Aspen, Colorado: Rank 2 West, 1997


Aspen is like Donald Trump: arrogant, flashy, ostentatious¿and not to be missed. What Aspen's not is bashful: Both the town and its mountain trumpet the resort's elite and clamorous lifestyle. Readers bestowed 11 gold medals on Aspen, more than any other resort. So in many ways, even while remaining at No. 2, Aspen continues to be the glittery gold standard against which other resorts measure their progress. Cramped, unevenly pitched and wonderfully wicked if you know where to ski (Bear Paw, Jackpot, Silver Queen), Aspen Mountain should be embraced for its odd fall lines, short adrenaline squirts and fast-twitch mogul fields, such as the famous "check-me-out" Ridge of Bell. There are no designated beginner slopes here. "Too many black runs and too many bumps," grouses one reader. Skiers (no snowboarders allowed) also complain about "having to ski all the way down" to access the toughest runs. Many visitors make the mistake of forgetting to ski after the second day¿an easy trap at a resort perennially rated No. 1 for its social scene. Renaissance, The Little Nell, Syzygy and Cache Cache are just a few spots that would make King Henry VIII tuck in a napkin. Spend $3,500/night at The Little Nell or less than $100/night at a Treasures of Aspen property. There are 250 stores (with labels boasting Chanel, DKNY and Jil Sander), 40 galleries and too many knockout bars and nightclubs to allow you to make first tracks. "Look good. Ski good. Eat good," a reader says, while another sniffs: "Way too expensive!" One skier's glamour is another skier's glitz.

What's New Ruthie's chair is being replaced by the first high-speed double in the U.S.; on-mountain concierge centers.
A Good Five-night/four-day package starts at $352, Nov. 22-Dec. 20, April 11-19, lift tickets included; (888) 452-2409.
Medals Gold Snow Quality, Grooming, Terrain, Challenge, Service, Weather, On-Mountain Food, Lodging, Dining, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities; Silver Lifts.
High/Low Rank Après-Ski and Off-Hill Activities (1);Value (67).
Don't Miss Smuggler Mine Tours, $20 adults; (970) 925-2049.
Reader Remarks "Great resort for living like a king and skiing like one too." "Too many rich people and not enough good skiers."