Why locals prefer Aspen in the summer

tuesday 05 july 2022 09h47

Even from the air, it’s obvious that Aspen is unlike any other city. Located at an altitude of 2,438m and surrounded on all sides by the snow-capped Rocky Mountains, this remote enclave even requires special pilot training to land at its tiny airport, dubbed one of the most dangerous in the world thanks to its steep slope. and white. – approach to the joints.

If you can bear to peek as you dive – or so it seems – down the runway, you’ll also spot Aspen’s version of an airport parking lot, complete with Lear Jets and Gulfstreams privates lined almost wing to wing waiting for visiting billionaires and the Hollywood elite.

Everyone from Cher to Kevin Costner owns a home here but is a financial small fry compared to Aspen’s mega-rich, including Walmart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, software mogul Hasso Platner and parents no doubt thrilled with Jeff Bezos.

Not surprising given that the average sale price of a home in Aspen in 2021 was $11.4 million. However, as a less than enthusiastic skier and without a few million to spare, Aspen had never made it onto my travel bucket list.

Its soft powder, advanced runs and choice of four mountains make it America’s most popular winter sports paradise, hosting the very first world ski competition in the United States in 1950 and, more recently, the Red Bull’s Double Pipe Snowboarding Contest.

Still, locals will tell you that the best time to marvel at the mountains is actually between June and September, when the snow has melted, the Kardashians have returned to California, and the Rockies are transformed into a verdant wonderland of flowers. wild and waterfalls.

Don’t stay on the designer boutique-lined streets of downtown to experience Aspen in all its summer glory. Ten minutes from downtown, Woody Creek sits on the banks of the Roaring Fork River and dotted with sprawling ranches, forests and elk-carpeted meadows, with picture-perfect mountain views in every direction.

Hunter S Thompson inhabited this area for almost 40 years until his death in 2005, drinking regularly at the ramshackle Woody Creek Tavern which is still lined with pictures of him.

The Aspen Valley Ranch residences I’ve stayed at are within walking distance of the bar but feel like they’re in the middle of nowhere. Five luxury homes – with six more to follow – are scattered around the 813-acre ranch, so you feel like you have the entire property to yourself once you step through the gates.

Three homes are now private residences, but two are available for rent so you can pretend you own a slice of prime Aspen real estate for at least a fortnight. Valued at $20 million, Sopris House is an elegant five-bedroom property straight out of the pages of a design magazine, with immaculate details including a cocktail cabinet filled with glittering crystals and a Monopoly board on the Aspen theme in the living room.

It has an interior courtyard, double-height windows overlooking Independence Pass, a wine cellar, original artwork on every wall, and a huge professional-grade kitchen, though private chefs can pass for prepare meals if you wish.

Outside, there are contemporary water features, a hot tub, a private children’s play area, and an expansive deck with a fire pit for stargazing over freshly toasted s’mores.

Guests are also free to roam the entire ranch to take full advantage of all the facilities (included), including gym and pool, lake for paddleboarding and fishing, eight stables with three wranglers on site, track cross-country skiing and a 24 hour fun barn with pool table, air hockey, table tennis, free arcade games and a fully stocked bar.

The Toy Garage is another highlight and is full of snowmobiles, electric bikes, snowshoes and dirt bikes, all available at all times. I borrow a quad to roar along the ranch’s dirt road, wading through a stream and climbing a hill for uninterrupted and totally breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains.

The next day, I follow the same route in blissful silence on the back of one of the ranch’s easygoing horses, Cotton, who chews the grass good-naturedly as we stop to watch the hawks circling overhead and a elk family bathing in the creek. .

Coyotes, bald eagles, moose and cougars are also regularly spotted, while all bins in Aspen must be animal-proof, as it is very common to spot brown bears searching. of food.

When you want to explore a little further, the ranch staff will get you where you want to go, whether you fancy a hot air balloon ride over the Rockies or a tour of the absurdly chic Farmer’s Market in Aspen.

You can also hop on an e-bike and follow part of the 42-mile Rio Grande Trail, an old railroad-turned-bike path that follows the river to downtown Aspen. Park and shop at Gucci and Ralph Lauren, stroll through the Aspen Museum of Art with its excellent rooftop cafe, then take the Silver Queen Gondola from downtown to climb the Aspen Mountain for lunch at Sundeck, a restaurant perched 3,413 meters above sea level. and overlooking the still snow-capped Elk Mountains.

Worth returning to Aspen in the evening to dine in style too. Although this former silver mining town is only six blocks wide, its thriving food scene could rival a big city with restaurants spilling out onto sidewalks and rooftop terraces during the summer for dining in the spectacular mountain scenery.

Duemani serves Mediterranean seafood platters and a must-try burrata drizzled with truffle honey, while Catch Steak is the place to see and be seen over seared wagyu beef and punchy espresso martinis.

Work through the next day as you hike the 3.6-mile Maroon Bells Trail through shady forest, past a roaring river and rocky slopes to Crater Lake, which reflects the surrounding mountains like glass.

Considered the most photographed spot in Colorado, it’s even more beautiful in real life, though good walking shoes and plenty of water are essential to deal with the rugged terrain and elevation. Just watch out for bears and billionaires on the way.


Sopris House at The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch costs from $59,500 (around £42,099) for a two-week stay. Visit avrresidences.com. United Airlines offers flights to Aspen from London Heathrow via its US hubs from £989.06

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