Aspen, Colorado is generally thought of as a winter playground for the rich and famous. And in many ways it is: There are multimillion-dollar mansions that are occupied only two months out of the year and world-class restaurants that fly in fresh seafood from Japan every day. But there’s more to Aspen than the luxury and extravagance. Here are seven things you probably didn’t know about Aspen, Colorado.
There are four different mountains to ski
It’s common knowledge that Aspen offers some of the best skiing in the country, but did you know that skiers have access to four different mountains? The Aspen Skiing Company currently operates on Aspen Mountain (locally known as Ajax), Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass. Every skier will find trails that fit their skill level, from easy beginner slopes to the Highland Bowl, a sheer, almost cliff-like drop to the base of the mountain.
Aspen might be even better in the summer
While the town is famous for its slopes and ski chalets, many people prefer Aspen in the summer. If you’re into any kind of outdoor recreation, Aspen is the perfect place to plan a trip. Expert fly fishermen travel from miles away to the Roaring Fork River for unparalleled trout fishing. There are also hundreds of miles of mountain trails to hike and mountain bike, rivers to kayak and rock faces to climb. After the snow melts, Aspen and the surrounding area is an outdoor playground.
The Food and Wine Classic
Rock climbing and fishing aren’t the only things to do in Aspen during the summer. The annual Food and Wine Classic, sponsored by Food and Wine Magazine, brings chefs and sommeliers from all over the world to give lectures, demonstrations and samples of their food and wine. It’s a three-day event worth the price of admission for any serious foodie.
Hunter S. Thompson hung out here
Iconic gonzo journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson spent much of his life in Woody Creek, a small town just outside of Aspen. You can still visit the Woody Creek Tavern, one of Thompson’s old hangouts.
The Aspen Institute
Mixed in with the billionaires and ski slopes is one of the most respected think tanks and research centers in the world: the Aspen Institute. Founded in Aspen, the Institute is now based in Washington, D.C., although the original campus remains active. Walter Isaacson, former CEO of CNN and biographer of Steve Jobs and Albert Einstein among others, is currently president and CEO of the Aspen Institute.
The Maroon Bells
Just 12 miles outside of Aspen are three of the most photographed mountains in Colorado. The Maroon Bell area is easily accessible by bus, and the Bells themselves are just a short hike from the tourist drop-off point. It’s best to visit the Maroon Bells in the spring and summer when the roads and trails are clear.
The Winter X Games
One of the most well-known extreme sporting events has been held on Aspen’s Buttermilk Mountain every year since 2002. The best freestyle skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers come to Aspen each winter to compete in events like the Ski Big Air and Snowboard Superpipe.
If you decide to visit Aspen, the trip can require a bit of planning. The area is relatively secluded and can be accessed only via State Route 82, which runs along the Roaring Fork Valley. Although Aspen has a small airport, the high ticket prices motivate many budget-conscious tourists to fly into Denver and drive about four hours into Aspen. If you rent a car, make sure that you have proper rental insurance coverage and make sure you check car insurance quotes online to get the best price before you leave. Driving into Aspen during the summer is made easier because Independence Pass, a mountain pass that can cut about half an hour from your drive, will be open. Winter road trips into Aspen are possible, but be careful, as the area can get a lot of snow.