The picturesque west-central Colorado town of Aspen was fueled by silver-mining riches in the late 19th century. Through successive cycles of boom and bust, its population swelled and shrank, but by the middle of the next century, the village had re-established itself as a thriving resort town. While its reputation for jet-setting is not undeserved, there is a lower-profile side of Aspen that’s equally alluring: In addition to its famous ski resorts, Aspen offers a rich landscape of summer recreation, and its music, film and dance festivals are world-class attractions. And the Aspen Art Museum presents excellent rotating special exhibitions in its innovative new building downtown.
The area's four ski mountains, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, are owned and operated by the Aspen Skiing Co. Aspen Mountain is the oldest of the group, and retains some of its vintage feel. The Silver Queen gondola ascends to its summit, and near the lift's base, The St. Regis and The Little Nell hotels make stylish departure points for the nearby mountains (or the chic shops and restaurants of Main Street). Although not positioned at a lift, the historic Hotel Jerome has convenient ski shuttles and striking décor. Snowmass, home to the Viceroy, is an ideal base for families seeking ski runs suitable for a large range of skill levels.
In the summertime, the spectacular White River National Forest is full of hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities, as well as world-class trout fishing. The Aspen Filmfest is a five-day cinematic feast in the fall, and the Aspen Music Festival held June through August is an internationally renowned celebration of classical music.
FOOD & WINE Classic
Each June, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen brings together a constellation of culinary superstars for one of the world’s premier gourmet festivals. Representatives from some 300 wineries also attend, ensuring that participants never go thirsty. Reserve tickets and accommodations well in advance.
A Thriving Art Scene
Aspen has a thriving art scene, including several galleries that sell museum-quality works by famous artists. My favorites are the colorful Galerie Maximillian (602 East Cooper Avenue, Tel.  925-6100), which specializes in works on paper; the Harvey Preston Gallery (517 East Hopkins Avenue, Tel.  920-7721), which displays sophisticated and contemporary ceramics; and the eclectic Baldwin Gallery (209 South Galena Street, Tel.  920-9797), with works in a range of media.