“Freak Power in the Rockies” is how Hunter S. Thompson described his planned takeover of Aspen and Pitkin County, Colorado. There, in 1970, he decided to run for sheriff, and while his plan never panned out, the mystical draw of this Rocky Mountain town persisted, even as Aspen became increasingly popular — and expensive.
Today, a certain freak power remains, thanks to Aspen’s offbeat, longtime local residents, amplified by the energy from visiting international jetsetters. Surrounded by the towering Elk Mountains, when walking a few short blocks within the bustling downtown core, you’ll pass the poshest pot shop ever, a world-class art museum, and likely some celebs. There are escapes to be found, too, atop said museum, inside hotel lobbies, and always down staircases (skip the stilettos, ladies).
Should you find yourself in one of the happiest winter destinations in the world, here are the restaurants to provide all the fancy, hearty, and classically Aspen sustenance to keep you fueled for every outdoor adventure in the snow.
Update December 2021: Despite its fame, Aspen is a small ski town where the majority of locals rely on tourism. The tight-knit community is still up against plenty of pandemic-induced challenges, but the dining scene remains as vibrant as ever. A handful of new big-city names are opening for the 2021-2022 ski season, and longstanding staples are offering new winter menus too. Across the area, restaurants and diners are especially excited this year, as Aspen Snowmass marks its 75th anniversary with a full schedule of festivities. The following is a fresh take on Aspen’s essential restaurants to try, highlighting both the hot spots and enduring classics — all of which should be applauded (and amply tipped) for making it through the past two years. Here’s to a celebratory (and safe) ski season.
Note: Health experts consider dining out to be a high-risk activity for the unvaccinated; it may pose a risk for the vaccinated, especially in areas with substantial COVID transmission.
Katie Shapiro is a freelance cannabis, style, and travel journalist who lives life at its highest and writes about it from her home base in Aspen. She is a senior contributor for Forbes and columnist for the Aspen Times, with other work appearing in the Denver Post, Modern Luxury, Curbed, Thrillist, and more.
Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.