Let’s face it: Those of us who reside in or near Aspen know it isn’t the cheapest place to live. Everything seems to cost a little more in Aspen, from gas to groceries. Even the McDonald’s, the only fast-food chain in town, has higher prices than the average golden arches. Shoot, the Aspen McDonald’s dollar menu is actually a $2 menu.
That doesn’t mean a person can’t visit Aspen on a tight budget. A Web search of “Aspen on a budget” brings up dozens of ways to enjoy a few nights under Aspen Mountain without depleting your savings account.
Let’s change tracks and take a different approach to start 2014. What if a person was coming to visit Aspen for a couple days and had an unlimited bankroll to fly in, secure ground transportation, find accommodations, plan an activity and get dinner and drinks? The Aspen Times did some investigating and put together this scenario of “Aspen on a non-budget.”
Let’s begin with a person in New York or Miami who wants to fly into Aspen as soon as possible. According to Freddy Shapiro, the top broker in the country for Blue Star Jets, that can happen in style. By renting a Gulfstream V/550, you also can bring a few friends with you — in style, of course.
“A lot of people rent these jets for themselves, but you can easily have eight to 10 people fly in comfort,” Shapiro said. “The flight also includes a stewardess. However, if you want food on your flight, that costs extra.”
The one-way cost from New York or Miami to Aspen? Between $50,000 and $60,000.
So once you land at the Aspen airport, a company like the Aspen Limousine Service can provide luxury ground transportation and pick you up in a private, four-wheel-drive SUV designed for mountain travel.
Prices are around $100 per hour plus gratuities, although prices may vary during peak holiday times, like New Year’s Eve. For this feature, we’ll make it $120 for limo service from the airport to Aspen. Since it’s only a 15-minute drive to Aspen from the airport, make the driver drive slow to get your money’s worth.
Of course you’ve already booked your hotel well in advance, so you got exactly what you wanted. The Little Nell is a five-star hotel in Aspen, and we’ll put out two options after speaking with Sally Spaulding, the public relations director in the hospitality division for Aspen Skiing Co.
For a night of luxury at the Little Nell, how about renting the Pfeifer Suite?
“It’s a completely renovated, 2,000-square-foot suite,” Spaulding said. “It’s the only two-bedroom, 21/2 bath suite in the Little Nell, and it’s fresh and new.”
The master bedroom features a fireplace, a king bed draped in Fila D’Oro linens and a down comforter topped with a mountain of white goose-down pillows.
The living and entertainment areas feature hardwood floors, lush area rugs, two down-filled sofas and lounge chairs, works of art culled from the hotel’s private collection, a premium full-service wet bar and a dining table for six. There is also a balcony on either side of the suite.
The Pfeifer Suite costs $6,000 per night.
If you need more space, there’s also the Residences at the Little Nell, which offer exclusive, private residences. Located next to the Silver Queen Gondola, these three- and four-bedroom residences offer direct ski-in/ski-out access to Aspen Mountain. Residences range in size from 2,500 to 4,450 square feet.
“The residences are great for guests needing some extra space,” Spaulding said. “You get the service of a hotel and the privacy of a home. We definitely cater to all aspects for our customers.”
A four-bedroom residence costs $7,000 a night.
Maybe a private home would work better, as they offer more privacy than a hotel. Annemie Dundon, the CEO of Aspen Estates, said her company also handles many high-end estate rentals.
“We have some of the most beautiful rentals in the central core of Aspen,” Dundon said. “We get a lot of requests for larger homes, especially at this time of the year.”
Dundon said the Top of Mill properties in Aspen include some of the most popular high-end rentals. Costs range from $2,000 to $20,000 a night.
Once you get to Aspen and get a room, the next step is to go find an activity.
The Little Nell is famous for its outstanding selection of wines, which include some of the best wines and vintages from France. Spaulding said that private wine tastings are available with wine director Carlton McCoy, which also includes a serving of charcuterie foods and music matched to your tastes.
It’s a good guess the band Cheap Trick wouldn’t fit here.
If you’re ready for the best of the best, you could try a $28,000 bottle of 1990 DRC Romanee Conti from Burgundy, France. The first vintage from this vineyard came in 1232 A.D.
The cost for this activity ranges by what wines you purchase, so for this feature, we’ll go with the DRC Romanee Conti and a gratuity, making the final cost about $34,000.
It’s time for dinner, and Aspen has many fantastic choices. After asking many locals, Pinons is a restaurant that offers fine food consistently. Our meal here starts off with some Russian caviar at $150 for 30 grams, followed by an asparagus salad at $17, a main course of a 14-ounce, grilled prime New York strip at $54 and a dessert of the popular Nutella banana cream pie at $14.50.
The bill comes to $235.50, so toss in a $50 gratuity (you might tip more after trying the pie), and it comes out to $285.50.
Perhaps you’ll also want a drink sometime during the evening. Once again, there are many fine bars in Aspen, but if you take a trip to the Hotel Jerome and visit the J-Bar, you can get a two-ounce shot of Richard Hennessy cognac for $475.
By now, maybe you’ve made some friends and want to treat them a bit. If you’re feeling like some champagne, take a walk to Bootsy Bellows, the newest club in Aspen. You can buy a 15-liter bottle, or a Nebuchadnezzar, of Armand de Brignac “Ace of Spades” Blanc de Blanc Champagne. The oversized container, which is the size of a small child, holds 126 servings for $100,000 a bottle. That comes out to around $790 a glass, which sounds about right to cap a great day in Aspen.
So, with a private flight at $60,000, limo service from the airport for $120, an evening at the Residences at the Little Nell for $7,000, a private wine tasting for $34,000, $285 for one meal, $475 for one shot of cognac and $100,000 for a very big bottle of champagne, your total cost for the day in Aspen is: $201,880.50.
If you decide to bring some guests and need a private rental home for $20,000, make that total $214,880.50.