Aspen, Colo.: Rank 3 West, 1998


If Aspen were a singer, it would be Frank Sinatra: aloof, arrogant, pompous¿and every damn inch an entertainer. With the town nestled at the foot of the mountain, the resort offers the unbeatable elixir of breathless skiing and a panting nightlife. Claustrophobic, oddly pitched and ridiculously cramped, Aspen Mountain is a learned taste. The Dumps, Walsh’s and Jackpot will melt the edges off anyone’s skis. Bell Mountain will make you wish for a teenager’s knees. There are no green runs here¿and no apologies. “It’s a skier’s mountain. No beginners, please,” a reader says. Only Aspen would have the audacity to install a high-speed double chair so skiers can “chat privately”¿presumably about the evening’s tête à tête. “Crowded. Snobby. Very expensive,” a reader sniffs. But one skier’s snobbery is another skier’s sustenance. “Every ski outfit on the mountain was a Bogner¿including mine!” another reader boasts. Perennially rated No. 1 for its social scene, Aspen remains skiing’s gold standard for town life. The town offers arguably the best six blocks for dining between New York and Los Angeles. (The Little Nell, L’Hostaria and Cache Cache will not disappoint.) There are an astounding 250 stores (with labels trumpeting the likes of Prada, Chanel and Louis Vuitton), 40 art galleries and enough bars (about 100) to make you question your career path¿check out Ajax Tavern, Mezzaluna, the Red Onion. There are resorts with better terrain, better lifts and better snow. But there is none with a better attitude. “Simply the best,” a reader says.

What’s New Men’s World Cup races return (Nov. 27-28); expanded snowmaking; Ruthie’s on-mountain restaurant.
A Good Deal Treasures of Aspen packages: three nights, two-day lift ticket, start at $178 per person. Call (888) 290-1325.
Medals Gold Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Service, Weather, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; Silver Snow, Lifts, Scenery.
High/Low Rank Après-Ski (1); Value (71).
Don’t Miss The musical satire show at The Crystal Palace.
Reader’s Remarks “Great black runs, great scenery, great women. There’s no other area quite like Aspen.” “Only the rich and the famous can afford it. If you don’t like to spend money¿stay away.”