Downtown Aspen has trendy shops, sure, but also some affordable stores, if you know where to look.
The most affordable rates are probably at the Annabelle Inn, the St. Moritz Lodge and Aspen Mountain Lodge in Aspen. In Snowmass, try the Pokolodi Lodge, the Snowmass Inn or the recently remodeled Wildwood Lodge. There are also last-minute deals and special packages online at www.stayaspensnowmass.com or www.aspengems.com. (Some as low as $99 a night.)
Hit the slopes
Aspen traditionally ranks high on the list of America’s most expensive one-day lift tickets. For the best deals, try www.ski.com, or go to www.stayaspensnowmass.com for lift/lodging packages. For lift tickets alone, try Liftopia (www.liftopia.com/ski-resort-info/resort/303003/CO/Aspen-Mountain.htm).
Kids 6 and younger always ski free; seniors 70 and older get a discounted rate. And kids ski and stay for free April 1-14. Get details at www.stayaspensnowmass.com/kids-ski-stay-free.
Lift tickets come with perks. For example, ticket holders can participate in the First Tracks at Aspen/Snowmass. Sign up to be the first to ride the fresh powder or ski down the groomed runs (at no extra charge) with the pros of the Ski and Snowboard Schools of Aspen/Snowmass. Sign up at the Aspen Mountain Gondola ticket office, 970-925-1220; for Snowmass, call the same number.
If you’re unfamiliar with the terrain, take a free on-mountain Ambassador Tour to figure out where you might be comfortable skiing or snowboarding. Tours are given on each mountain – ask about times at the service center.
Warm up with free coffee or hot apple cider at the base of all four mountains or at the guest service centers. Get free sunscreen there, too. Free concierge service will help you enjoy your vacation on and off the slopes. Call 800-525-6200.
If you’re skiing Buttermilk today and Snowmass tomorrow, ask about a free ski gear and snowboard transfer service so you don’t have to haul them around with you.
Say you or other family members don’t snowboard or downhill ski. Then Aspen can be really affordable.
The Aspen Parks Department maintains about 100 kilometers of groomed Nordic skiing trails, all free and open 24 hours a day. Rentals are modest (less than $20 a day).
Check out the Silver Circle outdoor ice rink right in town. Cost is just $2-$4 (depending on age) with $2 skate rentals; lessons are $15.
The Aspen Recreation Center at Aspen Highlands provides an NHL-sized ice rink, an aquatic area with a water slide, and a 32-foot climbing tower. Join the fun for just $15-$17 a day. Call 970-544-4100 or visit www.aspenrecreation.com. There’s also free sledding. Sled rentals are $5. Outdoor ice rink in winter, free if you have your own skates. Outdoor skate rentals are $3.
The always-free Aspen Youth Center has pool tables, foosball, basketball, ping pong and video games for kids in grades 4 through 12 on weekdays. Call (970) 544-4130 or go online to www.aspenyouthcenter.org for a schedule of events.
After a long, active day, you’re darned hungry. Yes, you can pay a small fortune at some of Aspen’s many upscale restaurants. But you can eat pretty well on a budget, too.
Think bar food, especially if you’re sans kids. Many restaurants serve a similar menu in the bar, but more affordable than the dining room. Get a meal deal at such spots as Rustique, Jimmy’s and L’Hostaria. Take advantage of happy hours, with special prices on food and libations. At Mezzaluna, for example, get a beer and pizza for $10. Snag some $2.50 tacos at Zane’s Tavern. Or grab a $3 slice at New York Pizza. In Snowmass, the Mountain Dragon serves free après ski appetizers while they last.
Inexpensive but local “fast food” options include: the Big Wrap, the Cheese Shop of Aspen (great paninis and salads), the Grateful Deli, (one panini will easily serve two people), and CP Burger. The popular Popcorn Wagon on the outdoor mall serves hot dogs and spicy sausages for less than $4 and is open till 2 a.m. They even serve crepes, gyros and, of course, popcorn!
Many hotels offer complimentary continental breakfasts, but if yours doesn’t, try Boden’s Butter, a bakery extraordinaire with reasonable prices. Or grab a giant $7 breakfast burrito at Johnny McGuire’s before you head for the slopes. The hottest new breakfast deal is at Over Easy.
Can’t afford Aspen’s boutique prices? Browse the expensive shops for fun, but buy at Aspen’s thrift stores. Susie’s consignment shop has everything from sequined designer dresses to slightly used ski togs, antiques and jewelry. Try Replay Sports for gently used sporting goods and don’t bypass a local favorite, the Thrift Shop. (How about a pair of nearly new Fendi pumps for $10?)
The Aspen Art Museum is always free – or explore the town’s 30 or so art galleries and create your own art-related walking tour. In fact, just walking around town can be entertaining – sooner or later, you’re bound to spot a celebrity.