Paul E. Anna: High Points
I spend a lot of time in hotels and have been known, on occasion, to hang out in the lobbies watching the passing crowds. I have even been called a “lobby-rat” for lingering too long.Today I could just transfer my lobby-hanging ways to home as we are in the golden age of Aspen/Snowmass hotels. In the beginning there was the Hotel Jerome, the stately, then not so stately, then restored to former glory, then passed from owner to owner, Main Street hotel. The Silvertree Hotel anchored the Snowmass Mall, The Little Nell came in the mid-’80s and then Haddids built The Ritz Carlton (now The St. Regis Resort). The Viceroy came just as the world economy collapsed. So over the past 120 years or so, we have seen the collection grow.This season it seems that they have all come together and peaked at about the same time. This could be the first winter that we can claim five major hotels in the Aspen/Snowmass spectrum that we can recommend to travelers without reservation. Well, not travelers without reservations, but without having reservations about our recommendations … anyway.The most significant transformation has clearly taken place at the Auberge Resorts’ Hotel Jerome. The lobby and the restaurants have undergone a stunning refreshment that makes it more user-friendly and seriously updates the dining areas. Prospect, the new restaurant under the helm of chef Rob Zack is beautiful, though pricey. If you have not been in yet, you must make the journey down Main Street.Across town, The Little Nell has also updated and remade its restaurant. The former Montagna has given way to the sleek Element 47. Clean lines, a monochromatic color scheme and a glassed-in wine wall give it a look that is as contemporary as it is welcoming.The St. Regis was sold last year and also under went major design changes. The new lobby is a great place to hang in front of the fire and have a cocktail. And Chefs Club by Food & Wine is a unique addition to the community.In Snowmass, the new Westin Resort changes the game dramatically for the Mall. The Snowmass Kitchen, which actually looks over the slopes, is fun and friendly. Add to that the wicked Wildwood Lodge next door, and the Mall gets two new places to hang. And then there is the Viceroy, which should get great credit for hanging in there when the rest of the investors and developers of the new Base Village called their lawyers, hid beneath the covers and waited for the recession to play itself out. By opening and staying open, they have created a great vibe out there on their own and made their lounge a destination place under difficult circumstances. Will Nolan, their ink-adorned chef from New Orleans, has really done great things with the 8K restaurant as well. The tourists may be the lucky ones in our new hotel landscape.
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