|The glorious Maroon Bells are reason enough to visit Aspen.|
If Aspen’s ritzy reputation has been reason enough to by-pass the town and head for simpler cozier spots in Colorado, you might be surprised to learn that Aspen can be very affordable. It’s true that Aspen is high on the radar of celebrity skiers (or après skiers) during the winter season, but it becomes an excellent value during spring, summer, and fall. Many activities are free or nearly so—and prices are generally lower at accommodations and restaurants during the off seasons.Aspen’s year-round population is just under 7,000, which means it’s a cozy town, too--any time besides high season. It is situated in the White River National Forest surrounded by the peaks of the Elk Mountains--prime territory for visitors who appreciate beautiful natural settings.
Aspen retains the independent character of its early silver mining days even as it has grown into a world-class destination with unique hotels and charming lodges, fine dining, shopping, and wonderful natural beauty—all of which are available for sampling after the ski lifts have closed for the season.
|There are plenty of trails to hike.|
White water rafting, kayaking, river surfing, fishing, horseback riding and mountain biking attract adventure seekers, but there are plenty of milder choices for families, too. The Rio Grande Skate Park, one of the best and largest in the country, buzzes with skateboarders, and little kids love playing in the shooting waters of Dancing Fountain on the Hyman Avenue Mall. Practice your climbing skills at the Red Brick Climbing Wall in downtown, or save your energy for a round of Frisbee golf at the 11,212-foot summit of Aspen Mountain which can be accessed via the Silver Queen Gondola.Take free guided nature walks led by naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, or explore The Grottos on an easy 1.2 mile trail featuring a waterfall on the Roaring Fork River a few miles east of town.
|Galleries, restaurants, and music are attractions in the town.|
Get your culture fix at the Aspen Art Museum--admission is free during the summer. There’s also a bounty of free music in the mountains with performances, lectures, and recitals provided through the Aspen Music Festival and School. Any day of the week during the summer, do as the locals do and pack a picnic to enjoy while listening to world-class performers on the lawn beside open-air Benedict Music Tent.Actually, you don’t need a car in downtown. You can walk or bike to most destinations or hop on one of Aspen’s free buses that connect visitors to every local attraction.
|The beauty of nature is a main draw for visitors to Aspen |
in seasons other than winter.
Buses leave town throughout the summer and drop visitors off at the base of the Maroon Bells, the most photographed peaks in North America. The view is stunning and reflections of the peaks are spectacular. At 9,000 feet altitude, the air is clear and cool. Post-card perfect scenes are common as you walk around Maroon Lake or hike two miles to Crater Lake.Golden-leafed aspens glow in the sunlight, draping luminous beauty on fields and trails. Lovely red aspens, not as common as the yellow variety but every bit as glorious, can be found along the streets of Aspen.
|Fall sparkles with golden, gleaming aspen trees.|
|Red aspens glow in autumn sunshine.|
Lodging specials during the off-seasons keep rates affordable at charming downtown hotels, and you can walk to many fine and reasonable eateries The “happy hour” specials at most diners and bars are just a small indication of the “happy holiday” you can experience in Aspen.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier