You should purchase your lift tickets online before you get to Aspen. What's great about Aspen is they make it really easy - you only have to buy one pass and you are good to go on all four mountains. Meaning you can start your day taking it easy on Buttermilk and end your day shredding a black diamond on Aspen Highlands. There are also discounts for multi day lift tickets. Click on the above pictures to see larger trail maps.
Read on: Full Aspen Travel Guide
The Altitude is no joke
If you think you will be flying in and hitting the slopes the same day, think again. The altitude in Colorado is no joke and Aspen, sitting at almost 8000 feet, is definitely included in that. There is way less oxygen up there than your body is used to, meaning you need to sit a day out.
If you're like me, you plan vacations to make the most of your time - this is probably especially true because Aspen is considered pretty expensive (more on that below). Even still, don't tempt it. Consider flying in the day/night before you hit the mountain (or bar). Don't be afraid to use the downtime to properly rest up and let your body acclimate.
Symptoms of altitude sickness include shortness of breath, headaches, diminished appetite and overall physical fatigue. Remember to drink lots of water, and take a nap if you feel off. Stay away from alcohol or caffeine and a local told me, mix one-half water with one-half Gatorade for added electrolytes.
Yes, it's expensive BUT...
I travel by a simple rule: every destination is as expensive or as cheap as you make it. Aspen, a playground of the rich and even richer, is no different. Of course it's easy to drop a pretty penny here, shopping and eating come at a high price. But there are ways to do Aspen on the cheap. Here are my tips:
- Getting there
- Set alerts for a cheap flight from your home airport to Denver International. Once you land you can hop on a shuttle bus to Aspen for around $120.
- Plan your trip FAR in advance and use your miles to book a cheap(er) flight straight into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.
- Lift Tickets
- Buy it ahead of time instead of at the window. You can save up to $50
- Ski in the early or late season for cheaper tickets
- Stock up on groceries and bring your lunch to the mountain.
- The mountains and resorts almost always have free coffee at the base. You can even find fruits and mini cliff bars.
- Hit up happy hours. The Limelight hotel has an excellent one from 3-7 pm which offers $10 pizzas and $3 budlights
- Chat up locals on the chairlift. They are going to know the good cheap spots that will fill you up after a day on the mountain
- Read more about where to eat and drink in Aspen on the cheap here.
- Take advantage of the free shuttles that crisscross the town
- If you do rent a car, you can park for free at Snowmass and then take the free shuttles
Don't rent a car
A car definitely isn’t needed in Aspen since the city is incredibly walkable. Oh, and almost every hotel has a complimentary car service. There's also a brand-new free public transportation, called the Downtowner, which will take you anywhere in town, including the gondola. Download the app before you arrive.
Celebrities and Locals
First off, celebrities are commonplace in Aspen, but no one approaches them. This is one of the few places they keep a low profile. Jeff Bezos (of Amazon), Howard Shultz (of Starbucks), and Jack Nicholson (of Hollywood) all own homes near Aspen.
Another thing that is common place is locals. Yes, real people actually live here! Try and chat them up, either on the ski lift or at the bar, for some wicked cool stories and insider tips.
I suggest renting with Four Mountains. Not only do they have great prices but they also transfer your ski and snowboard equipment to any of the four mountains for free. All you have to do is drop off equipment at the corral located at the base of each mountain. There are also 9 locations spread across Aspen. This makes picking up and dropping off a breeze no matter which mountain you are on.
There's always something special going on
Aspens social calendar is PACKED. Check out this site to see if anything is going on when you're planning your trip. The big ones to keep on your radar are the X Games in January, the Food and Wine Classic in September, and the 12 days of Aspen in December.
A word on dogs in Aspen
Saying Aspen is dog-friendly is a huge understatement. You will see puppos everywhere. Running on the street, hiking trails with their owners, even sitting in restaurants. Yeah, I'm not kidding. Although Colorado, like most states, technically has a law that forbids animals in places where food is served that doesn't seem to apply in Aspen. While sipping a cocktail in the Jerome Hotel I spotted a huge Bernese mountain dog just chilling with his owners. They were eating dinner, he was laying down next to them - not a leash in sight. The next night, while exiting the gorgeous St Regis thinking about another amazing dinner I had the same experience again! This time a sleepy Golden Retriever was in the lobby laying next to his owner at the bar - no leash in sight.
The hiking trails around Aspen are extremely pet-friendly as well. Courtesy leashes are hanging at the trail-heads just in case, you know, you forgot yours. And if you couldn't bring your furry companion with you there's Aspen Animal Shelter's Rent-a-Pet program. It's exactly like it sounds. You can spend the day with a pet still looking for his forever home. Odds that home will be with you after your day together are high.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing a guidebook along with you. Here are some books I recommend...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).