3 Girls + Luxury Ski Vacation = Aspen, CO
Two weeks ago, we had a mission. Spend 2 days getting to know the Molly Gibson Lodge, Hotel Aspen and everything the town of Aspen has to offer for a luxury vacation on a budget. This was no small challenge, considering that in this small, quaint ski town there is nearly as much to do as a major metropolis.
Being a resident of Colorado for 18 years, I have traveled to Aspen on several occasions: kids’ ski competitions, Jazz Aspen Snowmass annual Labor Day Concert extravaganza, and of course the ever popular occasional girls’ trip to Aspen. But this was a whole new experience for me, led by the keen guidance of Jeff Bay, manager of the Molly Gibson Lodge and Hotel Aspen and local insider extraordinaire. With a fabulous hotel room at my disposal, lift ticket on my jacket, two friends in tow, and Jeff’s expert recommendations in hand, I was ready to open my eyes to Aspen as a true ski vacationer for the first time ever.
We arrived in town after a sketchy drive on what was looking to be a powder day, one of the first really great storms of the new year had just blessed the central Colorado Rockies with some pristine Colorado dry fluff. Thanks to the generosity of Aspen Skiing Company, we were given the opportunity to ski Aspen Mountain on this glorious day. It was a Monday, the first day after the X Games, and town was quiet after the nonstop 4 day reveling of this legendary event that brings crowds of over 100,000 to Aspen each year. It was the perfect invitation to ski - a mellow weekday with few crowds and 6” of fresh snow.
In my many trips here, this was my first time ever skiing Aspen Mountain, and WOW - was I blown away! This fun, steep, but manageably sized mountain was the perfect venue for several satisfying, super-fun runs on gladed powder terrain, fast groomers and steep pitches. My favorite part of the day: discovery of the unblemished and pitch-perfect chutes in the Back of Bell area (Seibert’s, Knowlton’s, Back of Bell #1), where we did giggling laps on fun, soft terrain with enough challenge to keep us going back for more.
After a satisfying few hours on the mountain, we were off to one of the landmarks of Aspen: the J Bar, one of the cornerstone's of Aspen's social scene. This turn-of-the-century masterpiece has served a the watering hole for everyone from Jerome Wheeler to the legendary WWII 10th Mountain Division Ski Troopers during training stints in Aspen, to Golden Age movie stars John Wayne and Gary Cooper, to the many celebrities who call Aspen home. The J Bar has been beautifully restored into a warm, inviting room with charming tin ceilings, fabulous subtle lighting and sturdy, comfortable furnishings that invite you to stay for a while. Here we noshed on a delicious lunch of J Bar’s famous Twice Cooked Lollipop Chicken Wings with Chipotle-Honey Glaze, satisfyingly large fresh BBQ Chicken Salad and Baby Romaine Salad, and Venison Chili. The menu here is not for the faint at heart, but rather a soul- satisfying selection of delicious hearty snacks and entrees that make it a perfect lunch, dinner or après-ski spot. The house-made innovative cocktails are definitely a highlight!
A short walk back to the Molly Gibson Lodge and it was time to check into our rooms. The Molly is a charming, classic winter ski lodge, brimming with amenities that give incredible value for your stay. My room, an updated charming mix of modern, comfortable amenities and retro-chic vintage vibe, was spacious and well appointed. A wood-burning fireplace anchors the sunken living room of this Deluxe Suite, with accessibility to the large, sunny outdoor deck overlooking town. The focal point of the huge full bath is the Jacuzzi tub perfect for an après-ski soak. Admittedly, it was hard to leave the room again at this point and I could have easily settled into pajamas and rented a movie. But a second après ski, pre-dinner cocktailing and dinner at Element 47 awaited us, so I put on my fashionable best to move on to the next phase of this already amazing Aspen getaway.
Luckily, we had only to saunter downstairs to the incredible Molly Gibson Lodge après-ski, free for hotel guests and possible the biggest bang-for-your-buck amenity at The Molly. This fabulous daily spread is carefully attended to by Elena, whose stories and personality are as colorful as her wonderful buffet of hot and hold hors d’oeuvres. Beer, wine, hot chocolate and coffee are available to accompany Elena’s nightly theme of snacks that range from Asian to Taco Tuesday; the spread always includes cheese and crackers, fruit and homemade cookies along with an offering of hot soup or themes apps. We were now armed with a drink and some snacks on board to venture out for our next cocktail.
We stopped by Jimmy’s, an iconic Aspen neighborhood bar and restaurant that was fully packed, even on a Monday night. We squeezed in the bar for just long enough to indulge in one of their incredible hand-crafted cocktails made with fresh juices and liquors from their extensive spirits selection. We especially loved the 100 calorie Citrus Crush - made with Voli Lemon Vodka, fresh lemon, lime & mint, and soda- as this skinny cocktail didn’t threaten to spoil our dinner. Next up was a velvety glass of wine at the chic, cool Cache Cache: the sexy Aspen eatery known for a clientele as beautiful as the décor.
Finally, we land at our destination of Element 47 restaurant in The Little Nell. Formerly Montagnas, this completely renovated, clean, contemporary space is now home to one if the most culinary forward restaurants in all of Aspen. This was a truly decadent dining experience. The plates were culinary masterpieces of composition and flavors expertly prepared by executive chef Robert McCormick. To start, the staff treated us to a bottle of their fabulous proprietary sparkling wine, n.v. Element 47 Brut, priming our palates for the flavors to come. The Winter Vegetables Salad and Anjou Pear Tortellini dishes were starter standouts, as were the decadent entrees of Emma Farm Wagyu Beef, and delicate, flavorful Mero Sea Bass with Forbidden Rice. Dessert of apple cider doughnuts with apple jam, sorbet and crème fraîche were are stellar finish to this special meal.
Tummies full, we started toward bed but couldn’t resist a quick late-night listen to Wild Belle w/Fierce Bad Rabbit at Belly Up!, Aspen’s favorite, year-round live music club.
The next morning we were thankful for only a quick walk downstairs again to enjoy the complimentary continental breakfast at the Molly. We prepared our game plan for the day: a brisk walk to the acclaimed Aspen Art Museum before afternoon meetings and the drive home.
The Aspen Art Museum is nestled along a creek at the far South end of town, so a bit of a jaunt by foot. But it was an easy walk and a pleasant surprise once we arrived. The museum was hosting exhibits from local students examining the relationship between art and technology, along with vibrant color studies by LA contemporary artist Morgan Fisher. We was impressed with the beautiful, peaceful space of the museum, and the curator let us know that they would soon be moving to a new, even better space in town to allow more guests to enjoy what the museum has to offer, in Spring 2013.
After a bit of shopping in Aspen's internationally known downtown, sadly we had to leave for the drive home: kids, jobs and lives were waiting. But I can truly say that this one overnight in Aspen was completely recharging in every way: an incredible ski, culinary and cultural experience unrivaled in Colorado. We will be back, soon!
For information about Aspen and the best deals on hotel rooms, look no further than the Molly Gibson Lodge. Check out our lodging specials or just book a room today in one of Aspen’s finest downtown ski hotels.