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Aspen Highlands

If Aspen Mountain is a Cadill ac Escalade, then Highlands is a Toyota Tacoma: genuine, badass and, yes, expensive, but not on account of frills like plush leather seats. Highlands is a skier’s hill, with blood-rushing steeps (nearly 50-degree, no-fall zones in hike-to Highland Bowl), yee-haw trees (Boomerang Woods and Steeplechase) and eye-watering groomers (Gunbarrel and Golden Horn) so deliciously pitched, readers wonder why no one’s skiing them. And then there’s the laid-back vibe. Where else can you get a free hot dog, grilled by lifties, as you swing through the empty chair maze on a spring afternoon? That’s not to say Highlands lacks sophistication— it’s just the friendly, worn-in kind. Cloud 9 Bistro, for example, is one of the coziest dining spots this side of the Alps. Readers complain about a lack of, well, everything, at the base. (There’s a reason we don’t call it a “village.”) But hey, if it’s shopping you want, drive that Cadillac over to Aspen. —Kimberly Beekman

What’s New» The midmountain Merry Go Round restaurant has received a much-needed remodeling—in Highlands’ ducttape- chic style.

Must Do » Hike the Bowl. It’s 45 minutes for mortals, and the views are divine.

On-Hill Lunch » Warm your hands around a mug of glühwein and share a platter of sizzling raclette at Cloud 9 Bistro.

Rock Bottom Ranch

Rock Bottom Ranch
Rock Bottom Ranch
Environmental education, hands-on science lessons and farm tours.

Rock Bottom Ranch, run by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, offers environmental education, hands-on science lessons and farm tours. They run seasonal specific programs, so if you stop by in the later winter, or early spring, you might get to see baby animals being born. It’s open Monday through Friday in the winter.
www.aspennature.org; 970.927.6760

Aspen Art Museum

Aspen Art Museum
Aspen Art Museum
A family friendly gallery space complete with coloring supplies.

A constantly rotating gallery of local and national work, the Aspen Art Museum makes a special effort to keep their space family friendly. To facilitate learning, the museum has free art supplies so kids can paint, draw, or write if inspiration hits them. The museum is open Tuesday-Sunday and admission is free.
www.aspenartmuseum.org; 970.925.8050

Woody Creek Tavern

Woody Creek Tavern
Woody Creek Tavern
Hunter S. Thompson's old hangout.

“Fresh” and “dogs” (lime margaritas and Flying Dog microbrews, respectively) sail over the carved wood bar to everyone from old-timers in overalls to Aspen’s couture crowd. (this was Hunter S. Thompson’s hangout.) But a no-credit card no-reservations policy evens the field. Try a famous Limousin beef burger and nachos “works,” dripping with cheese, vegetarian chorizo and fresh jalapenos. Located 10 minutes from Aspen.
Woody Creek, Colorado | 970.923.4585 | woodycreektavern.com

Cloud Nine

Cloud Nine
cloud nine
Highlands' midmountain bistro may just be the best restaurant in the valley.

There are few places as special as Cloud Nine, Aspen Highlands’ midmountain Alpine bistro. It’s a slice of Europe, and it may just be the best restaurant in the valley. (Which, considering the valley, is high praise indeed.) In the dead of winter, as snow piles high around the windows, locals gather around the fire to sip gluevine and dry out their boots. In the spring, people kick back on the deck, sipping wines from the ice bar dug in the snowbank. It’s open to the public for dinner Thursday night, accessible via snowcat.

Matsuhisa

Matsuhisa
Matsuhisa
High-caliber Aspen sushi.

Owned by famed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa (who has restaurants everywhere from Las Vegas to Athens to Tokyo), Aspen's Matsuhisa serves up the town's best sushi to a packed and often celebrity-filled clientele. They serve exquisitely-crafted rolls and sashimi, as well as a masterful dinner menu including lobster with wasabi pepper and Chilean sea bass with black bean sauce. You may need to make a reservation a month in advance.
www.matsuhisaaspen.com

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