The Silver Queen: Checking into an all-new Limelight Aspen |

The Silver Queen: Checking into an all-new Limelight Aspen

The beloved downtown lodge reopens for winter on Dec. 5 after a six-month, top-to-bottom renovation.

Katie Shapiro
For the Aspen Times Weekly
A rendering of renovations to the lounge bar at The Limelight Aspen
Limelight Hotels/Courtesy image

While the Silver Queen in Aspen is best known today as the namesake for the gondola that transports passengers to Ajax’s 11,212-foot-high summit, most visitors — and even locals — don’t know her origin story.

But for Stonehill Taylor, the New York City-based, hospitality-focused architecture and interior design firm tapped to complete a top-to-bottom renovation of the Limelight Hotel Aspen, the Silver Queen served as the hotel’s main design inspiration.

Also a moniker for the towering profile of Aspen and Shadow Mountains, the Silver Queen outline emerged when land was stripped away during the silver mining era. After U.S. President Grover Cleveland threatened to demonetize silver, the city of Aspen raised money for artist Hiram L. Johnson to create a sculpture for the cause to debut at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Whether viewed as a geological quirk or as a lingering spirit, the Silver Queen still lies “on her cloud-kissed throne in the Rockies with Hallam Lake her dainty foot bowl,” as a local poet in The Aspen Times wrote in 1938.

The original “Silver Queen” sculpture, which debuted at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, served as Stonehill Taylor’s main design inspiration.
Courtesy Limelight Hotels

“We pulled inspiration (from her) in the literal sense of our material palettes and textures,” says Stonehill Taylor interior designer Meghan Kelly. “But more importantly, the influence on our design pillars held far more weight in the comprehensive feeling we aimed to create at this hotel. Although the beautiful Silver Queen statue was (ultimately lost after the World’s Fair), her silhouette will forever lie in the mountains that envelop the city — the idea that what was once lost becomes new in an unexpected way. (It) inspired us to strengthen the spirit of this hotel that will continue to evolve for years to come.”


The Limelight Hotel Aspen has a longstanding history of its own, where its original structure, The Ski and Spur Bar, hosted outlaws in the Wild West. Later, as The Limelite, it welcomed dinner theater and nightclub patrons. The Paas family acquired it in the 1960s, expanding and operating it as a guest lodge until 2010, when Aspen Skiing Co. acquired it.


Limelight Aspen officially opens on Dec. 5, with rooms from $559 per night.

355 S. Monarch St., Aspen



Today, it remains the flagship Limelight Hotel property, which has since opened two additional locations in nearby Snowmass and Ketchum, Idaho, under The Little Nell Hotel Group, which also oversees The Little Nell (and its affiliated Residences at The Little Nell), along with the Aspen Mountain Club and Snowmass Mountain Club.

Over the past decade, the Limelight Aspen on the corner of Cooper Avenue and Monarch Street — just steps from the ski slopes and across from Wagner Park — has stood for friendly service for visitors and its bar, happy hour and fresh-from-the-oven pizzas have remained popular with locals. It now has a stunning, shiny new interior.

Guided by Paula Crown of the Crown family who owns Aspen Skiing Company, The Little Nell and Limelight Hotels, the six-month project encompassed all 100,000 square feet of public spaces, including the lobby, lounge, meeting rooms, pool and fitness areas and the restaurant and bar, in addition to the 120 guest rooms and six suites.

“Our ownership allowed us to go above and beyond and really update the entire experience for our guests,” Limelight Hotels regional general manager Henning Rahm says. “We didn’t want to end up with a hotel that was too contemporary; we’re still a mountain town, and while there are truly elevated, gorgeous finishes, we were sure to keep our approachable and unpretentious atmosphere intact.”

The biggest ask for Rahm and his team was that its beloved reputation as “Aspen’s favorite living room” remain focused on community through communal seating — from dining areas to cozy fireside sofas — where locals will always be welcome to enjoy an expanded menu and bar program, hold business meetings, listen to live music and mingle with hotel guests.

Already having worked with Stonehill Taylor on the completion of the Limelight Snowmass in 2018, Rahm says, “We really enjoyed working with them again for this project. They are the perfect partner to lead the charge of updating the Limelight Aspen and truly standardizing certain elements that will stand out for us as a brand and as we grow as a company.”

Plans for additional ski town properties, including Mammoth Mountain in California, are in the works.


“We brought a storytelling approach to this unique project — one we bring to all of our work,” says Sara Duffy, Stonehill Taylor’s Interiors Division principal. “The renovation of Limelight Aspen is a baseline for the Limelight Hotels going forward — the success story of the alignment of its fast-growing brand, which speaks to its alpine landscape, commitment to the arts and unbounded sense of adventure.”

A new arrival experience includes the relocation of the reception desk and the addition of a dedicated retail space.
Courtesy Limelight Hotels

Upgrades and improvements include a new arrival experience with the relocation of the reception desk and surrounding retail space (showcasing apparel and branded items), the addition of a Kids Club area and an expanded restaurant, as well as conference rooms; the stage area was also shifted in the lounge to better accommodate events.

The Silver Queen was manifested through graceful, layered textures and organic forms with an industrial yet playful ambiance, reminiscent of an upscale chalet. The thoughtful treatment of natural materials coupled with metallics and pops of bright color firmly ground the resort in a mountain modern aesthetic. The palette is a neutral mix of earthy wood tones and lively accents that reflect the dynamism of the mountain lifestyle with amber-tinted glass and brushed bronze to mimic the golden glow of the sun setting over the mountains. The modernized ski-lodge aesthetic translates to the guest rooms, too.

All 120 guest rooms (and six suites) have been reappointed with colorful touches set against white oak and walnut furnishings with curated artwork.
Shawn O’Connor

Beds are draped with plaid blankets, backed with upholstered headboards and offset by nightstands and pendant lighting. White oak and walnut furnishings create a calming effect, with each room showcasing a collection of curated artwork. A table flanked by banquette seating and a lounge chair for working or dining are tucked in the corner of the rooms. Layered lines lend the carpet a three- dimensional quality, evocative of a snow flurry. A sliding barn door opens to the bathroom, where large-format porcelain tiles and brushed champagne- hued hardware provide a serene escape.

Debuting just in time for the 2021-22 ski season, the reappointed Limelight Aspen is fit for a Silver Queen.


• Audi e-tron test-drive program

• Cruisers and fat bikes

• Adventures concierge

• Transfers to and from the Aspen airport

• In-town transportation

• Daily skier shuttles

• Ski storage

• Daily breakfast

• Fitness center

• Pool and hot tub

• Kids’ Club

• Wireless internet service

• Built-in kitchenette with sink, microwave and Smeg mini-fridge

• Nespresso coffeemaker

• Pet-friendly