by Patricia Kaowthumrong
With the heat wave continuing in Thailand because many say of El Nino, many people have been planning to escape to more inviting, cool mountain sanctuaries. One of America’s best is Aspen, Colorado. While this article describes more what it’s like during the winter, Aspen, which gets its name from the forests of quaking aspen, Colorado’s only native deciduous tree found at elevations from just under 2000 meters to 3,500 meters, is both beautiful and very welcoming at any time of year.
Home to four famed ski areas, Aspen, 318 kilometres from Denver, lives up to its reputation as a winter wonderland. While the city has many offerings that cater to budgets of all sizes, it’s still recognized for its gold mine of luxury accommodations and attractions. Plan a trip in winter to delight in the perfect snow at Buttermilk Mountain, headquarters for the Aspen X Games (America’s premier extreme winter-sports competition); Aspen Highlands, lauded for its epic bowls; Aspen Mountain, positioned directly downtown; or Snowmass, loved by locals for having some of the most diverse terrain in the state. Or visit in the summer to hike or bike on trails bordered by wild flower-speckled meadows and vibrant greenery.
The Maroon Bells – the mother of must-see Colorado sights – are lovely in any season. Make the trip in autumn, when the twin “fourteeners” (mountains taller than 14,000 feet, or 4,267 metres) are flanked by patches of golden aspens. About 16km from Aspen, the Maroon Bells can be accessed by a public bus from mid-June through October; or you can drive all the way up to iconic Maroon Lake before 8am and after 5pm. There are multiple hiking trails available at Maroon Bells Wilderness Area, including the popular 1.6km Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, which skirts the body of water that reflects a flawless image of the mountains.
Colorado has one of the most celebrated après-ski, or “after skiing” scenes in the US, and Aspen is no exception. If you’re schussing down the slopes at Aspen Highlands, pop into Cloud Nine midway up the summit for a lunch of fondue and steak tartar. Or book a once-in-a-lifetime Snowcat Dinner, where you’ll be whisked to the restaurant, housed in a cosy cabin, a snowcat (a vehicle designed to travel over snow) for a four-course meal and lovely views. Or if you prefer a different kind of ride, opt for a horse-drawn sleigh excursion to the intimate Pine Creek Cookhouse for a meal of wild game-like North American buffalo tenderloin.
The only five-star, five-diamond hotel in Aspen and situated steps from Aspen’s Silver Queen Gondola, the Little Nell is synonymous with opulence. Amenities include a dedicated ski concierge that will help you with everything from warming your ski boots to arranging a snow powder tour, pampering services for your pet (they’ll even walk your dog and provide treats), and packing and unpacking services.