I'll always remember the Jerome of the Seventies as an epic bar on Aspen's main drag, with three floors of attached rooms, groaning radiators, badly abused beds and bathrooms down the hall. It was a magnet for ski bums, artists, radicals and dreamers, just like the town-and full of the high-alpine energy that has always been Aspen's greatest asset.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Hotel Jerome is much of Aspen's story embodied in one building. Completed by mining-era high-roller Jerome B. Wheeler in 1889, it was one of the finest hotels in the West. The U.S. Army's first ski troops slept on its nearly abandoned floors during R&R from World War II training, and some returned later to help make Aspen a world-class ski resort.
In its latest incarnation as a four-star/four-diamond refuge, the Jerome is still the belle of Aspen's eternal ball. In 1985 it enjoyed a big addition and a lavish facelift that restored its beautiful Colorado red-brick masonry, a high atrium window over the lobby and elaborate Victorian flourishes throughout. The rooms were completely transformed, with echoes of Europe in the elegant wallpapers, down comforters and luxuriously oversized beds and bathrooms. Though I no longer spend late, tequila-fueled hours at the hotel's infamous J-Bar (rated one of the top bars in America in the May 2000 issue of Playboy), I stop by regularly for meals: The French toast with fresh apple chutney at Jacob's Corner and the Colorado lamb T-bones in the Century Room keep me coming back. And The Library is a perfect leather-bound hideout at the end of any Aspen day, with ringside seats to all that energy still humming outside.
LOCATION The Jerome is four blocks north of Aspen Mountain, five miles from Aspen's Pitkin County Airport and a four-hour drive (185 miles) from Denver International Airport.
DETAILS There are 93 rooms, including 16 suites, two restaurants and two bars. Take advantage of the in-room massages.
DIGITS Rates run $325-$1,650. Reservations: 800-331-7213 or 970-920-1000; www.hoteljerome.com.