Aspen Center for Environmental Studies
Hallam Lake, 100 Puppy Smith St., Aspen
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), which operates out of four different locations in the area, is a tremendous community asset. The organization provides classes and a host of educational activities for the community from a nature camp for kids, to senior birdwatching, to cooking classes using local ingredients, and everything in between. Visitors can hire a naturalist guide from the center to give a personalized—and vastly informative—tour of the surrounding mountains, focusing on wildlife, native plants, and more. You'll go by foot in the summer and snow shoe or cross-country skis in the winter.
The original resort here, Aspen Mountain is the closest of the mountains to the village, with its lower runs spitting out skiers at the doors of the Little Nell. The mountain is known to locals as Ajax, and it's a favorite among them for its convenient location and its steep, bumpy style.
315 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen
Cycling is a pretty huge part of Aspen's culture, especially in the summer, when the professionals make their way through town in the Colorado Pro Cycling challenge. And while some of the most famous rides are best left to the experienced or the extremely fit (the climb over Independence Pass, for example, is challenging), there are plenty of options for beginners as well. Bike Hub of Aspen will outfit the entire family with bikes and send you out with maps and information about where to go. As a warm-up, check out the paved bike path along the Rio Grande River, which is as tame as it is stunning.
555 E. Durant Ave., Aspen
Glenwood Springs (which you'll drive through on your way to Aspen if you fly into Denver) is a cozy little laid-back town, and it's home to sections of the Colorado River that are anything but. In the summer, kayaking and rafting trips through the stunning Glenwood Canyon are not to be missed. Blazing Adventures can set up an outing for any level of experience, from beginner-friendly kayaking to heart-pounding raft trips over difficult stretches of rapids. They also do SUP rental.
The least steep of the four mountains, Buttermilk is typically a favorite of beginner skiers (whether they're little kids or adults who are just getting the hang of things). In the spring, the mountain's entire personality completely changes when the X Games hosts its competition there for the week. If you happen to be in town, have your concierge arrange for you to see a few of the events in person.
601 E. Dean St., Aspen
Aspen's Roaring Fork Valley is home to four different rivers, and between them they make up some of the best fly fishing in the United States: In the summer, the cold mountain waters are home to gorgeous rainbows, brown trout, and more. Even inexperienced fishermen will appreciate the scenic surroundings; most finishing spots also offer panoramic views. While guide companies are a dime a dozen, Aspen Fly Fishing is our pick—their experienced guides will tailor a trip to your needs, whether that means fitting you with waders or organizing a full-fledged float trip.
Highlands is known for having some of the most challenging terrain in Aspen, offering steep runs and, of course, the legendary Highlands Bowl. It's not a huge mountain, but it's absolutely the place you want to be on a powder day. (Though you'll be fighting locals for the first chair if that's the case.)
Hike Cathedral Lake
Though they're iconic in many ways, the Maroon Bells can get grossly crowded. For those who prefer to enjoy the mountains in quiet silence, Cathedral Lake offers plenty of views and requires a lot less sharing. Meanwhile, the picturesque lake at the top makes a photo-worthy picnic spot and a perfectly serene place for a few casts. Fair warning: At 7 miles round trip and steep in some areas, this hike isn't for the faint of heart. Leave early to avoid getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms, which are are all but guaranteed in the summer. Photos: Protrails
Krabloonik Mountain Dining & Dogsledding
4250 Divide Rd., Snowmass
This experience is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser for dog lovers (kids and grown-ups alike), as there's nothing quite like riding along on a sleigh behind 10 sled dogs. And while they're plenty cuddly and friendly, these animals aren't exactly your family golden retriever—the strong Alaskan huskies are bred to run, with a seemingly endless energy supply that takes you on a long ride through Aspen's wilderness. What's more, Krabloonik is a true Aspen classic, with food that far exceeds any expectations you might have of a dog sledding operation. Well-executed Western dishes, like a braised Colorado lamb shank, a grilled elk tenderloin, and a perfect salmon filet with Romanesco sauce, welcome you back at the end of the adventure.
Pine Creek Cookhouse
12500 Castle Creek Rd., Aspen
There are several ways to get to this lodge-style restaurant in an idyllic valley surrounded by the Elk Mountains, and none of them by car. In the summer, guests can bike or walk along a dirt road, and in the winter, cross-country skis and show-shoes (for those too beat from a day of downhill or simply too lazy, there's also a horse-drawn sleigh). After all the hard work, you'll be greeted with a round of Hot Toddies and locally-inspired cuisine, with dishes like sautéed rainbow trout, North American buffalo tenderloin, and their famous momo's—stuffed Nepalese dumplings that are a Pine Creek specialty. The convention is to make a reservation during the day, when you can enjoy the views of the surrounding valley, but there's something utterly magical about quietly making your way in the dark, with the moon and stars lighting your way.
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