Affordable Aspen

The hint of woodsmoke in the air, the light crackle of fire, and the dull pulsing yellow glow of dancing flames on the walls and ceiling lure me to sleep. My wife snuggles to my side, her face nuzzled to my neck between my jaw and shoulder. It’s our first night in Aspen, specifically at the Molly Gibson Lodge where many of the rooms have their own real wood fireplace to create this cozy atmosphere. Our room is modest, though larger rooms, and even small appartments exist, but we don’t need much as we will mostly be on the slopes or out on the town. But this is the experience we get to come back to each night after full and active days enjoying as much as we can of what Aspen has to offer without breaking the bank.

Aspen Map
Molly Gibson Lodge – Flag; Aspen Gondola – Snowflake

To start, the Molly Gibson Lodge kicks off the affordability list without compromising quality or location. Check out their early season, Colorado resident and AAA discounts. We never had to use our truck in our four day stay because everything was so accessible. The lodge is located on the fringe of downtown Aspen within an easy walk to all the shopping and restaurants. Even the Aspen Gondola, The Sliver Queen, was an easy walk with ski boots. But if you find it to be a touch far, the bus stop right outside the lodge takes you to the gondola. And just across the street you can grab a free bus to any of the other nearby mountains.

We started our first day right here in Aspen. The Molly Gibson Lodge offers a continental breakfast with fresh waffles, eggs, bacon & sausage, cold cuts, fruit and more to get you started on your day. They also serve substantial après-ski snacks to snag any afternoon peckishness.

When you’re ready to switch it up some, just across the park from the Molly Gibson is the Main Street Bakery where you’ll get a great breakfast or lunch or in our case after sleeping in, brunch. This is clearly a locals joint with a community table near the front where regulars come and go, share a newspaper and catch up on the local news from their tablemates. With a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere you can grab a tasty home style meal and/or a fresh baked pastry for later while on the go.

For lunch, Aspen offers a few affordable eateries including The Big Wrap located just a block from the Aspen Gondola. Don’t expect to get a seat during rush times, but even if the line is out the door at this small basement establishment, it moves quickly and the food is perfect to power you up for a solid afternoon back on the slopes.

Dinner options are across the board. On our second night we found ourselves in our jammies with a cozy fire going and we weren’t keen to bundle up again to find something to eat. The website provided a “delivery” category amongst a number of other sorting options. This is where we discovered Hickory House Ribs. With an online menu we had what we wanted all sorted out when we called and the delivery was surprisingly fast. While watching one of the free DVD’s offered from the Molly Gibson video lending library, we devoured the tastiest of BBQ ribs, baked beans and more that came with the meal.

When you’re out on the town, stop by Elevation, a restaurant just a few block from the lodge. To save a few bucks, skip the main dining room and sit in the bar where the friendly wait staff will take your order from the bar menu. We split the rum & Coke pork tacos and Pad Thai and came away quite satisfied. The easy walk back to the lodge was perfect to help the meal settle.

If you’re ready to splurge a bit, make your way across town (still an easy walk) to the Sky Hotel where there is more great bar food to be had like the Root Chip Nachos. Here’s how they describe it: House-Made Russet & Sweet Potato Chips, Scallions, Crispy Bacon, Pico de Gallo and Aged White Cheddar Fondu. We couldn’t resist and it served us well. Then work your way back through town and pop upstairs to BB’s Kitchen for dinner. Kick off with the most amazing appetizer, the burrata with Prosciutto, Fig Chutney, Grilled Crostini and Balsamic Honey Drizzle. We had the Crispy Boulder Half Chicken and the 6 Point Berkshire Pork Chop. Both were outstanding and we were so full, it was a shame we couldn’t finish our Warm Apple Crumble for dessert.

To get beyond just eating and drinking and are a bit of a literary nut, consider visiting Aspen in time for the Aspen Writers’ Foundation Winter Words series. This world famous series now in it’s 15th season brings best selling authors to speak about their work.

Oh, you came to Aspen to ski or ride? Silly me. There are some great specials to be had by thinking ahead and taking advantage of the advanced purchase deals for lift tickets and lessons. If you’re considering taking lessons, save up for a private lesson. While the cost of a single day private lesson is about the cost of five group lessons, the improvement gained will be well beyond what five, or even ten, group lessons will provide. The individual attention is superb and you’ll be free to ski with your friends the rest of your visit while working on the specific direction given to you by your instructor. My wife and I each took private lessons. I was on telemark skis and she on alpine. We met up for lunch at Sneaky’s Tavern and we were both beaming with how much we had learned in just the first half of the day and were excited to get back on the mountain for more. That afternoon, after a solid day of skiing and finding new muscles, a soak in one of the five hot tubs at the Molly Gibson was a must.

As far as choosing between the four mountains, consider this: Beginners will want to stick with Snowmass and Highlands. If you’re set on skiing at Aspen, take the gondola to the top and do some easy laps on the Ajax high speed quad lift then take the gondola back down when done. Intermediates may find the steep and long run from the top of Aspen to the base a good challenge while advanced skiers will find steep and extreme terrain on all the mountains. The big terrain park can be found at Buttermilk along with some beginner terrain as well. Be sure to download the Aspen/Snowmass App for your smart phone to have all the ski maps, weather (including mountain web cams), dining, shopping, events and a local directory (like the number for the ski patrol) right at your finger tips.

Got any great tips on visiting Aspen and keeping costs down? Add them to the comments below!

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