Aspen’s immaculately groomed slopes and four distinct mountains have made it a prime winter destination for skiers and snowboarders from around the world. But, thanks to its robust and ever-evolving food and beverage scene, this mountain town in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley really excels at après. From sophisticated craft cocktails to world-class wine cellars, these are the après-ski spots worth adding to your Aspen itinerary this winter (and since the Aspen Art Museum is the sole US venue for a major Andy Warhol exhibit and the ski area is celebrating its 75th anniversary this winter, now’s the time to plan a trip).
Though it just opened two years ago, the W Aspen has already become an après hot spot among visitors and Aspenites alike. Located just steps from the Silver Queen Gondola, the W is home to the Wet Deck, Aspen’s only year-round, all-weather, public rooftop. In addition to a heated pool and hot tub (and 360-degree mountain views), the Wet Deck has a full bar and restaurant, cozy fire pits, cabanas, a dance floor and a DJ booth. The hotel’s 39 Degrees restaurant also serves up ideal après snacks like a jumbo Bavarian pretzel and poutine-smothered fries, plus craft cocktails.
Pine Creek Cookhouse
Is it still considered après if you cross-country ski instead of downhill? Aspenites say yes. Pine Creek Cookhouse is a beloved locals’ favorite for warming up and rejuvenating after a few hours of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing the groomed trails of Ashcroft Ski Touring (you can also reach the restaurant via horse-drawn sleigh). The log cabin eatery, which is nestled among the Elk Mountains, offers drinks and prix-fixe menus for lunch and dinner. If you’re new to Nordic skiing or snowshoeing, Ashcroft offers gear rentals, private lessons and guided tours.
The Wine Bar at the Little Nell
The Little Nell’s popular après-ski bar Chair 9 is now the Wine Bar, a posh, art deco-style lounge with a live DJ spinning 4,000 vinyl records. The Nell’s wine prowess is on full display here, with 35 by the glass, 16 wine enomatics on tap and full access to the hotel’s 20,000-bottle cellar. Helmed by wine director Chris Dunaway and the Nell’s knowledgeable team of sommeliers, the Wine Bar also offers a nightly blind wine tasting that offers guests a chance to learn how sommeliers observe, sniff, taste and, ultimately, identify whites and reds. There’s also a full bar menu, plus cheese and charcuterie boards for snacks.
The J-Bar, situated inside the 132-year-old Hotel Jerome, has seen its fair share of apres-ski revelry—and then some. It was where the skiing soldiers of the famed 10th Mountain Division kicked back and had a few drinks when they weren’t training to fight in World War II at nearby Camp Hale. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson held court here while running for Pitkin County sheriff in 1970. In the years since, it’s become a must-visit spot for cocktails and craft beers, plus the legendary Aspen Crud, a boozy milkshake developed during Prohibition.
Wander down the stairs beneath Meat & Cheese Restaurant & Farm Shop and you’ll find yourself immersed in a speakeasy-style bar with exposed brick walls, eclectic artwork, chandeliers and comfy leather couches and chairs. Hooch specializes in craft cocktails but also offers a selection of beer, wines by the glass and sparkling wines by the bottle; it’s also a great stop if you’re into sipping whiskey and other spirits.
The Snow Lodge
Fans of Montauk’s Surf Lodge will also enjoy the brand’s Rocky Mountain outpost, the Snow Lodge, which is popping up this winter inside the Chefs Club at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. The wintery supper club and lounge is a collaboration between the Surf Lodge’s Jayma Cardoso, Linden Pride and Nathalie Hudson of New York’s Dante and Stephane de Baets of Elevated Returns. Dante, the 2019 “World’s Best Bar” that made its first foray into Aspen last winter, is leading the food and beverage charge, serving up its award-winning cocktails and Italian-inspired fare. After dinner, the lounge will transform into an intimate acoustic concert venue.
French Alpine Bistro
There is truly nothing more soul-warming after a day of skiing than a steaming bowl of French Alpine Bistro’s soupe à l’oignon (French onion soup) or a bubbling pot of what the restaurant calls “liquid Swiss gold,” aka fondue. The European-style bistro has an extensive wine list and authentic crepes that range from classic (like the Pure Love, made with sugar, butter and lemon) to elaborate (like the Schokoladepalatschinke, a chocolate crepe filled with chocolate ganache, dulce de leche, strawberries, bananas and Chantilly creme). Plus, it made one of Aspen’s best pandemic pivots by building a cozy “ski chalet” on the street in front of the restaurant— and thanks to city council, the chalet will remain in place at least for this winter.
Brand new to Aspen this winter is Chica, helmed by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia (of Top Chef Masters, America’s Next Great Restaurant and Despierta America). The Latin American-inspired restaurant, which has existing locations in Miami and Las Vegas, opened at the base of Aspen Mountain inside the Residences at the Little Nell just in time for ski season. Chica’s après offerings range from spirit-forward sips like a black truffle old fashioned to quintessentially Colorado craft beers like Dale’s Pale Ale, plus wines by the glass and champagne and spirits by the bottle.
Bosq’s chef-owner Barclay Dodge draws inspiration from the vast wilderness that surrounds the Roaring Fork Valley (the restaurant’s name is a nod to the Spanish word “bosque,” which means forest), even going so far as to forage for his own ingredients—spruce tips, wild rose, watercress and serviceberry branches are just a few of his favorites. The intimate restaurant, which Dodge owns with his wife Molly, is one of the hottest dinner spots in Aspen, so make an after-après reservation ASAP if you’re planning an upcoming ski trip. This year’s winter tasting menu includes four, five or seven courses, with dishes ranging from forest soup (game broth, wild mushrooms, black truffle) to black cod cooked in alder wood (potato, winter truffles, creme fraiche).
Aurum Food & Wine
Skiers and snowboarders who venture over to Snowmass, Aspen’s sister mountain, will relish the arrival of Aurum Food & Wine to the ski area’s base village this winter. The restaurant was designed with après in mind, with a huge outdoor patio with firepits facing the slopes and a loungey interior for lingering over snacks like Korean fried chicken and signature cocktails like As You Wish, made with gin, lavender, elderflower, creme de violet, lemon and grapefruit.
Helmed by celebrity chef Byron Gomez (of Top Chef), master sommelier Jonathan Pullis, spirits director Matt Corbin and DJ Bryan Normand, 7908 serves up what are arguably the most Instagram-worthy drinks in Aspen. There’s Weekend at Ernie’s, a gin and vodka cocktail that arrives in a cutesy bathtub with a rubber ducky and an umbrella. The bourbon-forward Pagemaster is served surreptitiously in a flask that’s been tucked inside a cutout in a textbook. Up In Smoke comes inside a miniature ceramic cottage with balloons attached. Come for an over-the-top cocktail, but stay for dinner and dancing—the lounge also doubles as a nightclub, complete with bottle service.