Nestled in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains is the magnificent mountain town of Aspen, one of the world’s most famous ski resorts. Once primarily a haunt of the rich and famous, it is now a very popular tourist destination. Millions visit each year for its stupendous setting and wealth of outdoor activities.
The small town lies on the banks of the Roaring Fork River with majestic Colorado mountains rising all around it. Its scenic surroundings lend themselves perfectly to all kinds of outdoor activities. Hiking, mountain biking and camping are particularly popular things to do in Aspen in the sunny summer months.
Most people, however, come for the four sublime ski slopes which make Aspen one of the top winter destinations to visit in the world.
11. Aspen Brewing Company
In the heart of town is the Aspen Brewing Company, the perfect place to head if you want a freshly pulled pint. Since opening in 2008, this laid back microbrewery has been popular with locals and tourists alike.
Here you can try everything, from award-winning beers and local brews to wines and craft cocktails. The outside patio offers divine views over the mountains, and there’s excellent live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.
In addition to sampling its delicious ales and IPAs, you can also visit its brewing facility near the airport to see how the beers are produced.
10. John Denver Sanctuary
Just a stone’s throw from the center of town is the serene and secluded John Denver Sanctuary, a peaceful and picturesque park. Situated next to the Roaring Fork River, it acts as a moving memorial to the much-loved singer-songwriter who lived in Aspen for much of his life.
Its gorgeous grounds are home to pretty paths and perennial plants. The standout feature is the collection of stone slabs engraved with some of John Denver’s loveliest lyrics.
Besides relaxing on a bench and basking in its beauty, in the summer months, visitors to the sanctuary can listen to live music when a stage is set up beside the river.
9. Independence Pass
Situated a short drive southeast of Aspen is the incredible Independence Pass which, at 3,687 meters, is one of the highest roads in the States. It is a treat to drive as the views are so spectacular.
Completed in 1881, the route meanders through vast valleys and verdant forests as it takes you over the colossal Continental Divide. As well as offering stunning panoramas of the Sawatch Range, the narrow, winding road takes you past roaring rivers, sparkling lakes and even a ghost town.
The most breathtaking views of all can be enjoyed from the scenic overlook which looks out onto the surrounding mountains.
8. Silver Queen Gondola
Taking you from the center of town to the summit of the 3,417 meter Aspen Mountain is the superb Silver Queen Gondola.
Since opening in 1986, the gondola has whisked guests 996 meters up the mountainside, taking just fourteen minutes to reach its snowy summit. While sitting back and enjoying the ride you can gaze out over Aspen down below and the mountains.
Once you alight, you’ll find hiking and biking trails, as well as a golf course, climbing wall, and sundeck. From here there are yet more phenomenal views out over the mountains.
7. Go Mountain Biking
In summer Aspen’s dramatic landscapes make for some memorable mountain biking. Dotted about its prominent peaks and vast valleys is a huge network of tantalizing trails. Stunning scenery and nature are on show wherever you go.
The sprawling Snowmass Bike Park alone has 40 kilometers of downhill trails, with its rugged routes catering to all levels and styles of mountain bike rider. Other popular and picturesque paths include the Power of Four and Sunnyside; both very challenging and technical trails.
The Roaring Fork Valley, in which Aspen lies, is one of only seven sites to be awarded gold-level status by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
6. Maroon Bells
Just a short drive to the southwest of Aspen is one of the area’s most photographed sights, the majestic Maroon Bells. These towering twin peaks are sure to delight nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Part of the rugged Elk Mountains range, Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak rise over 4,200 meters in height, They dominate and define the remote region with their massive presence. Far below their jagged peaks is a lovely lake of the same name with crystal clear waters.
Visitors can also enjoy hiking, rock climbing and camping here amidst the scenic splendour of the Maroon Bells.
5. Downtown Aspen
No visit can be complete to Aspen without exploring its delightful downtown. Despite its relatively small size, it has an astounding array of excellent shops and restaurants.
The mountain resort town has a reputation for being the playground of the rich and famous, but its vibrant downtown caters to all budgets and interests. As such you can find cosy cafes and thrift stores, alongside upscale boutiques, art galleries and high-end restaurants. There are plenty of ski stores and souvenir shops also dotted about.
Aspen also boasts a thriving nightlife, as well as a Saturday morning market in the summer months for early risers.
4. Aspen Highlands
The least crowded of the town’s four ski resorts is Aspen Highlands, home to the most challenging terrain and steepest slopes. It is popular with both residents and advanced skiers.
In total, it has 118 wild and intense runs to ski or snowboard with a total vertical drop of 1,109 meters. Among its many highlights are Highland Bowl and Olympic Bowl, both featuring dizzying descents and phenomenal views.
In summer, the resort also offers some great hiking and rock climbing amidst its rugged and remote realms.
3. Aspen Mountain
Looming above the center of town is the easiest and possibly most attractive ski resort to access, Aspen Mountain. A firm-favorite among winter sports enthusiasts, it boasts fun and fast slopes, steeps, and glades.
Founded in 1946, the resort and all its runs are on the north flank of the mighty mount. Serviced by chair lifts and the superb Silver Queen Gondola, these are thrilling and tough runs, with many used in World Cup competitions.
Affectionately known as ‘Ajax’ to locals, it also has several fine restaurants, as well as epic hiking and mountain biking in the summer.
2. Buttermilk Mountain
The smallest of the ski resorts, Buttermilk Mountain has the easiest terrain for beginners and families. This is even though it hosts the Winter X Games, where freestyle riders and skiers try out incredible tricks and flips.
In total it has 44 runs evenly split between beginner, intermediate and advanced. Buttermilk is one of the best places in the States to learn how to ski or snowboard.
In addition to its snowy slopes, it also has terrific terrain parks. These are home to everything from flat boxes and down rails to barrel-bonks and quarter pipes. Its sensational Superpipe and exhilarating Big Air Jump are its two most famous features.
Sprawled over 240 kilometers is Snowmass, the largest and most popular of Aspen’s super ski resorts. With an endless array of trails and snow-coated slopes, it’s the best place to enjoy winter sports in the region.
Since opening in 1967, it now boasts 98 runs and three terrain parks, all serviced by 22 chairlifts. While its most remarkable runs are aimed at experts and intermediates, skiers and snowboarders of all levels will be able to shoot down its powdered pistes.
Snowmass also has the most extensive dining and lodging, with great options to be found in Snowmass Village. With amazing hiking and biking trails to explore in the summer months too, the resort is a treat to visit at any time of year.