| AspenTimes.com

High Country: 99 problems but cannabis ain’t one

On New Year's Eve, the Aspen Police Department received a staggering 99 phone calls between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. According to Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn, it wasn't a record-breaking year, but headline-making enough to make me reach out and ask him, "How many of those incidents involved cannabis?"

My assumption was zero and I was correct.

According to Linn, "Alcohol and drugs were factors in most of the calls. And until recently, marijuana was not even broken out separately and fell under the 'drug' umbrella. On New Year's Eve, we were only dealing with strictly hard drugs (with a tragic occurrence resulting in one death) — but now marijuana sort of occupies this no man's land territory because it's legal here, yet still considered a 'drug' federally."

"I think the numbers speak for themselves and no matter what the numbers are, on a holiday like New Year's Eve or otherwise, it's clear that alcohol incites more unpredictable and more violent behavior in people," explains Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.

Linn adds, "I'm not trying to make a demeaning comparison, but (pot users) are a lot more threatening to a bag of Cheetos than to each other. It's just not the way the substance affects people in my experience."

The debate on cannabis and alcohol is nothing new, but in the years since the recreational legalization of marijuana, it has only intensified. While I was catching up on my favorite periodicals over the holidays, a long read in the December issue of 5280 magazine by former Skiing magazine editor Tracy Ross begged the question, "Skiing & Booze: Does Colorado Have A Drinking Problem?"

While official research on the health benefits of consuming marijuana are still largely lacking, there are numerous studies citing the harmful effects of alcohol. Ross referenced a recent one published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, "Which stated emphatically that risk of health issues goes up the more alcohol you consume and that the only 'safe' level of alcohol consumption is none."

She also shared that according to the American Journal of Public Health, when it came to American counties with the highest incidence rates of "any type of adult drinking," Pitkin County ranked third.

However, cannabis isn't completely in the clear as an issue Pitkin County officials have to deal with year-round. In 2018, Pitkin County made 133 alcohol-related contacts compared with 36 incidents involving marijuana, which ranged from underage possession to the substance simply being present on-property when an officer was responding to another issue. And there have been zero instances of individuals admitted to detox for cannabis in Pitkin County … ever.

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DiSalvo and Linn agree that the biggest problem cannabis causes is when tourists and locals alike break the law when it comes to consumption.

"It's mostly dealt with by issuing a verbal warning. What are we going to do? Force them into a car where there is the risk of an under-the-influence situation? The way marijuana is most commonly consumed is by smoking it and the fact is that there is no place — specifically for tourists — to do that," Linn says.

DiSalvo says, "I wish (the city of Aspen) would seriously consider a club type of atmosphere. There hasn't been much movement on the matter and I do find some level of hypocrisy that during events like Food & Wine, you can walk around town with your merlot and no one says a word. I'm not even sure it's not encouraged!"

Public and social use still has yet to be regulated at a state level, despite recreational retail sales being legal for more than five years. But now, with notable pot proponent Jared Polis as governor, the industry expects 2019 could finally be the year consumption laws change in Colorado. Here's hoping …

Katie Shapiro can be reached at katie@katieshapiromedia.com and followed on Twitter @kshapiromedia.

What’s In Your … ski patroller backpack

Aspen Highlands ski patroller Mike Spayd has a little bit of everything in his bag for when he gets out on the hill. There are a variety of situations patrollers come across on any given day on the mountain, so they pack and plan for a little bit of everything.

His most important equipment for the job includes a backcountry collapsible snow shovel and a quickdraw probe for snowpack measuring and avalanche rescue. Also a few feet of extra rope.

When you're out there all day and it's getting cold, you have to have a backup. Spayd carries an extra pair of work gloves and mittens, as well as a stocking cap and gaiter. Also in the bag, some liner gloves and goggles.

You never know when you're going to get a hankering for a hunk of cheese, so Spayd keeps some extra Babybels. Oh, and an extra protein bar is always a must.

To keep his medical supplies dry, the patroller uses a Ziploc bag to pack his bandages and gauze in, along with an extra roll of tape.

While most of the work involves downhill skiing, a set of ski skins is a must for those times when a little (or a lot) of uphilling is called for.

What’s in your shopping bag?


Looking for that perfect New Year's Eve outfit? It seems we always are. So this week we did a little shopping … and were psyched when the chic staff at Intermix agreed to fill our bag with what they say will be the hottest look for ringing in 2019. Happy New Year!

1.) Think head-to-toe when you shopping for the perfect outfit: Dress, jacket, necklace, handbag, shoes. You're going to need it all if you want to make a statement.

2.) The Okhtein Rodhawk Leather Belt Bag hits the mark as belt bags are all the rage these days. This one steps it up for a night out with gilded studs that "punctuate the belt of this leather bag for a streetwear-chic finish."

3.) So Santa didn't bring you the jewelry you wanted for Christmas? Fear not. Our local Intermix boutique has an eye-popping selection of necklaces, earrings and more to top off your look. Designers include: Argentino Vivo, Zoe Chicco, Nickho Rey and others.

4.) Every woman loves a good shoe. Really, we do. And we have to say we were a bit surprised by this choice paired with a couture dress and fine accessories. But it works, especially with the belt bag, because Valentino Garavani Rockstud Bodytech Ankle Booties, where "gold-tone pyramid studs trace the contrasting overlay of these sock booties." A perfect mountain-town style combo.

If the Intermix look isn't yours, here are a few of our local faves for retail therapy:

• Free People

• Aspen Sports

• Pitkin County Dry Goods

• Susie's Consignment

• Sugar Sweet

• Gorsuch

From five figures to free: How to spend New Year’s Eve in Aspen on any budget

As one of the more unique places in which one may ever vacation — or for us lucky locals, live — Aspen truly offers a little something for everyone.

New Year's Eve is no exception to this, whether your ideal night involves bottles of Champagne and a glittery gown, or synthetic skins, layers and a little sweat (or in many cases, both).

Says Aspen Chamber Resort Association director of marketing Eliza Voss, "The diversity of New Year's Eve offerings mirrors the vast array of visitor and locals' interests."

From five figures to free, below are a handful of New Year's happenings suited to all budgets.


CLICQUOT CATS ($10,000 for 12 people)

At the intersection of snowcats, caviar and Veuve Clicquot is, of course, "Clicquot Cats."

Not familiar?

A party of 12 may rent a snowcat for $10,000++ via Aspen Skiing Co. and enjoy a short, blanketed ride up Ajax to watch the firework shows at 8 p.m. or midnight.

A server will pour Veuve Clicquot Jeroboam La Grande Dame by the magnum and present a raw seafood bar, caviar, truffle and brie grilled cheese and chocolate-covered strawberries.

The Little Nell's signature hot chocolate also is available for the kiddos.

Skico's posh Little Nell hotel launched this inimitable event in 2016, and it's sold out every year since, says May Selby, the Nell's director of public relations and social media for the Nell.

The Nell runs three snowcats, which can hold 12 people each, for both fireworks show.

DOM PARTY ($595++)

If $10,000 for a group of 12 seems a little steep for one night, also at our baller level is the Little Nell's Dom Pérignon Party.

At $595++ per ticket, this swanky soiree is scattered throughout the hotel, with various musical acts across threes venues: The Manhattan Party Band in the Belvedere Lounge, DJ Cyn in the Dom Pérignon Lounge and The Flatirons Jazz Band in the Hennessy Lounge. Brazilian funk and freestyle dancers also will entertain.

Bottomless Dom Pérignon will be served, and food stations staged in the living room. Executive Chef Matt Zubrod crafted a street food themed menu complete with ceviche, sliders, chicken dim sum, pork belly fried rice, veggie pad thai and transmontanus caviar on fingerling chips. Sweet bites from pastry chef Amy Andrews include macaroons, chocolate truffles and fudge.

While "not inexpensive," Selby admits, "It's certainly great value considering all of the entertainment, fine wine, delicious food and more included."

Since its 2015 inception, the event has grown each year, and "truly encapsulates everything about Aspen and the holidays," says Selby, from the international crowd to the "infectious" nightlife.

Like Clicquot Cats, the Dom party also sells out each year.

"Best to book sooner than later when we can't pull any strings," notes Selby, adding that the party often reaches capacity in the week leading up to New Year's Eve.

BELLY UP ($300)

D.A.N.C.E into the New Year with Justice at Belly Up's first-ever masquerade ball.

Aspen's premier music venue always delivers big names over the New Year holiday, drawing to town artists like the Flaming Lips, Chromeo, Jane's Addiction (pictured here) and ZZ Top in years past.

This year's New Year's performance also marks Justice's Aspen debut.

The show also will be chock-full of special production value, says Belly Up marketing manager Kailee Winslow, and the electronic duo will orchestrate a countdown from the stage as the clock nears midnight.

While tickets were still available by press time, Belly Up's New Year's Eve shows typically sell out, Winslow says.

Further, the intimate locale only holds up to 450 people.

Admission to the show is $300.

"Dress to impress in cocktail attire and don't forget your mask," says Winslow.


Somewhere between the Dom Perignon Party and the Red Onion is Aspen 82's New Year's Eve party, quips Tim Sack, the television station's director of development.

In its current iteration, the party started in 2015, first set at the Hotel Jerome, then Grey Lady, and over the past three years, at the Limelight Hotel.

However, the shindig truly began "as a party we used to throw for with our friends," recalls Aspen 82 owner Spencer McKnight.

"We would rent a space and everyone would split the bill evenly. That was really popular and friends of friends of friends wanted in," McKnight said, leading him to realize that Aspen lacked a true "locals" party at the time.

"After our first year, we knew this was something the local crowd wanted and we made it bigger and better with different DJ's, new themes, different offerings and it worked every year.

"We set a really high bar for ourselves after each NYE event and it's been a fun challenge to try to outdo ourselves."

With an emphasis on the experience, this year's theme is "Odyssey," says McKnight, noting, "The space and interactions will create something more than just a big dance party."

The Limelight Hotel lobby will be transformed into a winter wonderland, with features like palm and tarot card readings, an oxygen lounge, a photo booth, gourmet bites and a premium open bar as well as an ice bar outside mixing up espresso martini's.

Tickets to the party as of press time were $230.

"It takes a certain amount of time to become a part of the fabric of the New Year's Eve party scene," Sack says, "and in our five years we have learned how to refine our product, customer expectations, and perfected the delicate balance between organization and chaos."


For the active visitor or local, create your own party on Aspen Mountain. Skin up the hill for a prime view of the fireworks at 8 p.m. or midnight.

Just remember to pack up anything you bring or break out.

If skinning isn't for you, the city of Aspen hosts a free party, complete with a bonfire and DJ at Wagner Park beginning at 8 p.m. in conjunction with the first fireworks.

For those wondering, the 8 p.m. show is 12 to 15 minutes, while the midnight display lasts 5 to 7 minutes, says Kirsten Klein, the city's special events permit coordinator.

The party at Wagner Park is going on more than 10 years strong, Klein says, adding that she is unsure exactly what year it began.

Traditionally, the party sees 300 to 500 people, she said.

Don't forget to look up — the spectacular explosive spectacle costs Aspen nearly $30,000.


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Aspen Gift Guide: Perfect presents for a happy holiday


No doubt about it, little boys like toys — of all shapes, sizes and styles. But when you're done buying remote-control helicopters (that will crash and burn in a week), Lego sets (that will become booby traps under your feet) and the other toys du jour, we have a suggestion. How about the cutest ever leather coat and ultra-hip 81611 hat? Says Dakota Sever at Monkey's Aspen: "It's high-end, but grounded; a look every kid can do."

Monkey's Aspen, 409. S. Hunter St., 970-710-2597, 


Looking for all things pink for your little girl? Pop-up shops The Tot and Everafter — housed together on the Cooper Avenue mall — have the gifts for you. Our favorites: a perfectly pint-sized unicorn purse by Bari Lynn and the quaint but heirloom quality 11-piece Il Etait Une Fois porcelain tea set with its own carrying case.

The Tot, 430 E. Cooper Ave., 855-934-3928, thetot.com; Everafter Aspen, 430 E. Cooper Ave., 970-230-5439,


Aspen loves its dogs, and Only Natural Pet delivers on ways to pamper your pooch this holiday season. At the top of the list, says assistant manager Allison Blair, a Ruffwear jacket (add the goggles and a scarf for a real Aspen look), something from the shop's Edibites CBD-infused treat line ("for when your pet stresses over the holidays," says Blair), comfy dogs beds and more.

Only Natural Pet, 416 E. Cooper Ave., 970-718-5060, 


Oh, how skis have changed over the years. But according to the pros at the Ski Shop Ajax, this is a the year to invest, as many long-standing brands have put on the market some kick-ass, diverse and state-of-the-art lines. Check out Head's Super Shape Series and Nordica's Enforcers. The skier on your list won't be disappointed.

The Ski Shop Ajax, 555 E. Durant Ave., 970-429-0101, 




You can never really go wrong with a book as a gift — there really is something for everyone. But we love exploring Explore Booksellers' selection by local authors or about local subjects. Swing by the quaint Victorian shop on Main Street and browse, chat and enjoy a meal at the upstairs Pyramid Bistro.

Explore Booksellers, 221 E. Main St., 970-925-5336, explorebooksellers.com





Every woman — whether they express it or not — loves a little pampering. The French boutique with an Aspen shop L'Occitane has you covered. Among the gifts store manager Sara Haneman suggests are the Lavender Collection for a truly "relaxing" experience and the ultra-popular Immortelle Divine Anti-Aging Collection (whose name says it all).

L'Occitane Aspen, 402 S. Galena St., 970-544-0521, usa.loccitane.com





Men are notorious for buying what they need or want when they need/want it, leaving creative gift buying a challenge. But Dana Laughren at Pitkin County Dry Goods has this one nailed: "They will never tell you they need new socks and underwear, but they do." Style them with these necessary, and suprisingly affordable items, by Pullin and Paul Frank. All fun, but still practical.

Pitkin County Dry Goods, 
520 E. Cooper Ave., 970-925-1681, 


Teenagers — whether they are your children, your nieces and nephews, friends' kids, favorite babysitters, etc. — are some tough customers. Too old for toys, but too young for practical presents (or so they think!), choosing gifts for the tweens and teens if your life is nearly impossible. So we suggest the obvious: cash. Yes, cash is king and is rarely — if ever — met with an eyeroll or need for a gift-exchange receipt. To make it more personal, wrap that cash in a hand-written card. You never know, that kiddo might actually read your words of wisdom?!

Your wallet, bank or the nearest ATM machine


Looking for the ultimate multi-purpose gift for mountain-town people (or those who fancy themselves rugged and outdoorsy)? We're telling you it's anything Yeti. From shot glass and tumblers to thermoses and coolers, this is a product line that nobody can complain about. Says Ute Mounaineer's Joel Nunez-Smith: "They say it's built for the wild, and it is. And a whole lot more; the perfect gift."

Ute Mountaineer, 210 S. Galena St., 970-925-2849, utemountaineer.com

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What’s in Your … Snowmass Souvenir Bag

With this week being all about Snowmass, we figured we'd take a peak at what the folks at Sundance Liquor & Gifts — opened in 1979 and locally owned by Barbara and Steve Wickes — recommend putting in your Snowmass Village schwag bag.

BUY LOCAL: The Wickes are huge believers in shopping locally (in fact, they want to know why you shop/dine/buy services locally. Send an email with your thoughts to Steve@SundanceWine.com). On this list of things to check out: beanies with a built-in LED headlamp, cozy socks and mittens, Christmas tree ornaments, unique stuffed animals and other Colorado collectibles.

SCENT OF THE SEASON: Ahhhh, "the aromatic snap of Siberian Fir needles, heartening cedarwood and earthy sandalwood combine to create a just-cut forest fragrance that evokes warmth and comfort," or so say the makers of Thymes Frasier Fir Collection. We took a whiff and agree whole-heartedly.

CORKED: Everyone has a shot-glass souvenir from some type of resort-town vacation, right? Here's a twist on that classic: A wine cork, Snowmass-centric, holiday-themed knick-knack — think holiday gift exchanges, White Elephant parties, stocking stuffers, etc. Or, for an even nicer gift, shop for wine (and beer and spirits …) at Sundance; Barbara Wickes curates the collection, which is suprisingly extensive for a small-town shop such as Sundance.

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What’s in your … Gingerbread House

OUR HOUSE: Gingerbread houses can be homemade (if you're feeling really festive), but for the recent Buddy Program gingerbread house decorating event they were purchased in kits. You can find kits of all kinds — single houses, tiny houses, villages and more — at most grocery stores and big-box outlets. You can also do the elementary school way by "pasting" graham crackers on small milk cartons, giving your creation a truly old-school vibe.

CAN'T HAVE TOO MUCH CANDY: And we mean you can't have too much candy available for decorating, nor put too much on that gingerbread house. On the Buddy Program table of goodies: marshmallows, gumdrops, pretzels, hard candies, Twizzlers, candy canes and more.

QUOTABLE: "I thought maybe we could make gingerbread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands." — Buddy the Elf, in the holiday classic "Elf"

A ‘Winter House’ party: Swiss mountain fare meets cozy hospitality at an exclusive Aspen popup by Eleven Madison Park

Aspen’s après-ski scene will get a cool boost this winter when Manhattan's inimitable Eleven Madison Park unveils EMP Winter House, seasonal alpine sister to the popular EMP Summer House in the Hamptons. In partnership with Chefs Club Aspen and American Express to transform the space anew, EMP co-owners Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm seem to understand that drawing a crowd to the historically mellow, 3,500-square-foot venue inside the St. Regis Aspen Resort will take a village. Specifically, a "yurt village."

The team has begun construction on nine domed safari-tent structures, each ranging in size to accommodate four to 10 people, which will surround a grand fire pit in the westward courtyard. One yurt will feature a communal bar to serve outdoor high-top tables with radiant heaters; the other eight yurts will be available for private reservation beginning at 2 p.m. daily when EMP Winter House opens on Dec. 15. (Booking begins Nov. 14, for dining through Jan. 31.)

"They're mini private dining rooms…tucked away with a heater to stay warm, great music playing…a space to call your own," Guidara says. Lights and trees will lend "a winter wonderland vibe, inspired by (New York City's) Union Square holiday market."

Swiss-native chef Humm—who, alongside Guidara, has earned multiple James Beard Foundation Awards and three Michelin stars for Eleven Madison Park, named No. 1 restaurant by the World's 50 Best Awards in 2017—is conceptualizing casual yet creative afternoon and evening fare that he hopes will quash hunger after a day on the mountain. During après-ski (2-5 p.m. daily), expect sharable plates of oysters and fruits de mer, sandwiches, and crave-worthy bites such as a signature bacon-wrapped hot dog with black truffle and celery relish, plus plenty of champagne, rosé, and hot cocktails.

Humm recalls time spent at the EMP Summer House for inspiration here. "We had lobster boils, fried chicken dinners, and taco experiences, large spreads of food where people could have fun, connect with each other, and also order other items à la carte," he says. "We wanted the same thing with the yurt village menu, and I can't wait to see it in action."

Dinner, either in the revamped dining room or out in private yurts, will showcase lighter seafood or vegetable-based fare to balance heartier dishes inspired by Humm's European upbringing. These include lobster served in the shell with bisque, mustard, and Parmesan; Zurich-style chicken with mushrooms, onions, and cream sauce; classic veal schnitzel; potato rösti; and Mont Blanc, the showstopper dessert made with puréed chestnuts and crowned with cream to resemble a snow-capped peak.

"Some of these dishes have a reputation as being very heavy and rich," Humm notes. "While our dishes are still indulgent, we use acid, fresh herbs, and vegetables to keep them modern and bring lightness to the plate. Sometimes it's also just a matter of introducing a different ingredient into a classic—changing the mushroom or the cut of meat—to elevate the dish and put our own spin on it."

Also exciting: large-format Swiss fondue with crusty bread, potatoes, pickles and charcuterie, as well as broth-based fondue Chinoise, a DIY hot pot for searing proteins and vegetables. Melted cheese and cured meats make a natural pair here in Aspen; Humm offered fondue in the hip NoMad Bar in the accolade-winning NoMad Hotel in New York last winter to great success. His posh upgrade, prepared tableside: scrambling a few eggs into the remaining cheese bubbling at the bottom of the crock, then making it rain with shaved black truffles.

"Many dishes are inspired by flavors I remember from my childhood, the fondue being one example: I have strong memories of sharing it with family and friends often, especially through the winter months," Humm says. "I also have fond memories of places like St. Moritz, El Paradiso, Kronenhalle, all of which evoke a certain atmosphere that subtly may have influenced some of our decisions on the food or the vibe."

While EMP Winter House aims to craft unique experiences with top-notch service (thanks in large part to staff imported from Guidara and Humm's East Coast operations) and impeccable wine (more than 250 bottles, including 20 selections by the glass), don't expect the multicourse tasting menus for which Eleven Madison Park is known.

"You can pop in and have one or two courses and go home," Guidara explains. "A place that's warm, satisfying, cozy, and comforting, where you can nuzzle together and have really well-made food and exceptional cocktails. At Summer House I loved working the dining room because it was full of regulars—and energy."

American Express is the exclusive reservations and payment partner, though cash will also be accepted. Another ally is BMW, which will roll in with SUVs to transport guests to and from the property throughout the season.

"We've been lucky enough to spend time in Aspen, it's a place we feel at home," Guidara says. "A lot of people in Hamptons are also in Aspen. I think it's kind of fun that you can go to your beach-house restaurant and be served by the same person who walks up to your table at your mountain-house restaurant."

Like many branded popups in Aspen recently—Donna Karan's Urban Zen boutique; Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP shop; SoulCycle in the old Boogie's building for the past two holiday seasons—EMP Winter House will reside here for a limited time only. The restaurant is set to shutter for good on April 6.

Food for thought, though: While Guidara originally envisioned Long Island's EMP Summer House as a place where staff could continue working while EMP closed for renovations beginning in June 2017, the popup was such a hit that it, well, popped up this past summer for a second season.



Five drives for finding fall colors around Aspen

1. Ask anyone in the know about where to go for fall colors in the Aspen area and the first thing you're mostly likely to hear is: "Check out the Castle Creek Valley." And this is good for everyone because Castle Creek, located just outside town on the west side of Aspen Mountain, is good for walking, hiking, biking and riding in the car.

To get there, follow Highway 82 west out of town until you hit the roundabout, then follow the signs. Note that you'll pass the entrance to the Maroon Creek Valley on your way. We'll come back to the treasures contained therein.

The Castle Creek Valley's winding, two-lane blacktop ensures your driver won't log much gawking time, but passengers will reap the benefits of the approximately 12 miles to the ghost town of Ashcroft. As the road climbs deeper into the hills, every turn yields new and changing views of hillsides painted yellow and orange.

The ghost town of Ashcroft is a good place to stop and stretch your legs while on your leaf-peeping excursion.

2. The Maroon Creek Valley — home to the famous Maroon Bells, reportedly the most photographed place in all of Colorado — is next door to the Castle Creek Valley and well worth braving the crowds to visit. There's never a bad time to look at the Bells, though fall may be the best.

The road to the Bells is equally as ridable as Castle Creek, but not as drivable. The Bells' popularity means you must park at Aspen Highlands and take a shuttle, though you can drive up early in the morning or after the last shuttle in the evening.

3. For another beautiful fall drive or ride, head up Highway 82 toward Independence Pass. If the dramatic twisting, two-lane road doesn't make you gasp, the colors that line the highway and the sweeping few of the Rocky Mountain landscape from the top will definitely do the trick. As you head up the Pass, keep an eye to the right just before the narrow turns for one of the area's most explosive stands of Aspen trees.

4. Closer to town, a drive up Red Mountain is a good colors bet for soaking in the blanket of color on the valley floor. (You can also hike Sunnyside Trail or Smugger and trek through Hunter Creek Valley for a different vantage point).

5. And don't forget Snowmass Village. Just winding your way up Owl Creek Road and on to the top of the Villlage offers views of Snowmass ski area and the surrounding hills — all of which are spectacular in fall. The town also offers many hiking and mountain biking trails that put you underneath the glittering trees.


Ashcroft’s Pine Creek Cookhouse

There's no cell service here in the middle of the Elk Mountains, and that's only part of the beauty of dining at Pine Creek Cookhouse. When you step off your bike, or out of your hiking shoes or waders, stop and listen to the sound of silence — the lovely sound of nature, where not even a cellphone ring can interrupt it.

But there is one thing that can enhance the experience: a leisurely lunch or dinner on the Pine Creek patio. Begin with a starter such as the butcher and cheese plate, follow it with the gold-standard Cookhouse salad and then an entree from the diverse menu. Top it all off with good wine and a great dessert.

"We decided it would be great to up our dessert game this summer," says chef Chris Keating. "Just think about how lovely it would be to sit here for an hour with a Prosecco or coffee enjoying a decadent dessert."

On the menu are such offerings as a traditional trifle, a s'mores bread pudding, apple crisp and more.

One thing you won't find at Pine Creek Cookhouse is foam on your plate. When things started turning molecular in upscale kitchens across the country and in Aspen, Keating knew he needed to move to a place where he could cook simply. At Pine Creek Cookhouse, you'll find delicious food without a lot of fuss.

Sherpas from Nepal who used to work in the Everest base camps have been members of Pine Creek Cookhouse's kitchen for decades. Their influences are scattered throughout the menu, but one of the most popular items going 30 years strong are the wild game momos, Nepalese dumplings made with buffalo, herbs and spices.

Pine Creek Cookhouse is one of the area's oldest restaurants for good reason — there just doesn't seem to be anything they're doing wrong here.

So go ahead, ditch your cell service for a few hours and enjoy a blissful day or evening of hiking, biking or fishing, or a simple road trip through the Castle Creek Valley, followed by awesome alpine cuisine in the heart of the Elk Mountains.

"When you're surrounded by Mother Nature, everything else drops off."