Every year, we take a trip to a cold weather destination where, leading up to it, every friend I have says, “Oh, so you’re going there to ski?” and I have to say, “No, we don’t actually ski.” This usually begets puzzled looks and, more often than not, that person making fun of me – something along the lines of, “You’re the only person I know that goes to luxury ski resorts to drink hot chocolate.”
I still don’t see a problem with it. Our annual we-don’t-ski-trip has become a family tradition, complete with freezing on the back of snowmobiling and an unspoken competition of who slips on ice the least. Since the majority of my expertise rests in warm weather destinations, this trip gets me out of my comfort zone into an environment where I announce methodically “I’m so cold” every 5 minutes.
This year’s destination of choice was Aspen, Colorado – a state we’d fallen in love with on our trip to Vail a few years ago. The driving force of our winter-weather getaways is my mother, who absolutely loves anything Christmas-related, specifically snow and lights, which all of these destinations offer an abundance of. When Aspen Mountain announced an early opening this Thanksgiving due to a snowstorm that brought in over five feet of snow, mom was thrilled that our December getaway would be perfectly blanketed in snow.
Unfortunately, that was not the case, as the area has recently seen warmer than usual temperatures, batting away snow and causing the temps to reach a whopping 40 degrees during the day. After suffering through a high of 11 in Deer Valley last year, a temperature that is only made worse on the back of a snowmobile, I don’t want to say that I wished warm weather on our cold weather trip…but I certainly didn’t mind it.
We were able to stroll along the charming, historic streets of Aspen without having to run into the nearest store for heat! We were able to walk without worrying about slipping on ice! Best of all, we were able to ride on a snowmobile without having to ask the guide to let us hold onto the exhaust to warm our hands (yes, this actually happened last year)!
In my book, this was a successful trip (please don’t ask my mom what she thought, she’s still hoping for another Snowpocalypse to hit Georgia this year). We began our trip with a couple of nights at the Little Nell, a boutique resort that serves as the closest true ski-in ski-out property in Aspen and recently gained Relais & Chateaux accreditation. The most notable element of a stay at the Little Nell is by far the service, which goes above and beyond to recall guest names. The boutique charm feels as though you’re walking into your own private residence.
While in town, I also took the time to explore the Hotel Jerome and the St. Regis. The former is an iconic property to Aspen – any history buff would be perfectly content scouring the stories and photos that line the hotel walls for hours. Located in the heart of downtown Aspen, the Jerome embodies the spirit of the community and presents it in an appealing way: while the common areas are dark and reminiscent of the hotel’s original roots (it was built to be a businessman’s hotel), the rooms provide a lighter, brighter area in which to relax. The most recent refurbishment brought in unique design touches that blend traditional and modern styles in an eloquent way. Don’t miss the J Bar, the best aprés spot in town.
For my own personal tastes, I knew I had to stop by the St. Regis – but, I gush over those properties so much that I will be writing a separate blog post on it. All you need to know is that you need to stay tuned!
Beyond exploring hotels, we took the opportunity to explore the local cuisine, something Aspen has become quite notable for over the years. My personal favorite was L’Hostaria, the best and freshest Italian I have ever had outside of actual Italy. If and when you go, you have to get their homemade flatbread – a perfect, crispy crust topped with succulent tomatoes and fresh burrata cheese.
For your entree, the lobster spaghetti is one of their top sellers for a reason: they are heavy handed on the amount of lobster used to top the homemade Tagliolini pasta. I could eat this exact meal for the rest of my life and I’d be happy – I’d also be 500 pounds, but still happy. Another favorite of the family’s was Campo di Fiori, a little Italian spot that we’d enjoyed while in Vail – they have the best mushroom risotto you’ll come across. Did we eat anything other than Italian? Why yes, of course, but none were quite as good as the fresh Italian restaurants we enjoyed in Aspen.
Before moving over to the Viceroy Snowmass for two days of down time, we had the opportunity to go snowmobiling out to the Maroon Bells with T-Lazy-7 Ranch (I’d still like to know where that name came from). The ranch, just a 20 minute drive from Aspen, is the only outfitter allowed into the White River National Forest, so you need to take their trip in order to see the Maroon Bells.
Since the weather was in the mid-40s, the trip was actually enjoyable to me – although the scenery wasn’t quite as spectacular as the ice-laced forests of Deer Valley (I’m sure it would be with more snow)…that is, until you reach the Maroon Bells.
There’s a reason this is the most photographed spot in Colorado and one of the most photographed mountain ranges in the world. The breathtaking mountains look like a photoshopped background in most pictures, just too pretty to be real:
While enjoying some hot cocoa with the T-Lazy-7 guides, one of the guides informed us that the birds would eat right out of your hand. They demonstrated by holding up a piece of hard bread and whoosh the little gray bird swooped down to grab it. When I tried, the scene didn’t happen quite as gracefully:
What?! It’s little claws landed on me and I was scared! We always wind up with some sort of weird animal encounter on our vacations lately – from the baboons on my rooftop in South Africa to the Mantas in Hawaii – I guess this one shouldn’t be an exception.
The next two nights we spent at the stunning Viceroy Snowmass, another property that I plan on writing about in a separate post. Keep an eye out for the more in-depth accounts of the hotels and our next couple of days in the area!
To plan your own ski (or don’t-ski) getaway, email firstname.lastname@example.org!