Hanging in the valley: Mudseason options around Aspen, Roaring Fork Valley
If jet-setting to exotic pockets of the world such as Bali, Beliz, Cartenga, Santorini or South Africa is not in the cards for you this offseason, that’s OK. You are not alone.
Aspen can look more like Ashcroft at moments in May.
But to our fellow full-timers who keep our schools, hospital, grocery stores, banks, fire and police departments and local governments up and running, consider this your annual affirmation, courtesy of The Aspen Times Weekly, that we live in a pretty cool place year-round.
The term “staycation” was among the 100 words that Merriam-Webster added to its dictionary in 2009 — shortly after the market crashed and the recession plagued Americans and their wallets.
Coincidence? We think not.
While the word dates as far back at least as 1944, the term rose to prominence in the mid-2000s, and we’re here to keep it going.
We present our recurring reminder of five ways to holistay this mud season without venturing far from the valley.
SPRING FOR THE SPRINGS
Nestled at 7,000 feet with views of the Crystal River and a snow-capped Mount Sopris, a trip to Avalanche Ranch offers a little slice of heaven.
Scattered throughout the family-owned ranch are hot springs and a quaint mix of more than 20 cottages, cabins and wagons for overnight stays.
Avalanche Ranch’s three natural hot springs are designed around the natural landscape and rock formations of the Crystal River Valley along Highway 133.
The pools are designed to “replenish the stored water in the pools … with only the raw geothermal water,” the ranch boasts. No chemicals are added to the natural mineral water.
The upper two pools are typically 103 and 105 degrees Fahrenheit, while the larger pool ranges between 88 to 94 degrees. Heads up: The hot springs close every Wednesday until 5 p.m. for maintenance.
Avalanche Ranch also offers massages and yoga classes.
To make a reservation or check pool rates, call the ranch or visit http://www.avalancheranch.com.
For a free aquatic alternative, check out the nearby Penny Hot Springs, which are just up the valley a bit, near Filoha Meadows.
Positioned along the banks of the Crystal River, Penny Hot Springs can be found about 3 miles north of Redstone (look for mile marker 55).
The springs are named after Dan Penny, who managed a small hotel on the railroad line upstream of Avalanche Creek, according to the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce.
Heads up: Early evenings and weekends can be busy at the springs – and at about 20 feet wide and 2 feet deep, the free pool fits about 10 to 12 people – so plan accordingly (and don’t forget to bring a towel).
For more tips on enjoying the Penny Hot Springs experience, visit http://www.carbondale.com.
CAVERNS ADVENTURE PARK
The only theme park in America located atop a mountain also happens to be a small, family-owned business right in our valley.
The best part about visiting Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park this time of year, says park marketing coordinator Kalli Pezel, is “missing the crowds and not waiting in long lines.”
The park’s Haunted Mine Drop — which was voted as a USA Today “Best New Amusement Park Attraction of 2017” — is currently open for biz, as well as the Alpine Coaster, laser tag and the cave tours.
A few of the park’s more thrilling attractions — including the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster, Giant Canyon Swing, Canyon Flyer and the Soaring Eagle Zip Ride — are slated to open May 11 (weather pending), Pezel said recently.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is open seven days a week 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The last ride up the tram is 30 minutes prior to the park’s closing.
Visit http://www.glenwoodcaverns.com for more.
Sunny and 75? Crash a local pool (just don’t tell ’em we sent you).
Aspenites survived the winter season without a pool-Jacuzzi combo to dip our frozen toes into, hang out by or sip our cocktails inside during après-ski since the now-defunct Sky Hotel fell to the ground.
But what about this spring and summer?
A little-known local secret is that anyone may use the main pool and cafe located on the Gant’s beautiful 5-acre property in the heart of Aspen.
The resort simply asks that pool users purchase something from its Pepperjack’s Cafe in exchange for use of its facilities, guest service manager Jill Williams said.
Pepperjack’s Cafe is open daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and offers casual breakfast and lunch options, snacks, wine, beer and drink specials and more.
Stay tuned for an upcoming “rosé all day” special, as well.
Guests may access the pool, open every day 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., through the Gant lobby.
Grab a cocktail for the terrace and bring your swimsuit – Pepperjack’s and the pool will open for the summer season starting May 16.
TREAT YO SELF (IN TOWN)
For a true staycation that requires neither passing the roundabout nor dealing with bridge construction, treat yourself to some of Aspen’s finest fare (and libations, of course) for a lot less than standard market value.
One offseason favorite among Aspen locals takes place each Thursday at Rustique Bistro.
Known affectionately as the “fried chicken special,” Rustique offers a three-course dinner (with fried chicken) for $27 every Thursday 5:15 p.m. to close. The bistro also features a two-course pre-fix for $34 Tuesday to Saturday during the same window of time.
Be sure to get ’em while they’re hot – the offseason specials are only valid through May.
Kenichi also has a killer offseason deal – during its happy hour from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday, the popular spot offers 50 percent off sushi rolls and drinks specials that include $7 hot sake, $8 saketinis, $9 house wine and $10 large Japanese beers.
This special will span to mid-June.
At Mezzaluna, which boasts a beautiful outdoor patio for wining and dining at this time of year, $12 pasta and pizza specials are available at lunch Monday to Saturday.
The cozy Italian joint also offers a two-for-one entree special at dinner Monday to Wednesday.
Wash it down with a glass (or three) of vino — bottled wine is 25 percent off all day every day.
Heads up: The restaurant is closed Sundays.
For a more laid-back (and even less expensive) time, hit up The Red Onion during one of its two daily happy hours.
Yes, you read that right – catering to all segments of the Aspen labor force, the Red O offers two happy hours – the first from 3 to 6 p.m. and the second 10 p.m. to midnight.
During these times, the Red O offers pulled pork and beef sliders for $2.50 apiece as well as $1 off pints of draft beer and glasses of house wine, $4 single-mix or well cocktails and $3 shot specials.
Visiting from out of town? Something you’ll also find at the Red O that’s not on the menu is a genuine taste of local Aspen life.
“Right now, the restaurant’s next to empty, but the bar is full,” Danielle Arca – also known as “Pocahontas” thanks to the Native American headband she sports from behind the bar – said last week. “It’s all locals that come in, all of our regulars. We love it.”
While there are more offseason deals than we can list, here’s a hint: If it’s May and the lights are on and the doors are open, there are likely at least one or more specials to be found.
And don’t be afraid to ask, either. We promise you will not be the first to utter those famous five words, “What are your offseason specials?”
Aspen’s online dining authority, Eat Aspen also offers some insight at http://www.eataspen.com.
SKINNING, BIKING, SPA-ING
For the more active Aspenite, offseason equals sharing the local trails and hills with no one.
Locals still embracing Aspen’s increasingly popular uphill movement can skin up routes along Independence Pass — noting that it only may be accessed by foot until CDOT opens the pass Memorial Day weekend — and also at Marble Mountain ski resort.
More experienced backcountry skiers also will venture over to Mount Hayden and the likes.
If you’re ready to store the skis until the next season, cycle up Castle Creek Road or Maroon Creek Road. Bike (or hike) up Smuggler or along the Rio Grande Trail.
After May 15, The North Rim Trail and Sky Mountain Park will open for bikers.
Also come mid-May, the Remede Spa at the St. Regis will reopen for the summer.
Relax, recharge and recover at the hotel’s renowned spa after that brutal workout.
Make an afternoon or even a day out of. Why not?
It’s offseason, after all.
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It was inevitable, right? Wine in space.