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At first glance, Aspen doesn’t seem like it would pack that mean of a punch. Young moms in yoga pants chauffeur toddlers in expensive-looking strollers, men in fur coats sip coffee, and the Prada store radiates in the morning light. Sounds fairly innocent, right? As far as I can tell, it’s all a ploy because leaving Aspen almost always necessitates a vacation to recover from my vacation.
This is where the rich, famous and good old-fashioned ski bums know how to squeeze every last ounce of fun out of every day–leaving you with a high you won’t find in any other ski town.
The hippies, ski bums, and hoity toity all co-exist peacefully. But just because Aspen is known for catering to the uber-rich crowd doesn’t mean that’s the only path to take when visiting. Locals have it dialed: from beating the crowds and getting powder turns after the storm, to catching the best music. There’s more to Aspen than meets the eye.
Get First Tracks
It’s worth it to get up early for first tracks. The trouble is, there’s still a good chance you’ll have to fight locals for first chair. A stay at the Limelight Hotel, just steps away from the slopes, comes with perks. Every Friday, guests of the Limelight can nab the elusive first tracks (it is limited to the first five guests who sign up, so act fast) and get on the hill 45 minutes before the rest of the town. If that’s not enough of a reason to book a room at the Limelight, then we don’t know what is.
Look Like a Local
Aspen’s adventure-driven lifestyle has bred performance-based gear built to go just as hard as the locals do. Corbeaux, known for its eco-friendly baselayers, is tried and tested by hard-charging Aspenites. Both tops and bottoms are well thought out with details like a three-quarter-length pant that stops just above your ski boot, anti-muffin top pants (no, they’re not spanx) and a peekaboo watch opening on your wrist.Pair your new baselayers with Strafe Outerwear–the technical outerwear blends performance and style, so you’ll look extra-rad while staying warm and dry when you drop into the bowl.
Aprés Like You Mean It
You’re on vacation, right? In Aspen, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” starts early–at lunch to be specific, so plan accordingly. To get the complete experience at Aspen Highland’s mid-mountain Cloud 9 restaurant, drinking is a prerequisite. The cozy, European-style dining experience is known to play host to a number of A-list celebrities at any given time—some of which frequently pop bottles and dance on tabletops. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Cloud 9 received a facelift this past summer, so be sure to check out the new digs, sip some bubbly on the patio and enjoy the good life.
Hike the Bowl
On powder days, heading to the bowl at Aspen Highlands is a right of passage for locals and visitors alike. A 45-minute hike from the top of the Loge Express lift puts you in prime location to drop in for unforgettable powder turns. Terrain in the bowl is generally steep and more attune to what you’d find in the backcountry than a posh resort (read: not groomed). Ski the fall line if there is new snow, or hunt for powder stashes on G-3 (tree chutes on the farther north facing aspect). On days when new snow is a pipedream, try visiting the bowl later in the day so the sun has time to soften the snow.
Party Like It’s 1999
After a long day of nabbing first tracks, hiking the bowl, shredding powder stashes, sipping drinks at après, and filling your belly with dinner you might start to dream about crawling into a plush bed for a full night’s sleep–but that’s not how Aspen works. Put your party pants on, and head to the Belly Up. Drawing big-name artists like Grace Potter, Umphrey’s McGee, and Michael Franti, it’s enough to make you forget how tired you are by the time you’re halfway through your first PBR. Shows vary and can sell out, so buy tickets early if your heart is set on seeing a particular show.
Breakfast of Champions
You spent last night reliving your early 20s and now you’re feeling guilty, looking to repent the sins against your body. For the quickest route back to redemption, skip the Hail Marys and head straight to Peach’s Corner Café. Fresh, organic, and locally-sourced fare will have you back in action lickety-split. Try the Farm Table breakfast (a sunny side up cage-free egg, spinach and crimini mushrooms over rosemary olive bread and topped with goat cheese) and grab a green juice on your way to the gondola at Ajax.
Go off the Grid
There’s no shortage of backcountry huts in the Aspen area and choosing a hut can simply come down to personal preference (a.k.a. how far you’re willing to trek). For a good balance between accessibility, skiable terrain, and amenities, try the Lindley Hut. Being part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut system means it’s kept in tip-top shape. But reservations go quick, so book early—and build a crew of 14, so you don’t end up sharing the hut with strangers.