aspen_leadFor the quintessential Aspen experience, ride up the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain. Spectacular views and a host of activites await. © Aspen Chamber of Commerce/Jeremy Swanson

By Kara Williams

Aspen is world-renowned for its ski terrain, and thousands of visitors flock each year for its fresh powder, challenging steeps and off-piste adventures, yet the mountain town’s vibrant cultural scene, stellar restaurants, and mellower outdoor pursuits also beckon.

For your next winter weekend in Aspen, consider these dining, lodging and recreation suggestions:

aspen_st_regis_spaRelax in the hot pool at St. Regis Aspen’s Remède Spa. Courtesy of the St. Regis Aspen

Get high Board the Silver Queen Gondola for expansive mountain vistas on the ride up to 11,212 feet for your naturalist-guided snowshoe hike on Aspen Mountain. Snowshoes are provided and no experience is necessary. Just make sure you have warm boots for the excursion on gentle terrain with a guide from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.

Get cultured Come as you are – even in snow pants – to the Aspen Art Museum, north of town. (Really, fleece and Sorels are perfectly acceptable just about anywhere you go in Aspen.) The contemporary exhibits here are always free.

Get pampered Book a treatment at The St. Regis Aspen’s Remède Spa, town’s most luxurious spot for pampering after an active day. Bring your bathing suit to soak in the co-ed Confluence hot pool with waterfall, or you can always go au natural in the gender-specific steam caves. Definitely make time after your service to relax in the oxygen lounge.

Fuel up for breakfast Arrive early for your first meal of the day at popular Poppycock’s. It’s one of Aspen’s longtime eateries for good reason: the pancakes – macadamia nut, oatmeal buttermilk, cornmeal or blueberry granola – are legendary (and filling). Runner-up: Hickory House, where ribs and grits are staples on the hearty morning menu.

aspen_justice_snowsNamed for a justice of the peace serving in Aspen at the time the Wheeler Opera House opened in 1889, this favorite restaurnt and bar in Aspen reminds us that a sense of community and passion for snow are what make this town thrive. Courtesy of Justice Snow’s

Take your time over lunch Admire the original floor tile and period antiques in the lobby atrium at the venerable Hotel Jerome, which dates back to 1889. Go casual at the J-Bar, home of the hearty Jerome Burger and “Aspen Crud” bourbon milkshake. Or for a more upscale meal, settle in at Prospect, an “American bistro” serving sharable charcuterie and cheese boards, dips in mason jars with crisp flatbread, as well as salads, sandwiches and entrees such as mustard-crusted trout and honey-fried chicken.

Indulge for dinner Splurge on a meal at The Little Nell’s element 47, a AAA Four Diamond rated restaurant. The upscale hotel’s dining room is sleek, modern and approachable – with cuisine to match. Colorado-raised meats and locally sourced produce define the American menu with global influences, and the wine list here remains extraordinary, with a 20,000-bottle cellar.

aspen_square_hotelRelax in one of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel’s fireplace studio suites. © Aspen Square Hotel

Where to imbibe Don’t miss drinks at Justice Snow’s in the historic Wheeler Opera House building. Creative, hand-crafted cocktails and house-infused spirits are served in vintage glassware.

Where to stay Consider the hip and irreverent Sky Hotel or the condominium-style Aspen Square Hotel, both on the east edge of downtown, within easy walking distance of the myriad art galleries and stores – from souvenir T-shirt shops to upscale Prada.

Kara Williams (karaswilliams.com) is an award-winning, Colorado-based freelance writer who has covered topics ranging from business and babies to skiing and spas. A member of the Society of American Travel Writers, Kara co-owns The Vacation Gals (thevacationgals.com), where she writes regularly about family vacations, wellness travel and girlfriend getaways.

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