Where We’re Going: Offseason is road trip season for Aspenites
From bellhops to billionaires, Aspenites travel well and travel passionately.
When the lifts stop spinning in the springtime and the mud starts flowing, most everybody who can get away finds a way. Whether it’s a day trip to Fruita or a flight around the world to visit your ski-season besties in Australia, we all find a way to get beyond the roundabout.
In May, as winter often lingers beyond its welcome and turns Aspen at least a little ugly, locals put a premium on finding warmer and sunnier climes. Other unsurprising priorities: urban culture and remote adventure, to be found in big-city excursions and in the wilderness of the desert. The most hardcore skiers among us try to extend the ski season, with trips to Arapahoe Basin (or at least the legendary A-Basin parking lot parties) or up to Alaska for heli-skiing. We go see family, of course. We travel for weddings and bat mitzvahs.
But for as much as mountain-folk pride ourselves on rugged individuality and a sometimes-terminal uniqueness, we also often end up in the same places. I’ve unexpectedly bumped into Aspenites on the beaches of Baja, in the Museum of Modern Art atrium, at the starting line of the New York City Marathon and in the airport in Santiago, Chile. I once got cat-called while sitting in a sidewalk café on Decatur Street in New Orleans by local TV personality Oliver Sharpe, who was passing in a taxi.
So, as Aspen reverts, however briefly, into a sleepy mountain town this offseason, the Aspen Times Weekly is taking a look at where we’re going and why.
This is our breakdown of the Aspen offseason road trip.
– Andrew Travers
Where? Fruita and environs
Why? Sun and heat; mountain biking at Kokopelli, the 18 Road trails or Lunch Loops; rafting Loma, Ruby/Horsethief, Westwater; bringing the kids to Colorado National Monument or Highline Lake State Park
How long are we staying? A day trip or weekend
What are we spending? Go dirtbag style, stay on BLM land, and you can do it for the price of a jar of peanut butter and a tank of gas, but glamping or hotels add up
Will we see our neighbors? Count on it
What does ATW staff say about it? “I’m going to camp solo somewhere along the Colorado River near Cisco and read a book wearing as few clothes as possible with my feet in the water.”
Where? Moab and southern Utah
What are we doing there? Getting sunburnt; biking Porcupine Rim and Slickrock; exploring Canyonlands and Arches, getting lost in Needles; finding ancient rock art; watching sunsets at Dead Horse; rafting and kayaking the Colorado, climbing, canyoneering, jeeping; tripping on mushrooms
How long are we staying? At least 127 hours
What are we spending? Anywhere from dirtbag dimes to diamond dollars
Will we see our neighbors? Probably on the trail, on the river and at Eddie McStiff’s
Where? Red Rocks Amphitheater
Why? Lotus, Method Man & Redman, Florence and the Machine
How long are we staying? A night or two in Denver.
Will we see our neighbors? At Lotus, for sure
Where? The Grand Canyon
What are we doing there? Camping on the rim, hiking to Phantom Ranch, rafting the Colorado River if we won a permit
How long are we staying? Two nights minimum; two weeks if we’re running the river all the way from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek
Will we see our neighbors? Somehow, yes
What does ATW say? “If the rafting permit lottery is so competitive for the Grand, how do local river rats get on a trip every spring?”
A Short Flight Away
Where? Las Vegas
What are we doing there? Drinking poolside, sun-bathing, gonzo shenanigans, gambling, Celine Dion
How long are we staying? A long weekend will do the job
What are we spending? Get the Allegiant direct flight out of Grand Junction and you can fly round-trip for under $150. Stay off the Strip and you can book a hotel for under $100. Avoid weekends and it’s even cheaper. But go “Lost in America” at the roulette table and it’ll cost your future.
Will we see our neighbors? In May, chances are good
What does ATW staff say? “I’m going Tuesday to Friday to avoid the weekend and the knuckleheads.”
What are we doing there? Hiking Cathedral rock, golfing, mountain-biking
How long are we staying? Five days and up
What are we spending to get there? Flights out of Denver are $150 and under, going from Aspen will make it $400
Will we see our neighbors? Oh, yes
Where? Palm Springs
What are we doing there? Sun, pools, sleep, ogling midcentury modern architecture, art and Joshua trees
How long are we staying? A long weekend or longer
What are we spending? You can camp or go baller at the Ritz-Carlton, but in mid-May most hotels are under $150 a night; dining and drinking are near Aspen prices (though there is an In-N-Out Burger)
Where? Coastal Mexico
What are we doing there? As little as possible on the beach; surfing; yoga retreats
How long are we staying? Preferably a full week
Will we see our neighbors? If you’re in Sayulita or Tulum in the spring offseason, almost certainly
What are we spending to get there? Best value flight-wise is Southwest’s daily nonstop to Cancun out of Denver, which runs $350 to $500 round-trip; the United flights to Cabo San Lucas are comparably priced
What does ATW staff say? “Once I started exploring the Caribbean side and the Mayan Riviera, I learned it’s super easy to get around from Cancun to Tulum to Bacalar, renting a car or riding a bus.”
Where? Florida (Palm Beach on the Atlantic side, Destin on the Gulf)
What are we doing there? Sun, sand, rum and not much else
How long are we staying? A week or more
What are we spending to get there? Denver to Palm Beach around $300, to Destin around $500
Will we see our neighbors? A favorite of service industry folks and the Jimmy Buffet set, there’s a better-than-zero chance
Where? Costa Rica
What are we doing there? Surfing, swimming, yoga retreats
How long are we staying? Ideally a week or more
What are we spending to get there? Flights from Denver to San Jose are dirt cheap (including a $97 round-trip on Frontier) but adding an Aspen leg will tack on around $200
Will we see our neighbors? If you’re on the Nicoya Peninsula, it’s all but certain in springtime
What does ATW say? “My favorite offseason trip was going with a Costa Rican I met at Skico for two weeks — his parents lived in San Jose, so that was base camp. We rented a big white van and mobbed around the beach at Playa Hermosa and the tourist tourist trap that is Tamarindo.”
Where? Sailing the Caribbean
What are we doing there? Island-hopping, fishing, swimming, sailing
How long are we staying? A week at least
Will we see our neighbors? Probably not unless they’re on your boat
What does ATW staff say? “We’d tie up two or three boats together at night and fish during the day. We’d pull into a cove and drop anchor and the roosters on shore would wake us up in the morning.”
What are we doing there? Shopping, restaurants, Rockies games, Casa Bonita
How long are we staying? A long weekend
Will we see our neighbors? Yup
What does ATW staff say? “We got last-minute nosebleed tickets to Game 1 of the Nuggets-Spurs series and then (an Aspenite) called and said, ‘Come down to our luxury box!’ We got to meet the team afterward.”
Where? New York
What are we doing there? Seeing family, friends, culture, food, theater, nightlife, the Whitney Biennial
How long are we staying? A week is ideal
Will we see our neighbors? In a city of 8.5 million, it happens with surprising regularity
What does ATW staff say? “You can cover a lot of ground on the East Coast. I’m combining Manhattan day trips with family time in New Jersey and a drive to see more family, cherry blossoms and the final days of American democracy in Washington, D.C.”
Where? Los Angeles and San Diego
What are we doing there? Sun-bathing, surfing, sushi in Japantown, live music, clubbing
What are we spending to get there? Direct Aspen-L.A. flights are done until June, but flying from Aspen to LAX through Denver is still $300 and under round-trip
How long are we staying? Four days and up
What are we doing there? Grand Ole Opry, live music, bar-hopping, plantation tours, Jack Daniel’s distillery
How long are we staying? At least a long weekend
What are we spending to get there? $300 or less from Denver
What does ATW staff say? “I get outside enough and I’m active all the time here. For offseason travel I’m thinking sedentary leisure.”
Will I see my neighbors? Maybe John Oates. Does he still count as a local?
Where? New Orleans
What are we doing there? New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
How long are we staying? At least a long weekend
Will we see our neighbors? JazzFest always falls in the low of offseason, last weekend in April and first weekend of May. And when a heady band like Widespread Panic is headlining, Aspen is going to show up
Where? Southeast Asia
What are we doing there? Partying, bike touring, beach, hiking, eating pho, fish and sticky rice
How long are we staying? From the day after Highlands closing day to Food & Wine weekend
Will we see our neighbors? Laos, Thailand and Vietnam have turned into a ski bum offseason staple, so don’t be surprised if you do see the lifties from Chair 6 in a Luang Prabang palace
Why? Train rides, shawarma, mango lassi, Taj Mahal, temples, spiritual enlightenment
How long are we staying? At least two weeks
Will we see our neighbors? If we’re in Goa or Varanasi, there’s a chance
Where? The Great National Park Road Trip
What are we doing there? Taking a full two-month road trip to hit Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Canyonlands, Arches, Capital Reef, Yellowstone and beyond
Will we see our neighbors? Experience tells us that at any given offseason moment there is at least one Aspenite in one of the national parks in the West
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