What’s New? Five ways to expand your winter adventures
November 2, 2017
Offseason might still be in sleepy full-swing, but soon enough ski season will be upon us. And, with that, all the things that make living in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley so special will come alive again — outdoor recreation, dining and drinking, arts and culture, and so much more.
To get you psyched for what lies ahead, we've compiled a list of things that are new, different, and shouldn't be missed as the Aspen scene changes — as it always does — for winter 2017-18.
BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE
Fasten your seatbelts, Snowmass.
The heart of Aspen Skiing Co.'s $10 million on-mountain adventure center is ready to take your breath away (or at least, so its name would suggest).
Love it or hate it, the skiing company's 5,700-foot "Breathtaker Coaster" is open for business starting this winter.
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The coaster, as part of the Skico's "Lost Forest" at Snowmass Ski Area, will wind through the trees via between Gunner's View and Sandy Park trails and drop more than 400 vertical feet for a seven- to nine- minute ride.
While the Lost Forest will also feature a zip line tour, high ropes course, climbing wall and miles of new and rerouted hiking and biking trails, the alpine coaster is the only attraction slated to operate year-round.
The other amenities will be open solely during the summer season.
Snowmass' Elk Camp area is positioned to serve as the hub for these activities, according to Skico officials.
"We tried to create somewhat of a campus atmosphere," says Peter Santini, Skico director of business development. "I think the experience that guests are going to get is pretty cool."
Another goal behind the Lost Forest is to "get guests into the woods" and "up close and personal" with nature, he says.
Speaking before the Snowmass Town Council at a meeting mid-October, Snowmass mountain manager Steve Sewell said he's discussed "something that's going on at Elk Camp" — whether it's a new gondola, restaurant or ride — for about a decade now.
"But I'm happy to say that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," he said, "and this may be the last presentation that I speak to you about Elk Camp."
Skico secured final project approval from the U.S. Forest Service – after several years of planning – on June 20. Construction on the hill commenced the following day, according to Santini.
At the October 16 meeting, Sewell reported the coaster at "99.9 percent" completion. He said Skico hopes to open the ride by Dec. 21, if not sooner.
"It's been a challenging project, to say the least," Sewell said, "but it's coming together very well."
HAVE S'MORE FUN
Aspen and Snowmass might be best know as ski resorts — and indeed, the skiing is amazing — there are plenty of things to do off the mountain.
New this year in Snowmass, be sure and check out Snowmass S'mores … "free s'mores with a unique Snowmass spin," according to Snowmass Tourism. The family-friendly fun will happen every day from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at branded s'mores carts at the fire pits in Base Village and the Snowmass Mall. Kids of all ages can choose from an "assortment of out-of-the-ordinary s'mores fixings, roast their marshmallow and build their perfect s'more .. this new après tradition makes for a distinctively Snowmass experience and truly Instagramable moment."
Even if you're not staying at one of Aspen or Snowmass' high-end hotels, that doesn't mean you enjoy a but of the luxe life. New and/or upgraded this year — and definitely worth checking out, if only for a stroll through the lobby — are several lodges. Here's a sneak peek ..
At The Little Nell, the guest rooms, premium guest rooms, and suites went through a refresh over spring 2017 by Champalimaud Design of New York. Very deluxe.
The Hotel Jerome is renovating the swimming pool, courtyard and hot tubs, which will open December. In addition, they are adding eight keys (which can also function as two three-bedroom suites) in a new building behind the historic Aspen Times building. And, in June, a new event space will debut, which will open onto the courtyard. The Aspen Times building will house an old-fashioned barber shop as well as an entrance to an underground speakeasy. All if this makes Aspen's favorite historic hotel even more welcoming to locals and visitors.
W Aspen and The Sky Residences at W Aspen are slated to open for the 2018 winter ski season. The new hotel and residences are being designed by Nemaworkshop in partnership with local firm Rowland + Broughton Architecture and W's in-house design team. Always a locals' favorite — thanks in part to its locations at the base of Ajax — the new Sky is even more inviting with a 12,000-square-foot rooftop bar and pool. We can only image the parties that will happen here.
On the other side of town, the Aspen Meadows Resort is breaking ground on renovations to the reception center, which will open in June 2018. The new renovations will add in a modern touch while preserving key elements of the present architectural work — which is what makes the Meadows an iconic bit of Aspen's history. The changes will include a new pavilion, an expanded all-weather restaurant, and an outdoor deck.
And, looking ahead, Snowmass is going big with the development of a Limelight hotel — fashioned after the ultra popular Limelight in downtown Aspen..
"We're looking forward to seeing Snowmass be all it can be," Skico's Mike Kaplan said told Snowmass town officials at a recent meeting, "because I think it's happening before our very eyes."
The Limelight is part of a greater development at Snowmass' Base Village. Skico, East West Partners and KSL Capital LLC purchased Base Village in December from Related Cos., which had stalled development as a result of the economic recession nearly 10 years ago.
The Limelight is one of the most anticipated components to the $600 million project – the largest ski area village development in North America.
Skico hopes to create a communal living room at the Limelight Snowmass and offer "a real sense of vitality," Kaplan said.
"Whether you're a local in the community or a visitor from abroad," he said, adding the intent is for anyone to "come celebrate your experiences (and) après ski and plan the next one in the morning for breakfast."
In "just about a year from now, we think that will be a reality," he added.
EAT IT UP
Aspen's restaurant scene changes every season, and the rumor mill is currently abuzz.
First on everyone's mind is the closing of Over Easy and Aspen Brewing Co.'s, which were housed in the Seguin Building (bought for a hearty $6 million by the Hillstone Group, which owns the White House Tavern, and thus roundly lamented as further evidence of downtown's corporate homogenization). No one sure where they re-open, though hopes are they will. The brewery at least will continue operations at its Aspen Business Center warehouse (see Libations, page 11).
Then there's the question of who will push forward the apres-ski party train this season now that the Sky Hotel has fallen and is yet to reopen? Will the unfortunate blandness of Chair 9 decor and foreign crowd warm up with displaced locals or will folks grin and bear it through afternoons at Shlomo's? Ajax Tavern has only so much patio space, after all.
Peach's seemed to paper its windows rather abruptly for renovations, and reports indicate that it is, in fact, expanding to include a separate-but-connected venture called Cream. (Cute.)
Justice Snows future is also up for debate, with the most recent word being they are on a month-to-month lease with the city. Fingers crossed; the Justice bar burger gets unyielding ink, but man, that is one tasty burger.
Meanwhile, Silver City Saloon will open in place of Whiskey Rush after replacing the DJ booth with a stage for live music. Kemo Sabe's new location on Galena Street (formerly Georgia Brown) does have an antique bar from the 1880s (and a liquor license, as always) for use at private events, but it's not "opening a bar," as rumors swirl. More bad news: Bad Billy's is still dead.
On a brighter note, the owners of Bangkok Happy Bowl purchased the Upper Crust space next door and plan to open Tiki Mana Island Grill in November, serving fast-casual Hawaiian fare, including breakfast omelets, Kālua pork, and seafood poke bowls.
Also on the radar: LA Hotspot, The Nice Guy, has plans to expand their second restaurant in Aspen. Operated by John Terzian and Brain Toll, The Nice Guy will feature Italian staples such as chicken marsala and pasta primavera along with an Aspen fan-favorite, truffle fries. This will be the second expansion of one of their LA venues as Terzian and Toll are also owners of Bootsy Bellows, a nightclub in Aspen.
And in the former Little Annie's space, Austin-based eatery Clark's Oyster Bar will expand with a new location in Aspen. The new eatery is reported to serve up seafood dishes, burgers, and more.
Aspen is known in some circles as the Rodeo Drive of the Rockies, and rightly so. But like all things Aspen, the retail scene seems to change as quick as Colorado's weather. A few things to check out this season …
Aspen Skiing Co. has opened an official resort store in downtown Aspen. The Aspen Shop carries a wide selection of Aspen/Snowmass branded items, including clothes, accessories, home goods and jewelry — the perfect place to find those Aspen souvenirs. Also worth noting, and perhaps more local-friendly, Four Mountain Sports will again rent uphill gear — and this year, the rental equipment has been upgraded to Dynafit gear, a global leader in the uphilling industry.
A completely different type of retail outlet has opened on the Hyman Avenue Mall in Maker + Place. The store offers "one-of-a-kind handcrafted home and lifestyle wares" from all over the world. Even cooler, though, is that the shop brings production into the retail environment by offering open-air studios to local craftspeople and by inviting the customer to take part in the creation process. For example, one of their craftspeople is weaver Clarity Elise Fornell, who has the goal of creating pieces with less waste and more intention; Fornell focuses on "the change of thought processes in appreciating and honoring the tradition and beauty in utilitarian goods and home wares." Definitely a different vibe than the Rodeo Drive of the Rockies shops.
Outdoor Voices opened a location in Aspen in July as an ode to outdoor adventure, which we all know is what makes our resort town tick.
Venice-based brand Aviator Nation opened a sixth flagship store (and first location outside of California) in Aspen in June 2017. Its gig is providing "athleisure clothing."
On the arts front, Boesky West debuted in March in a historic building designed by Annabelle Selldorf. Located a block from the Aspen Art Museum, the gallery showcases contemporary artists. But take note: the Aspen art gallery scene changes by the minute, so strolling the streets and "window shopping" is always a worthwhile endeavor.
A favorite of ours is The Aspen Historical Society — and its renovation of the 3,000-square-foot archive building makes it even more inviting. The facility, which opened in the spring, features a community gallery space for exhibitions, educational programming, and events, plus increased and safeguarded storage for the town's artifacts, photographs, and objects. In addition, a newly landscaped courtyard increases indoor-outdoor event space and is delightful even in winter.
Also, O2 Aspen plans relocate to a new space in downtown Aspen this winter. The new yoga and pilates studio is said to include a "street-level retail space, three basement-floor spa treatment rooms, a health food café, and yoga and pilates space upstairs with ample nature light and beautiful mountain views." We can't think of another place to get your Aspen zen going.
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