A new art museum, farm-focused restaurants, and on-trend indie shops make this storied ski town about more than Gucci and Gulfstreams.
A good deal of controversy still lingers over the incongruously huge, blocky building that Pritzker Prize–winning Japanese architect ShigeruBan had designed for the formerly diminutive Aspen Art Museum. But three things are gradually turning locals on to the 2014 construct: stunning traveling exhibits (this month, see artist- filmmaker Julian Schnabel’s iconic plate paintings); a spectacular rooftop restaurant (where A-listers log power lunches); and a stimulating museum store, with right-brain books and toys for all ages, like a Mozart-spewing, snowball-shaped music box. aspenart museum.org.
Dress for any occasion
Everyone from Kate Hudson to Jane Littlebudget strolls Aspen’s heated sidewalks dressed in on-trend basics like wool sweaters and selvedge denim. Pitkin County Dry Goods has been outfitting men and women with the latest Friday-casual fashions since 1969, and the semiannual sales in January and July attract the whole town. For a bit more flair, NYC-based mini chain Intermix opened two years ago in a brick storefront. Exposed beams, cowhide rugs, and reclaimed-wood floors mark this spot as Colorado, but flared black leggings, floral blouses, and shaggy caftans transition easily from Cooper Avenue to Bleecker Street. Pitkin County Dry Goods: pitkin countydrygoods.com. Intermix: intermixonline.com.
From farm to ski town
After years of running restaurants in Texas, Wendy Mitchell launched Avalanche Cheese Company in Paonia—then felt the urge to open an eatery in Aspen to showcase her artisanal products. Two-year- old Meat & Cheese serves platters of her goat cheeses and sausages, along with rustic salads and Asian rice bowls topped with fresh eggs from the restaurant’s farm. A block away, Zocalito Latin Bistro imports rare Oaxacan chiles from south of the border and puts them to good use in chef-owner Michael Beary’s housemade moles. Get them on top of rellenos or pork tenderloin, or simmered over skirt steak and Oaxacan mozzarella in his locals’-fave restaurant. Meat & Cheese:$$$; meatandcheeseaspen.com. Zocalito Latin Bistro: $$$; zocalito.com.
Take an art class
A former schoolhouse turned arts center, The Red Brick puts together a full lineup of exhibits by some of the area’s best photographers, painters, and ceramists six days a week. Stroll down the central hallway and you may spy one or two of the artists at work in their classroom/studios. Thinking to yourself, I can do that? Sign up for one of the Brick’s “Paint N’ Wine” sessions, take a still-life painting class (offered every Thursday by an artist-in- residence), or paint pottery for a holiday gift. aspenart.org.
The mountains surrounding Aspen are pretty enough to impress the most jaded globe- trotter, but tackling them without the right gear is a recipe for disaster. New outfitter Aether sells clean, urban-inspired sportswear made of all the latest power fabrics that “let us function in the wild,” says store manager Nicholas Byrne. You can also browse the newest Patagonia schwag at Ute Mountaineer, a flagstone-fronted mainstay specializing in backcountry skiing. Rent a setup and make for Marolt Open Space, on downtown’s western edge, to cruise past Aspen’s iconic stone chapel on mountain-framed routes. Aether: aether apparel.com. Ute Mountaineer: utemountaineer.com. Marolt Open Space: aspennordic.com.
<<sidebar>>A 2012 renovation returned the Hotel Jerome to its glam-Western roots, with vintage decor that might’ve appealed to the likes of John Wayne and Cary Grant (who once vacationed here). Even the lobby saloon and legendary J-Bar look sexier than ever. From $370; hoteljerome.aubergeresorts.com.