Plan the ultimate Aspen, Colorado, snowboarding winter getaway! This article includes an overview of the four ski resorts, how to experience Aspen like a local, delicious and affordable restaurants, where to stay, how to save money, and fun après ski activities!
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Having lived in Colorado for many years, my husband and I frequented all of the mountains under the Aspen Snowmass ® umbrella. We used to live in Grand Junction and Breckenridge. We could drive to the resorts to snowboard and then go home. In fact, our first date was at Aspen Highlands! We love the Aspen area.
We moved to Oklahoma a few years ago (for work), and the next time we visited Aspen, we tried as much as possible to visit like locals.
Two seasons ago, we were in Aspen so Pablo could participate in a two-day clinic to keep up with his American Association of Snowboard Instructors (Rocky Mountain Division) Certification three status. Pablo taught back-to-back ski seasons in Colorado and Patagonia for over ten years!
We have wanted to write a post for you on how to spend a lovely weekend in the Aspen area. However, we were not sure what to expect for the winter season during times of COVID.
We research the Aspen Snowmass ® COVID Operating Procedures if you are curious about the 2020-2021 winter season and would like more information.
The flare of this post is geared towards experiencing Aspen like a local. Aspen is not like what mainstream media and Hollywood depicts if you don’t want it to be. Meaning, Aspen is not just for the upper echelons and Hollywood A-listers. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even know who is who because everyone has their ski gear on. When I was in college, I was standing next to Shawn White and didn’t even know until he took his face mask off…
I wanted to bring this up in case you aren’t from western Colorado. Aspen is a cool place to visit! Most importantly, Aspen has awesome snowboarding and skiing with fewer crowds than some of the resorts closer to Denver.
Ready to keep planning a super fun getaway like a local? Keep reading!
Renting a vacation rental by owner (VRBO) is the way to go. There are lots of condos in the Aspen area with comfortable accommodations, including hot tubs, kitchens, and ski-in/ski-out options. Plan ahead. Months ahead. Prime VRBO locations get booked way in advance. Score a place close to downtown so you can walk around and enjoy shopping, restaurants, coffee shops, yoga studios, etc.
The Roaring Fork Valley (Aspen, Carbondale, Basalt, Glenwood Springs corridor) has AMAZING FREE public transportation. There are many stops to get you where you need to go, including around town, the ski resorts, restaurants, and lodging.
You don’t need to rent a car. Save money and use the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA).
Check out the RFTA website ahead of time for any COVID restrictions and to plan your routes. Or wing it and just hop on…
RFTA also has a diverse fleet of buses that run on natural gas (CNG) and near-zero-emission electric battery (in case you like sustainable transportation facts like me).
Flying into Aspen is a piece of cake as long as the weather isn’t bad in Denver or Aspen. You will have a connection before flying into Aspen, depending on your carrier. It is a small airport. It is not crowded – no major wait times (from our personal experiences). You get in. You get out.
To us, it is worth flying directly into Aspen, so you don’t have to waste precious vacation time driving. And you save money on not having to rent a car, park a car, etc.
RFTA has a stop right by the airport, so just throw your gear over your shoulder and hop onto your route, heading to wherever you stay.
Uber is available in Aspen if you don’t want to take the bus initially with all your bags.
Pablo and I pack two bags each. We each take a medium-size duffle bag (or carry-on suitcase) and a snowboard bag.
Having these two bags allows maneuvering public transportation and walking around the airports an easier travel experience in general. Less is more!
We haven’t had problems flying our snowboards at all. Just make sure you pack your bag and gear well, so nothing gets caught flying through the airport. You most likely have to pay to fly the gear, but it is worth having your own creature comforts.
Also, make sure you have warm gear and shoes in your carry-on just in case your bags are delayed.
Below is an itemized list of ideas and things to pack in each bag.
Layer, layer, layer. Pack light, re-wear items, and layer to stay warm and dry. Double score if your condo has a washer and dryer. Get travel-size detergent. Then you can pack even lighter.
There are four Aspen Mountain ski resorts to explore:
One of the more practical reasons for renting a VRBO is so you can prepare your own food. There are a few grocery stores downtown within walkable distance if your condo is close. Preparing your own food saves a lot of money in Aspen.
We also fly some food items with us if we know we are arriving later in the day. We honestly usually fly coffee, coffee filters, tea, gluten-free pancake mix (just add water option), clementine fruit, granola bars, and protein bars. This way, when we land and get to our place, we aren’t focused on food right away.
We will eat breakfast at the condo, take snacks for snowboarding, and then eat dinner at our condo or go out.
Needless to say, we really keep it simple with the cooking when traveling. I’m talking meat and cheese board, veggies with dip, almond butter, chip/cracker dip snacks, etc., when we hit the local store for food.
This will allow you to save quite a bit of money on your trip.
We did treat ourselves three times while we stayed in Aspen, Colorado snowboarding. We love coffee, sushi, and Thai food! Naturally, we made it a point to track down some delicious venues serving our favorites.
Cute and quaint coffee house. We ordered chai, a latte, and gluten-free pastry. Super yum.
We ordered the Blake, Rainbow, Otoro with rice, and Dynamo sushi. Some of the best sushi I have ever had in my life. Hands down.
The green curry is the bomb. So is the pad Thai. Take your leftovers back to the condo.
If you’re not too tired to play some more after snowboarding and skiing all day, there are many other wonderful things to do in the area.
Hop on the RFTA and head to Glenwood Springs Hot Springs. These famous hot springs are dreamy to soak in after a long day on the mountain -plan about an hour for transportation each way and a few hours for soaking.
Stretch your tired weekend warrior muscles with a yoga class. I walked to Aspen Shakti and enjoyed the vibe. Aspen Shakti had a relaxing restorative class. You can book online, which guarantees a spot.
There are other yoga studios to choose from with a quick Google search.
Alright, if you want to splurge and spend some money, head to the spa! There are so many wonderful spas to choose from. I had a massage at Remede Spa Aspen and LOVED it.
Before or after your massage, you can hit the waterfall pools and hot tub. There is also an oxygen bar which is a neat experience. This spa is sooooo nice. Treat yourself; you deserve it.
There are many other spas in Aspen to choose from. Choose with a quick Google search if Remede Spa Aspen is booked up.
Aspen is well known for the shopping scene. Downtown is lined with luxury designer brands mixed in with local boutique shops and restaurants.
There are winter gear stores galore. Depending on the time of year you visit, you might be able to get a great deal on winter gear.
And, if you pack light and forget something, I’m sure you can find a superb replacement. It’s always fun to get new gear!
The last time we visited Aspen was in April at the end of the season. Pablo and I found a new Helly Hansen jacket for 75% off. Super sweet deal.
We hope you have a great trip to Aspen, and your visit inspires happiness. Being in the mountains is always a soulful and uplifting experience.
May your trip be joyful, memorable, filled with happiness, and fresh powder!
Ashlee & Pablo
Are you planning to visit Colorado for vacation? Or, are you in the area and looking for fun outdoor things to do?
Check out our other articles on Colorado:
Have you been to Aspen? Do you snowboard or ski?
When are you planning your Aspen Colorado snowboarding trip!
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I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!