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Mountain Life|Travel

The MM Aspen Travel Guide – Summer

Mountain locals say “You come to the mountains to ski in the winter, but you stay for the summer” In the past I didn’t invest much credibility into this statement, as I’m an avid winter enthusiast and self proclaimed “Snow Queen.” However, now that I’ve created a full-time life in the high country (Telluride, CO.) I assure you this with absolute conviction: summer in the mountains is spectacular! Carving out time for a road trip or grabbing a flight to high altitude bliss is time very well spent. The overall vibe in the summer with majestic pines and fluttery aspen trees is easy breezy. Now that Covid has loosened it’s grip on travel, we can explore freedom again!

Summer in Aspen, Colorado
Wagner Park in Aspen, Colorado. Centrally located and bustling with activity!

There’s no other mountain/ski town in the USA like Aspen, CO. Famed for it’s epic skiing in four locations: Aspen Mountain (Aka: Ajax), Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. The terrain is varied and skiers of every level can find their Shangri-La. No matter what season you visit, you’ll experience magic of the mountains and the ultimate Rocky Mountain High.

Burger and Fries at The Little Nell
Not to be missed: the burger and truffle fries at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado!

Aspen and the entire region is super easy to fall in love with, the culture is rich in every way. It’s possible to immerse oneself in the arts, exceptional dining, outdoor recreation, shopping and the finest lodging all in one day, but I suggest you book a long weekend or better yet a week. Through the years I have spent several winter vacations at The Little Nell and my every experience there is noteworthy. The more time I spend in Aspen the more my love for it deepens. There’s so much to see and do in every season, there really is something for everyone.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center

If you are looking to channel your inner artiste, then booking a workshop at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center should be investigated. The campus is beautiful, located conveniently at the base of Snowmass Mountain. There are workshops for ages 4 and up and the class offerings are very diverse. You can choose from courses in ceramics, digital fabrication, furniture design, woodworking, painting & drawing, photography & new media, printmaking, sculpture & more.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, Colorado
Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Aspen, CO

This summer I participated in a week long class in China Paint Techniques with the fabulous instructor Melanie Sherman. This is a painting technique I knew nothing about, but a soon as I read the course description I knew this former textile designer had struck gold! (Literally I painted with gold lustre every chance I got) It’s been many years since I was immersed in art classes at Syracuse University, and an absolute treat to live and breath the campus life again at Anderson Ranch.

Marla Meridith Anderson Ranch

Immediately you feel at home when you step onto the friendly campus. There are dorms located on campus, but these coveted spaces fill up quickly. Word has it when classes open for registration in January the dorm accommodations fill up immediately. Local lodging in Snowmass and Aspen are also a great option.

Marla Meridith China Painting
My designs from China painting at Anderson Ranch.

While the exteriors of our historic buildings provide a glimpse into our ranching past, inside you’ll find impeccable spaces for art making and state-of-the-art equipment, all specifically designed to feed the passion of the artists who come to Anderson Ranch to make art, learn new skills and share ideas.

Anderson Ranch Arts Center

The Little Nell

As far as destination hotels go you really can’t beat The Little Nell. It’s unrivaled location (at the base of famed Ajax mountain) combined with exceptional amenities, rooms, restaurants and customer service keep The Nell always as the most highly ranked hotel in the area and one of the best in the world.

Flower Arch at The Little Nell
Very Instagrammable! Take your picture in front of the Flower Arch at The Little Nell.

The summer offerings are wonderful and not to be missed. If you can book a stay there then everything The Nell offers will be at your fingertips. If you are just passing through, then absolutely try to secure time to enjoy one of their two restaurants Ajax Tavern or Element 47 or three bars. The Wine Bar opened this past winter and instantly hit the mark for its aesthetics and extensive wine list. The Little Nell is fully committed to it’s award-winning wine program, led by a reputable team of sommeliers. A DJ spins vinyl tunes while you sip vino and enjoy noshes from the charcuterie carving station and delectable cheese boards. There is also a full bar menu for your favorite cocktail. The Little Nell has an on-site cellar with a wine collection of over 20,000 from the world’s highly esteemed vineyards, Oenophiles you will be in your happy place at The Wine Bar!

Appetizers at The Little Nell
Delicious appetizers at The Little Nell’s Element 42.
Burger and Fries at The Little Nell
Wagyu Beef Sliders and Truffle Fries at Little Nell’s Element 47.

If you have a private group, secure a booking at The Board Room. A hidden speakeasy located in a secret location in the hotel. A great way to impress your friends!

Flower Wall at The Little Nell, Summer 2021
Grab a cocktail and a Garden Tour at The Little Nell.

The Little Nell is also offering weekly Garden Tours, Live Bluegrass and Dinner + A Movie. All lively and well attended events that allow you to enjoy both the great outdoors and I have my eye on the Ride & Dine Dinner series!

Pool at The W Hotel Aspen, Colorado
The pool at The W Hotel Aspen, Colorado. Great place for a cocktail, view & a dip!

A few other not to miss hotels are The St. Regis, W Aspen and Hotel Jerome. Each have their own unique character and the bars at each are very worthy of a cocktail.

Cocktails at The W Aspen.
Cocktails at The W Hotel Aspen

The Maroon Bells

Aspen’s catchphrase is “defy ordinary” and that’s very easy to do once you get there. If hiking and exploring nature are your thing then exploring the Maroon Bells is a must. There are six pet friendly scenic hiking trails to choose from and each will beckon you with a variety of natural habitats and a diverse look at the Elk Mountain Range. Gorgeous Maroon Lake greets hikers at the start and sweeping views of the 14’ers Maroon Bells offer some of the most spectacular views in the world.

Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado
Maroon Bells, a splendid hike in Aspen, CO. Photo credit May Selby.

Live Music at The Belly Up

Now is the time to book those tickets for live music! Thankfully this summer Aspen’s popular Belly Up live music and events venue is open to indulge music lovers with 100% capacity and no mask or social distancing requirements (with proof of vaccines) The line up is awesome, diverse and tickets are selling really fast. The Belly Up is a favorite among Aspen locals and visitors from all corners of the globe.

Listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s “BEST CLUBS IN AMERICA,” we are a 450-capacity music venue at the base of Aspen Mountain.

Belly Up Aspen

The Theatre Aspen

You don’t need to be on Broadway to see amazing live theatre productions. The Theatre Aspen has noteworthy shows lined up this summer among them are Chicago the Musical (June 30-July 22, 2021) and Rock of Ages (July 30 – Aug 21, 2021. These shows are as professionally produced as any you would see in NYC or London.

Snowmass Rodeo

Two-step into your cowboy boots and saddle on up to the Snowmass Rodeo this summer. This is a great time for the entire family. This high energy event takes place every Wednesday night from June 23 – August 18th, 2021. Purchase tickets here. Events include: The Grand Entry, Bareback Riding, Team Roping, Saddle Bronc Riding, Dally Ribbon Roping, Barrel Racing, Bull Riding and of course…lots of time shooting the bull outdoors with friends and family.

Boutiques and Galleries

The town of Aspen is laid out like a grid with phenomenal views of Aspen Mountain framed with boutiques, galleries, bars and restaurants. Whether you have saved up for the trip or simply window shopping, you’ll be smitten with all the Instagrammable opportunities. From the chicest luxury clothing and accessory boutiques to the finest jewelers, housewares and galleries. Stuff your wallet full, because the shopping in Aspen is like no other ski town in the USA. Luxe favorites like Dior, Valentino, Balenciaga, Gucci, Louis Vuitton are oh so appealing at 7,908 above sea level.

J'adior! Dior handbags in Aspen, Colorado
J’adior! Dior Caro handbags in Aspen, Colorado

If you are heading to the Snowmass Rodeo then Kemosabe is the place for all things western including cowboy boots, hats and turquoise jewelry. Gorsuch is best known for its epic ski collections, but in the summer styles will inspire you to book that trip to St. Barths. This family-owned boutique also has housewares to swoon over for that perfect tabletop. You might even be lucky enough to find discounts on chic ski apparel at Gorsuch and Performance Ski. When you hit up Aspen in the summer, you will likely want to visit again in the winter and you will need to be well dressed for the snow as well!

For fine jewelry and that coveted Rolex visit Meridian Jewelers, a family-owned shop with a very helpful team to help you find that gorgeous piece of bling.

Meridian tastemakers are known for finding new and up and coming designers from across the globe in order to present pieces that are innovative and original, for the discerning client who appreciates an independent style.

Meridian Jewelers

If you are an art collector or launching into the world of art then Aspen also has so much to offer in this realm as well. With over 20 galleries, art is a huge priority in this region, one of the reasons Anderson Ranch is such a well funded and popular center to partake in the arts. Two of my favorite galleries are the Christopher Martin Gallery and Skye Gallery. When I walk into these spaces I feel so alive and energized.

Skye Gallery represents a diverse collective of emerging and established artists, from a local to global level of recognition.

Skye Gallery

Dining In Aspen

There’s always something delicious to eat and drink in Aspen! If you are looking to dress up in your chic new outfit then be sure to wear it to one of the many restaurants. For French cuisine check out Cache Cache (try the lamb chops) and the French Alpine Bistro. Famed Dante has pop up at the St. Regis Chef’s Club, this restaurant hails from Greenwich Village NYC and is a huge hit with Aspenites serving up Italian small plates and creative cocktails.

If a sushi craving beckons to be satisfied then head over to Kenichi, the bar is always hopping and the food is delish! For happy hour head over to Clark’s Oyster Bar, get your oyster shooters fix from 3-5pm seven days a week. Another aprés spot to hit up is the pool at the W Aspen, great views, people watching, cocktails and a swim make it an ideal way to spend the afternoon. Looking to beat a hangover or boost your daily vitamin intake the grab a juice at JUS, here you can even get a cleanse bundle.

Slice of Pizza from Aspen Pie Shop
Delicious slice from Aspen Pie Shop.

A slice is always nice and the Aspen Pie Shop serves deliciously thick, flavor packed slices. Located on a vibrant corner of town where you might choose to people watch all day long. The seats over looking the park provide endless entertainment!

Meat and Cheese Aspen, Colorado
Meat & Cheese in Aspen, Colorado

If a mountain picnic is your thing Meat & Cheese has you covered with delicious cut to order cheese and charcuterie selections. They also have sandwiches, artisan breads, fresh seafood and a great outdoor seating area should you decide to dine there.

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