By Jackie Yin
It’s snowy white and leafy green. It’s sizzling sun and starry skies. It’s cozy fireplace and babbling creeks. It’s the speed of skiing, the elevation of paragliding and the repose of a hot spa. It’s a place where seasons disappear and life invigorates. Get ready to meet the coolest crowd while enjoying haute cuisine and shopping. Welcome to Aspen, a true alpine paradise.
While the plane was still descending, my imagination ran wild. Bewitched by the extending mountains covered in vigorous green, I couldn’t help but picturing myself having all the fun in this kingdom of adventure. And boy was I right. In the following few days, I was transformed from a hard-working New Yorker to a nature lover who plays hard!
But of course, to ensure any great experience, an important element mustn’t be missing: a good place to rest. And I couldn’t be more satisfied to discover my suite in Dancing Bear Aspen, a boutique Private Residence Club nestled in the historic redbrick heart of downtown Aspen. How I loved everything in my room! Every furnishing was elegantly handcrafted in a comfortable mountain lodge style. I can’t remember how many times I ran my fingers through the velvety brown fur blanket, or how my toes loved the soft wool carpet. What’s more, the verdant Aspen Mountain was just outside my window! With a home like this, I’m ready for any adventure!
Even though in summer, sports like skiing and dog sledding are not available, there are still many fun activities that guarantee to release the tension inside you. Hiking is a popular one. Just grab a water bottle and put on some sunscreen and you’re ready to go. I took the Silver Queen Gondola to the top of Aspen Mountain and hiked out Richmond Ridge. A naturalist accompanied me and told me stories of plants and animals while we crossed the woods. With his vivid explanation, I learned how trees survived disease and saw a century-old plant that just started flowering. I was amazed by nature’s power and felt so close to it as never before. Finally we reached an open area. After some time in the shades of the woods, it felt like heaven to be in the sun; the view was spectacular! In the distance were steep slopes and further were mountain tips still spotted with snow. Every breath in this natural oxygen tank made my mind clearer and my body lighter. I felt blessed and happy.
If you don’t want to sweat too much, biking is also a good choice for exploring the generous views that the mountains had to offer. I picked an easy trail to the Woody Creek. Because it was mainly downhill, I got to enjoy the speed and wind yet still catching all the beautiful sights of the creek, waterfall, mountains and residences. No matter it’s looking up to the sapphire sky or looking down the valley just steps off the trail, I rejoiced like a school kid.
The adventure that I’m most proud of is paragliding. Although I hesitated, I was reassured that a seasoned pilot would be flying with me. And the next thing I knew was that I was in a truck climbing up the bumpy hill. After spreading the glider on the ground and adjusting all cords, my pilot stood behind me and buckled my seats to his suit. Now the only thing we needed to do was wait for the wind. “Three-Two-One!” he shouted. We started running downhill and before I knew it, we were already in the air. If only words can express my thrill of flying! Without any complicated machine, just a helmet and two manual controls in each hand for pulling the cords, paragliding is truly an activity to reconnect with nature. Suddenly the world was clear. There was nothing in between the wilderness and me. For me, that moment of taking in all the breathtaking views while gliding above the valley was a life changing experience. The fear of falling from the sky was gone; instead, it was the ecstasy of being free and alive!
After an active day, what could be more satisfying than a good meal? Restaurants in Aspen surely won’t let you down. To name a few, Cache Cache and Above the Salt are famous for their aesthetic courses in French and Italian style; Kenichi is loved for their innovative Japanese dishes. Their eel sushi wrapped with avocado and topped with a thin piece of strawberry was very impressive. The sour sweet juice of strawberry teased the taste buds while contrasting the texture of the fully flavored eel slice. My favorite restaurant was Brexie Brasserie, which is on the ground floor of Dancing Bear Aspen. Decorated with ornate glass pendants dangling from the ceiling, Brexie serves guests with traditional French cuisine in an intimate ambience. The taste of their Boeuf Bourguignon was phenomenal. No complicated plating, just a simple hot stew with beef braised in fine vin rouge with onion, carrot and potato boiled till soft. Take in a spoonful of a little bit of everything with the warm soup and let yourself give in to the richness of it. It’s everything a traveler could ask for; it felt like home again.
Besides food, Aspen is also a paradise of wine. Try wine tasting at IWM Cellars by Italian wine merchants. The servers were very knowledgeable and made good recommendations of how to pair up your wine with dishes. My favorite match is Camembert with Chacra Pinot Noir from Argentina. The subtle nature of pinot interestingly shows a flirtatious manner when paired with the creamy Camembert.
As a mountain town with a highly developed commercial center, Aspen has everything for you. Stroll along the flower-lined brick streets with colorfully painted houses and check out galleries, jewelry shops, boutique stores and luxury brands like Gucci and Dior. Dancing Bear Aspen also provides services you might not expect. You can relax in their private movie theater of eight wide leather seats or start your day doing yoga on the rooftop followed by buffet-style breakfast and end your day in a hot spa counting stars in the deep sky. Life can’t get any better.
My short trip to Aspen was a precious break from the hustle and bustle of the city and showed me nature at its best. I became relaxed, inspired and fully charged. As my plane left for New York, I couldn’t help looking down; I didn’t want to say goodbye, not to the lovely mountain, to the lovely valley, nor to the lovely people. I promised in my heart that I would come back again. Maybe in wintertime, and let myself bewitched again by their alpine charm.
If you’re looking for a stylish, accessible and charming spot, look no further than Aspen and Dancing Bear. I became a devotee and I’m sure you will too. •
Dancing Bear Aspen
411 South Monarch Street
Aspen, CO 81611