In Aspen, there is no lack of luxury, dollar-dropping or collar-popping. It’s not unheard of to see Goldie Hawn at The Cantina or Kevin Costner playing pool at Eric’s Bar. So, you know you’ll spend some cash when you visit. But you want something that’s worth it, right? The famed Hotel Jerome is the town’s most historic, most reliable stay. The accommodations have a definite vintage-mountain feel: old newspapers decorating the walls and the feel of old money haunting every room. But when you walk in, the Hotel Jerome feels like one of the less pretentious luxury hotels in which I’ve stayed. I love old things, and the Jerome is certainly that. But it still very much reflects the culture of Aspen—the mountain spirit, the over-the-top fun with a hint of the wild West.
The J Bar is still a hot spot for ski bums and celebutantes alike, and we drank martinis here in the afternoon of a near-perfect late summer day. Our suite is luxe with a large bedroom, pristine bathroom and a separate living area with cushy couch, chairs, desk and table.
Summer is my favorite season in Aspen, and the best place to be is certainly lounging somewhere on the premises of the Jerome—the elegant pool, the ritzy lobby or the restful room.
What to Do When You Get There: In the summer, you can’t go wrong with outdoor concerts in Aspen and Snowmass or an intimate show at the Belly Up. Have a margarita at The Cantina and head over to Zocalito Latin Bistro for an eclectic, colorful meal and a mojito. To converge with nature, take a bus out to the Maroon Bells and hike around. In the winter, of course, you’ll hit the powder and après at the Sky Hotel.
The Golden Hotel
Reputation: The best place to soak.
You can find touches of the wild West in Golden, and the same goes for the Golden Inn, the high-end hotel on the edge of Clear Creek. This place has charm and comfort, unlike any hotel in the Golden area. It’s pet friendly (though, there is a small fee) and your buddy will be offered a treat upon check-in. Cats are welcome too!
What to Do When You Get There: One of the big hot spots in town is Woody’s Wood-Fired Pizza. So, expect a line! Before you fill your pie hole check out the area’s tourist offerings, like the Heritage Square Alpin Slide and Art of the Brix. Oh, don’t forget Coors!
The Cliff House
Reputation: Romantic and well styled, the Cliff House becomes a magical destination.
The Cliff House at Pike’s Peak is a Victorian mansion of decadent, historically inspired rooms with cozy beds and lots of sunlight. The customer service flows with perfection, and many of the rooms include gas fireplaces, heated towel racks and two-person spa tubs. The dining room has exceptional food and award-winning wine menus.
What to Do When You Get There: Manitou Springs has a thriving arts scene with several local galleries (Tracy Miller Studio Gallery). For thrills, head west for the roaring rapids of the Arkansas. Visit Arcade Amusements in Manitou to play old arcade games like pinball.
The Ruby of Crested Butte
Reputation: Great hosts and a tremendous breakfast make this a homey B&B experience—but with the classic CB personality.
At the base of the slopes, you’ll find opulent accommodations for pre- and après-skiing. But if you want to experience Crested Butte, you’ll want to head in town. Down in the heart of CB, you’ll find funky B&Bs (but let’s face it, the bulk of CB is pretty funky) and decked-out rental houses you can rent. The Ruby of Crested Butte offers the personality of Crested Butte in a pretty little package. With just six rooms, it’s a tiny spot compared to the mammoth resorts and condos just miles away. But that’s why the Ruby rocks: a delicious organic breakfast, 1,000 thread count sheets, townie bikes available for guests and dog-friendly accommodations.
What to Do When You Get There: Crested Butte is such a cool little town—and packed full of so much stuff to do. It’s a tremendous mountain biking destination, and there are four disc golf courses in the CB/Gunnison area. In July, you’ll want to check out the famed Crested Butte Wildflower Festival (the town is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado) and in September, you can enjoy tons of documentaries and foreign flicks at the fledgling Crested Butte Film Festival. Hungry? Opt for pizza and drinks at the Secret Stash, home of the Notorious F.I.G., the 2007 World Championship Pizza winner.
Reputation: An outdoorsman’s dream come true.
There are those who look for luxury, culture or swank when they vacation. But for a distinct population, vacations are freedom from their way of life. In those cases, you must get out of Dodge, put the pedal to the metal and find someplace like no place else. That’s when I think of Almont, a tiny shire between Gunnison and Crested Butte, and the Almont Resort. Near the large, 115-year-old lodge, sturdy cabins pepper the riverbeds of the East and Taylor rivers, which meet here to form the Gunnison. While most of the buildings were constructed at the turn of the century, the accommodations have been updated and feel modern, clean and bright.
Most people come here to fish, to hike, to hunt or to simply enjoy nature. And it’s perfect for either recreation or laziness.
Where the two rivers meet, there is a different pace. It’s early mornings, and early nights. It’s slow and sun-kissed, and rivers run through it.
What to Do When You Get There: In winter or summer, nature calls…even if it is just the roar of the river outside your door. Anglers unite here and the Taylor River is a major attraction. The Almont Resort has its own fly shop and experts to take you out on guided trips. The resort also offers horseback rides up into the Almont Wildlife Triangle, and they will arrange rafting, snowmobiling and dog sledding. But once you’re back at the resort, you can grab dinner and dance to live music in the lodge.
Reputation: Aspen’s best après ski spot is also an amazing getaway
Modern, quirky and well styled, the Sky Hotel is a contemporary take on the classic mountain chalet: cheeky, sexy but cozy and warm with fireplaces everywhere. The beautiful hotel is nestled at the base of the hill, and it’s a local’s favorite for après ski. In the summer, you enjoy the uber chic pool.
What to Do When You Get There: The Aspen Food and Wine Festival is one of the most beloved events in American foodie culture. It runs from June 15 to 17. Not looking to rub shoulders with Mario Batali and John Besh? The Snowmass Chili Pepper & Brew Fest is the hottest ticket in town (and we mean spicy hot). On June 8 and 9.
Roosevelt National Park
Reputation: Northern Coloradans’ beloved camping spot. Glampers beware…No bathrooms.
Pingree Park is so big that there is no one ideal spot to set up camp. Once you enter (drive up Poudre Canyon and you’ll find the entrance about 45 minutes in), you’ll want to find a spot where you can take advantage of the north fork of the Poudre River. Pingree can hold a lot of campers without feeling like it’s crowded. Plus, you’ll enjoy great views of the Mummy Range.
What to Do When You Get There: Fish the Poudre River or tube down it. The river area has a ton of good hiking and snow-shoeing spots. Drive to the Mishawaka for drinks and a show.
The Home Ranch
Reputation: Gourmet meals served in an ethereal mountainous setting. This is not your average dude ranch.
The Home Ranch mixes two very distinct vacation ideals: the dude ranch and the luxury lodge. Hidden away in the Elk River Valley north of Steamboat Springs, The Home Ranch sits sturdy and tranquil with Hahn’s Peak in the background. The awe-inspiring setting across 4,000 acres was one of the last Alpine ranching valleys in the American West. The all-inclusive resort includes horseback riding, fly-fishing, hiking and year-round recreation for pretty much every member of your family. A little less “dude” and a little more “stud,” The Home Ranch’s chef creates gourmet meals they call “haute mountain cuisine,” served in a tremendous rustic, family-style dining room. The cabins on the ranch are filled with cozy leather chairs, Southwestern décor, wood-burning stoves and rich wood. It’s a bit pricey, but hey, this kind of vacation is priceless.
What to Do When You Get There: You’ll pretty much be entertained from start to finish—whether you’re cross-country skiing or fly fishing There are guided hikes through Routt National Forest and Mt. Zirkel Wilderness Area. Home Ranch also offers a full-fledged children’s program that keeps the kiddos busy from morning til night. They also offer shopping trips into Steamboat.
Mountain Goat Lodge
Reputation: A friendly, homey inn with goats and renowned espresso.
Twenty minutes from Monarch’s under-utilized powder, a short drive to the mountain-biking mecca of the Monarch Crest Trail and surrounded by 14ers and Class III–IV rapids, Salida is a destination for adventure seekers. Well, if it’s not, it should be. When you are there, you’ll want to set up base camp at the Mountain Goat Lodge. Just outside of Salida, the lodge has six rooms, each with a balcony, wifi and private bathroom. The accommodations are thematic yet comfy and not over-done (no farm-life in your room). The coolest part of the stay? The goats. The lodge serves as a goat rescue, and guests can get to know these funny animals during their stay. It’s also known for its killer breakfasts, such as stuffed French toast and German pancakes with cinnamon-apple compote.
What to Do When You Get There: Hit the Arkansas for whitewater rafting or head out for a ride on the Monarch Crest Trail, but don’t forget to check out the lodge’s goat packing, goat husbandry and cheese-making classes. Salida has been named one of the 100 Best Art Towns in America, and the area is peppered with cool cultural experiences. Artists come out to play on the second Saturday of the month.
Reputation: Modern comforts in a modern setting in a historic mountain town.
Tired of the feigned rusticity that’s common at mountain hotels? The Hotel Columbia has simple elegance and contemporary chicness right at the foot of the mountain and just blocks from downtown Telluride. Many of the rooms here have balconies, flat-screen TVs, pillow-top mattresses, fireplaces and kitchenettes. Ahhh, modern luxury! There’s breakfast served every morning (complementary) and après ski.
What to Do When You Get There: You may think of Telluride as home of the best bluegrass festival ever (Telluride Bluegrass Festival, June 21-24). But this gorgeous escape has more to offer: Visit Bridal Veil Falls, explore the clapboard storefronts of downtown and, yes, there are mountains to climb.