Aspen Continues to Excite and Delight in the Off-Season

I had the pleasure of re-visiting Aspen, one of my favorite destinations for summer recreation and world-class skiing in winter, this time during the “off season” (early October) to enjoy spectacular fall foliage, as well as several snowstorms, which quickly melted and gave way to mild, sunny afternoons to explore. As is always the case, new hot spots open, and a fresh visit to a familiar destination can offer exciting new adventures.

For dining, an absolute must is Bosq, which opened in 2017, featuring gourmet seasonally-inspired offerings by Chef C. Barclay Dodge. The Peking Duck is the signature dish, and if they have the Sweet and Sour Eggplant—order it—and hike, bike, or ski a little more tomorrow!

For Asian—choose from Matsuhisa, Kenichi, or Maru. For Japanese, Chinese/Asian Fusion and dim sum at Jing, and Vietnamese at Bamboo Bear. A must for Mexican is Mi Chola (My Girl). Try the Prickly Pear Margarita. Rooftop musts are Pinon’s and bb’s. The historic Red Onion bar dates back to 1892. Sports fans will enjoy Zane’s, and beer lovers will want to visit Aspen Brewing Company and Hops Culture. For Seafood, try Clark’s Oyster Bar. Early risers will enjoy Poppycock’s, Paradise Bakery, Victoria’s Espresso, and Annette’s Mountain Bake Shop. I Love the cozy feel of French Alpine Bistro Crêperie du Village. Rustique (owned by Rob Ittner, owner of the adjacent Aspen Cooking School) has been a local favorite since 2000 for classic country French. Carnivores will enjoy The Monarch or Steakhouse No. 316 (same owners, prime cuts and classic sides).

For the best après ski and people watching, head to Ajax Tavern’s famed sun-drenched patio. Gourmands and wine aficionados should visit Element 47 in The Little Nell. I love the historic J-Bar at Hotel Jerome for drinks or a bite, as well as their cozy Living Room. For great sandwiches, try the Grateful Deli and Big Wrap (perfect to take on a hike or biking).

You’ll want to visit the charming nearby town of Basalt. The Brick Pony has the coldest beer in Colorado, and upscale Tempranillo features excellent Spanish cuisine.

Glenwood Springs, long famous for its hot mineral springs is under an hour’s drive west. For a relaxing spa experience, check out Iron Mountain, overlooking the Colorado River with 16 pools fed from three springs, containing at least 14 minerals, each pool at a different temperature. The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort features accommodations, a spa, and the largest hot mineral spring-fed pool in the world, (1,078,000 gallons). The Pullman is the best restaurant in town (Also visit sib Phat Thai in Carbondale). History buffs will enjoy the historic Hotel Colorado, a favorite of President Teddy Roosevelt, where his daughter Alice coined the term “Teddy” as applied to stuffed toys.

Visit majestic Maroon Bells, the most photographed place in America. Hike around Maroon Lake, and if you’re feeling adventurous, climb the trail to Crater Lake, which is directly at the base of the Bells. The Aspen area has one of the best trail networks anywhere, offering something for every skill level for walking, running, hiking and biking. Several of my favorites are the Ute Trail, Sunnyside Trail, and Smuggler Mountain, which offer incredible views, and quite a workout.

The ghost town of Ashcroft is a popular place to explore, especially by bike down in the summer months. A must for dining is Pine Creek Cookhouse, featuring an upscale Colorado-inspired menu.