Valerie Wilson Travel

Alpine Excellence

In February, I had the opportunity to spend a long weekend at Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado with likeminded travel professionals that are intermediate skiers and above. I love to ski, and I don’t do it enough. While I always love to be in the mountains, skiing on them is one of my greatest pleasures. And we should all do more of what brings us joy.

I learned to ski at 23 years old on Hunter Mountain in NY. We rented a small cabin and went every other weekend. I was determined to learn to ski – if you can ski Hunter Mountain (ice mountain), you can ski anything. I succeeded, but only after dislocating my shoulder (it gave me street cred). By the end of the second season, I was skiing black diamonds as my heart would beat a mile a minute.

I then went on to ski in Chile, Japan, and most of Europe but it wasn’t until recently that I skied COLORADO. WOW! This is America. If you haven’t been out west skiing, you should. Whether you ski or don’t ski anymore (I hear this a lot), go and enjoy all of the other fun things you can do – snow shoe, rest, spa, jacuzzi, read, sit by a fire, enjoy the view, shop, après ski, the list goes on.

“But I don’t like the cold” (I get this even more). BUY A HAT. But I get it, cold is hard. The solution is to go in the summer and/or fall. Nothing like marveling at golden aspen in the fall! Prioritize Winter! Prioritize the Rocky Mountains!

The Details:

When it comes to skiing, the Colorado mountain range stands alone with its awe-inspiring peaks, legendary snowfall, and arguably the most diverse mountain range in the American West. Nestled within this mountain range, there are numerous towns that may ring a bell in regard to iconic winter destinations. From the lofty heights of Breckenridge to the rugged terrain of Telluride, the exceptional tree skiing in Steamboat Springs, the charming Austrian-inspired village in Vail, and the ever-reliable Winter Park, the options are abundant. However, in my humble opinion, Aspen truly stands out above the rest. I have always heard that Aspen is for Billionaires, but I like to think that Aspen is for nature lovers. Why should they have all the fun? Come along for a long weekend and enjoy! The town has a rich history and, in addition to outdoor recreation, offers a diverse range of culture and art that sets it apart as the ultimate luxurious mountain town. Tucked away in the heart of the Elk Mountains, there are four distinct ski areas each with their own characteristics; Aspen Mountain or “Ajax” mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. The Little Nell sits at Aspen Mountain, Aspen’s original mountain founded by 10th Mountain Division troops after WWII. It is home to the world-famous Silver Queen Gondola which takes skiers up 3300 feet in under 15 minutes, and of course, the iconic Little Nell.

Situated at the base of the majestic mountain, The Little Nell reigns as Aspen’s sole Five-Star, Five-Diamond ski-in/ski-out hotel. When the friendly and professional driver meets you at the airport, you know you are in for a treat, and everything will be taken care of for you – hospitality magnified. Yes, it is exclusive, prestigious, very special, and not easy to get to. Traveling to Aspen may require a connecting flight from major airports, adding an extra layer of effort and planning that might discourage those seeking more accessible ski destinations, nevertheless, this exclusivity offers numerous advantages for those seeking smaller lift lines and an overall elevated skiing experience that may become your new family tradition come winter.

My trip took place at an ideal time in February, falling in between most winter breaks. We were able to ski (or snowshoe) all day long in the glorious sun – 246 days of sunshine per year. We all need more Vitamin D.

The Little Nell provides an exceptional luxury Ski Concierge team that will act as your right-hand man on the slopes. From warming your boots and tuning your equipment, to arranging intermountain transfers, ski lessons, and various tours, they ensure a seamless and very boutique experience. The absence of long lines and odor of dirty socks was definitely noted and appreciated. The hotel offers experiences you can’t find anywhere else including skiing on the mountain before it officially opens, snowcat powder tours (ski an average of 10 untracked powder runs), and the ability to join the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol in sweeping the mountain at the end of each day. You can easily stay a week at the hotel, immersing yourself in skiing and exploring Aspen. I recommend a period of 4-7 days to experience it all. If you are a skier, you will love it! Aspen, Snow Mass, Highlands – you can choose one or all!

In the Spring of 2017, the hotel underwent renovations led by NYC-based interior design firm, Champalimaud Design. All 92 rooms and 14 suites were transformed, resulting in a relaxed and minimalist ambiance with a touch of quiet luxury. The design concept is referred to as “Aspen Modern,” and captures the understated but tailored essence of the area perfectly. There are plans for another revamp of the hotel scheduled for 2024-2025. During my stay, I was fortunate to have a fantastic room with a mountain view. It’s worth noting that all rooms offer captivating views of Aspen Mountain, Red Mountain, the Continental Divide, Durant and Spring streets or the hotel’s charming courtyard and pool. In addition to the hotel accommodations, the property also includes resident buildings and luxury condos suitable for larger families. Speaking of which, the hotel is very pet and family friendly. Do not hesitate to ask me about the incredible residences.

When it comes to dining, The Little Nell is renowned for offering some of the finest food in the area. The Hotel boasts two restaurants where wine and food combine in the best ways. The hotel is home to knowledgeable sommeliers. We were surprised by an underground secret wine cellar! The hotel wine director, Chris Dunaway, led us through a tour of the history of the vast cellar while enjoying a unique tasting (it included caviar!). Additionally, the hotel is home of Ajax Tavern, a gathering spot après ski. This venue is ideal for unwinding with a cocktail while soaking in the energy of the slopes and observing both skiers and non-skiers alike.

The Little Nell is ideally located just steps away from the city of Aspen, making it the perfect starting point for exploring the area. Whether you want to take a break from the slopes or if the weather is cloudy, Aspen has a wide range of activities in the realms of shopping and culture. Aspen is widely regarded as one of the most exclusive resort towns in North America and has a reputation for attracting billionaires, so it comes as no surprise that its downtown caters to its discerning visitors. There is a mix of high-end fashion boutiques, specialty stores, and unique shops, such as the Nick Fouquet hat shop where you can perfect your Aspen look. Aspen is a compact city at only 3.85 square miles but packs a punch when it comes to art galleries – from the contemporary and cutting-edge Aspen Art Museum (with a great gift shop) to the Wheeler/Staller Museum, a charming brick Victorian that tells the story of Aspen’s history. The Little Nell also proudly showcases a collection of abstract works by internationally recognized painters, sculptors, and photographers. The restaurant, Element 47 features curated collections of contemporary Aspen art, and for those wanting an immersive experience, the Holly Hunt-designed suites are designed around various art pieces.

The Little Nell has an ongoing special collaboration with renowned photographer Gray Malin to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Gray Malin is widely recognized for his bright aerial photographs of beaches and other iconic destinations – perhaps you’ve come across his iconic shots of the vibrant orange umbrellas lined on a Positano beach. The collaboration was so inspiring that it led to the creation of a unique experience known as Snow Beach from AspenX Gray Malin in partnership with The Little Nell. The immersive pop-up was curated by Malin, drawing inspiration from his vintage ski photo shoot. Guests can step into the world of vintage-inspired glamor and capture their own photos while enjoying live DJ performances and The Little Nell’s five-star service. You don’t want to miss out on seeing this while it is still here!

The long weekend in the Rocky Mountains was actually too short but the skiing, food, wine, Rocky Mountains were just what this mountain lover needed. See you soon!