Photo courtesy of Aspen-Snowmass

5,547 skiable acres + 300 inches of snow = slope central

Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan

It doesn’t get much more perfect than cold nights in Aspen, with its glowing lampposts and snow-dusted trees. In a state jam-packed with winter ski havens, Aspen stands out for the sheer vastness of its alpine empire divided into four massive resorts. Surprisingly, that doesn’t translate into endless, purgatorial gridlock. It’s far enough from Denver to keep the crowds at bay, meaning you rarely have to wait more than five minutes to catch a ski lift. After the boots and masks come off, the town brings out its trademark glitz with fancy boutiques, luxe hotels, and splurge-worthy restaurants.

Must Do

Whether it’s a heart-pounding descent at Aspen Highlands, a careful glide down a bunny hill at Snowmass, a trip to a pop-up Champagne bar on the flank of Aspen Mountain, or a snowboarding lesson at Buttermilk, the four resorts that make up Aspen Snowmass (multi-resort lift tickets from $101; aspensnowmass.com) are about the downhill action. Back in town, most places bend over backward to cater to the powder crowd. Aspen Art Museum (free; aspenartmuseum.org) has a strict no ski-boots policy, but they’ll lend you a pair of slippers at the front desk so you can check out their cutting-edge contemporary installations. In Snowmass Village, The Spa at Viceroy Snowmass ($95; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com) offers rejuvenating 30-minute ski-in/ski-out treatments focused on keeping you limber.

Eat + Sleep

Fourteen miles south of downtown, Pine Creek Cookhouse (pinecreekcookhouse.com) isn’t accessible by car in winter. Instead, after you park at the ghost town of Ashcroft, you click into a pair of Nordic skis (included with dinner) and glide a mile and a half for mountain fare like elk chops and rainbow trout served in a log chalet. (There’s also a sleigh ride option for nonskiers.) Come bedtime, the Limelight Hotel (from $365; limelighthotels.com) back in town strikes the perfect balance between classy and laid-back, with slope-friendly features like resort shuttles, a ski valet, and an après hangout where you can nurse a $4 brew next to one of the outdoor firepits.

Insider’s Tip

Yes, there’s a Gucci boutique, but downtown’s Aspen Thrift Shop (aspenthriftshop.org) is the real must-browse store. The rich and famous often load up on ski gear while visiting—and then unload the barely worn, high-end items at this shop, which sells them secondhand for a song.

Getting Here

More than 200 flights a week—including non-stops from cities like Denver, Los Angeles, and Phoenix—land at Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, just 4 miles from the main hub.