By Annette Gallagher Weisman
TheWineBuzz — July/August 2012

Not Just for Skiers Anymore

It may be synonymous with snow and skiing, but there’s a lot more to Aspen than that. Despite its glitzy reputation, Aspen is authentic: an old silver mining town with charm and character; a place where people with varying skills, talents and economic backgrounds choose to live year round. What’s more, repeat visitors and many locals will tell you that summer, not winter, is arguably the best time to visit.

Our family has been vacationing in Colorado for over 25 years, and we’ve found that Aspen is an ideal place to vacation just about anytime of year. But in summer especially, it’s not just a question of what you can do but how much time you have available, because other than an ocean, Aspen has just about everything else.

Altitude, sun and temperature

Some pre-trip advice: The town of Aspen is almost 8,000 feet above sea level and Aspen Mountain (commonly called Ajax – one of four area mountains, and the only one in town) is over 11,000. Avoid altitude sickness by drinking plenty of water and little or no alcohol the first day. With reputedly 300 days of sunshine annually, it’s important to wear sunscreen and sunglasses. After sundown, a shawl, sweater or jacket is needed as the temperature drops abruptly.

Getting there and around

There are several ways to get to Aspen, but the most common is a direct flight to Denver International Airport (DIA) and then a short commuter flight into Aspen/ Pitkin County Airport (ASE).

In Aspen RFTA, a mostly free bus service, stops at strategic spots in town and several places worth visiting nearby such as the stunningly beautiful Maroon Bells and Snowmass – a resort in itself. Your lodging, too, will likely have a shuttle to and from Aspen’s airport, so unless you plan on taking numerous side trips, a car isn’t necessary.


In the medium to lower range you’ll find the Limelight Lodge, The Mountain Chalet, Molly Gibson Lodge and Independence Square, among others. On the higher end are The Hotel Jerome, The Little Nell and the newly renovated St. Regis Aspen Resort. Frias Properties offers a wide variety of vacation rentals at

What to do

Just strolling around Aspen is a pleasant activity in itself, not only for the many art galleries, shops and restaurants, but between the Jazz Aspen/Snowmass Festival in June and July as well as the Aspen Music Festival (late June through late August), you will often hear impromptu concerts by festival musicians playing outside choice locales like Paradise Bakery! For more formal musical activities, I love the Saturday morning master classes at the Wheeler Opera House or the chance to hear renowned artists like cellist Yo Yo Ma in Aspen’s Benedict Music Tent.

The summer really kicks-off with the annual Food & Wine Classic June 15-17. This year marks the 30th anniversary for this top-chef-and-restaurateur-studded event. You don’t have to be part of the festival to absorb the ambience and get into the gourmandise spirit.

Aspen is a foodie town with over 130 restaurants and bars. A few of my favorites: upscale – Cache Cache and Piñons, both worth it (though they do have less expensive bar food); seafood: Pacifica, Takah Sushi; for families – Little Annie’s, Boogies Diner and Little Ollie’s; for everyone – bb’s Kitchen, Brexi Brasserie, Campo de Fiori, Mezzaluna, Cantina- Mexican and Hickory House Ribs; for vegetarians – Pyramid Bistro (located upstairs in the Explore Booksellers). Nifty bars include The J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome, The Grape Bar at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, and 39 Degrees at the Sky Hotel.

Outdoor enthusiasts can exhaust themselves hiking, biking, golfing, fishing, river rafting or playing tennis. But for less strenuous activity, try an Aspen Segway Tour (instruction given) to view many of the side streets with lovely Victorian homes or the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain.

The Aspen Art Museum has world-class exhibits as do several art galleries such as Galerie Maximillian.

Shop till you drop, from antiques to Prada to stores like Pitkin County Dry Goods and Gorsuch. There are boutiques like Bandana and B’Jewel, a fancy consignment and resale shop called The Little Bird, and Amen Wardy Home for gifts. Shopping in Aspen can satisfy even those who approach it like an Olympic sport.

Both of my children have skied Ajax Mountain their entire lives – or at least since they graduated from Powder Pandas on Buttermilk Mountain nearby. It seemed only fitting then that this year on a glorious day in June we took the 14-minute gondola ride to the top of Ajax to witness a happy event: my daughter’s wedding. For our family, standing high above the town we’ve come to love so much, it couldn’t have been a more heavenly setting.

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