In 1949, Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke brought Albert Schweitzer, Thornton Wilder and Artur Rubinstein-among others-to Aspen to celebrate the bicentennial of German philosopher Goëthe. Paepcke scheduled the historic gathering in summer, naturally, when America's most famous ski town is at its most inviting. As Paepcke intuitively knew, Aspen's magical setting elevates the spirit, which continues to make Aspen the gold standard for summer ski resorts.
While other ski areas stage imitations, Aspen delivers the goods with the internationally acclaimed International Design Conference (June 6-9), Food & Wine Magazine Classic (June 15-17) and the incomparable Aspen Music Festival (June 21-Aug. 19). Moving from the cerebral to the sublime, visitors can cast drakes into the blue-ribbon Frying Pan or Roaring Fork rivers, raft the rapids on the Colorado and Arkansas, or hike to the postcard-perfect Maroon Bells. Or field-test the theory that golf balls fly 15 percent farther at 7,903 feet at the valley's three public courses. Then crush your flatlander confidence by biking 12,095-foot Independence Pass or Government Trail's 10-mile singletrack.
At day's end, head to Jimmy's or the Ajax Tavern deck. If you're feeling A-list, try Whiskey Rocks (owned by Cindy Crawford's husband) as you enjoy the finest 10 square blocks of dining and shopping between Manhattan and San Francisco. As for the 220-mile drive from Denver International Airport that can be hell in the winter? It's a snap in summer.