A few tips to help tourists enjoy their stay in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

A few tips to help tourists enjoy their stay in Aspen

Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times
You never know who or what you'll run into in Aspen, especially during the Food & Wine Classic.
File photo |

The streets of Aspen are once again filled with tourists as the summer season officially kicks off with the advent of the Food & Wine Classic.

Unless, of course, the town is packed with folks looking to score some legal weed, which is readily available for those 21 and older.

No matter what your reason is for being in Aspen this weekend, here are a few tips to help survive the crowds while enjoying the local ambiance. May as well be safe while you eat, drink and, well … do whatever.


The bruins are awake and hungry, but their favorite natural foods aren’t quite ready yet. According to John Armstrong, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger, the berries that the local black bears enjoy are still a few weeks away from being ripe.

“I’m not sure how good a crop of berries we’ll see this year,” Armstrong said. “They’re omnivores and will eat whatever they can get right now.”

Let’s see, hungry bears and Food & Wine Classic equals the potential for some bear sightings in Aspen. With so many people in town that probably aren’t familiar with bear-proofing their trash, don’t be shocked to see a bear if there’s food they can get to. By the way, a bear that learns to eat local garbage is on a one-way street to either being relocated or put down.

Considering a few bears have already made their presence known this month, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind if you happen upon one in town or on a hike. First, don’t run away. Bears will chase you and they’re darn fast. Try to look big and sound big – really big. Don’t harass and put your camera away.


In case you haven’t noticed, Aspen has a large biking community and renting a bike is easy in town. Bikes are required to follow the same rules as cars so stay off the sidewalks and go the speed limit. Keep in mind that a lot of people get nailed from riding next to parked cars and having someone open a car door into the biker. The cars always win that exchange.


The best advice for parking in Aspen is to use the Rio Grande parking plaza, an underground parking garage in downtown. This way you avoid the parking meters and the local parking enforcement. The meter maids are nice people, but they possess magic powers of invisibility and an uncanny ability to give a ticket and disappear in seconds. You have been warned.


Use them but don’t trust that you’re visible. With so many tourists in town, remember that many drivers are looking while they drive, and not necessarily for pedestrians. Aspen has many well-marked crosswalks, especially on Main Street, but the morning and evening shadows are deadly and can hide pedestrians before they appear in the crosswalk. Be extra careful and don’t trust that the drivers see you. Pretend the cars are bears and look big.


Aspen has an easy-to-use bus system that’s free between Snowmass and Aspen. If you’re staying close to Aspen, use the buses. They’re free, can get you close to just about anything in Aspen and you avoid the magic parking enforcement.


Far out, man, you can score in Aspen and score legally. If you haven’t been in pot shop, it’s a trip … dude. The Aspen shops all can boast extremely helpful employees and all have killer smoke and edibles, or at least that’s the rumor. If you’re inexperienced with pot, make sure you talk to the ”bud tenders” and take their advice. They know their product and won’t advise anyone to smoke or eat too much. Remember that puffing pot publically is a big no-no and most hotels are smoke-free, so finding an appropriate spot to get stoned isn’t easy. Edibles are the most discreet way to get high, so choose appropriately. Want to do something you can’t, or shouldn’t, in most towns? Ask a local officer where to score some pot. They’ll more than likely smile and direct you to an outlet.


Every Aspen resident looks like a celebrity, so good luck. Really famous residents know how to blend in to the local scene and there’s an unwritten rule that Aspen residents will not bother the rich and famous. If you really want to find someone prominent or well known, go to a movie or turn on ESPN and watch them while they work. If you still are looking locally, watch for packs of people with cameras that seem excited for no reason, then go join the group mentality that makes regular people intrude on the private time of these celebrities.


These local law officers defy the common police reputation and seem to actually enjoy dealing with the public. They’re very approachable and helpful. Really. No need to look or sound big as they’re much nicer than the average bear. Just don’t break the speed limit of 25 mph and that goes for bikes, too. Aspen is a fun place and will stay that way as long as people eat, drink, smoke and play within the local rules.