Aspen is among the most popular ski destinations in the entire West. Nestled high in the Elk Mountains branch of the Rockies, Aspen and its sister town of Snowmass Village service four major ski areas (Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass, and Buttermilk), the highest concentration anywhere in Colorado. No matter the level of skier or snowboarder, there is something for you on one of these four mountains. The area provides a free shuttle between areas, so you can enjoy the mountain of your choice regardless of where you stay in the valley. Each mountain has something different to offer: Aspen is incredibly convenient, serviced by a gondola in the heart of town. The apres ski scene is incredibly easy to access here. The terrain is steep, and there are no beginner runs on the mountain. Aspen Highlands is more a local mountain. With a new base, the apres ski is pleasant here as well. The mountain itself is also rather steep, with good back country access. Snowmass is the most family friendly of the resorts. The largest of the mountains in the area, it's well known for an extensive ski-in/ski-out lodging and wide, open trails. Buttermilk is known as the beginner's mountain, with a great deal of easier terrain and highly rated ski school. It is also very snowboarder friendly, with 5 terrain parks. Buttermilk also has hosted the Winter X games for an unprecedented 9 consecutive years. 2010 marks the last year the X games come to Aspen area.
The surrounding peaks are some of Colorado's most picturesque, and provide a massive playground for both winter and summer activities. Winter activities are by no means limited to Alpine skiing and snowboarding. Aspen also offers an ice skating rink, Nordic ski trails, and access to a system of backcountry huts called the 10th Mountain Hut Division. Summer activities include rafting the nearby Colorado River, hiking and biking in the surrounding mountains, fishing the Gold Medal Waters of the Roaring Fork and Fryingpan Rivers, and golfing one of several unique courses. The lisfts and gondola are open during the summer seasons also, and you can use them for hiking, biking, or mountainboarding. At any time of year, sightseers visit the Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. These 2 fourteeners are the most photographed mountains in Colorado.
There's no lack of things to do in Aspen itself, either. Visitors can take tours of historic landmarks such as the Wheeler Opera House or the Hotel Jerome, and shop at trendy outlets or smaller local stores. A selection of art galleries, a theater, and a concert hall are available for those seeking culture. Restaurants and bars abound, and there is something on offer for everyone's taste. Locals are an interesting mixture of wealthy, working, "ski bums," and iconoclasts. You can visit the Woody Creek Tavern to sit and eat in Hunter S. Thompson's stomping ground, relax in the the peaceful John Denver Sanctuary park, or possibly catch a Vogue photoshoot.
The town of Aspen also plays host to a number of festivals, workshops, and competitions during the year, meaning something is nearly always going on. Popular events include the Winter X-Games at Buttermilk Mountain, 24 Hours of Aspen Charity race at Ajax, Jazz Aspen Snowmass music festival, FOOD & WINE Magazine Classic in Aspen, and the Aspen Arts Festival.
Aspen is located 220 miles west and south of Denver via I70 and South Colorado 82 from the Glenwood Springs exit.