intermediate skiers.
Until 2001, Aspen Mountain banned all snowboarders from its slopes. Now all of Aspen's mountains welcome boarders and offer a special ride-guide leaflet for all four mountains. Snowmass has the longest terrain park in North America at two miles. There are three man-made half-pipes and five terrain parks, as well as lots of slopes that are naturally appealing to boarders.
Aspen Snowmass' ski schools are a collection of talented professionals that are committed to helping every visitor build their confidence on the snow, understand terrain and guide them to the next level. Lessons are available for all ages in skiing and snowboarding.
Aspen offers a wide choice of child-care facilities. The Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center takes children from eight weeks to six years and provides parents with pagers so they can ski all day and still be in touch with their child. There are plenty of childcare options across both Aspen and Snowmass.
Aspen probably has the liveliest collection of restaurants of any ski resort in the world, but be warned: the restaurant scene here changes very fast. Almost every conceivable kind of cuisine is represented in Aspen and the latest trends in contemporary American cooking are always on display. This is the kind of town that can lure chefs who usually work in New York or LA.
Late at night, Aspen has a huge number of bars and clubs ranging from exclusive private clubs such as the Caribou through to the Cigar Bar. 39 Degrees (Sky Hotel) boasts young crowds, whilst unpretentious bars such as Belly Up feature live music acts in an intimate setting. The Woody Creek Tavern (famous haunt of the late Hunter S Thompson) is also worth a visit.
Aspen Snowmass is home to fantastic shopping such as designer boutiques, including Ralph Lauren, Fendi, Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton. There are also over 50 galleries. The Explorer Bookshop is a wonderful place, of which any big city in the world would be proud. Because there are plenty of non-skiers in Aspen, the town remains fairly lively throughout the day and there are plenty of good dining opportunities. It is no great hardship for skiers and boarders to come down to town for lunch or for non-skiers to venture to the top of the mountain.