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Affordable Aspen – families enjoying the amenities and vibes of the famous ski town

Toddler celebrating at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen

Toddler celebrating at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen

By Eileen Ogintz

ASPEN, CO (Day 2) — Sandy Wessler was dancing to the live music at the Limelight Hotel in Aspen, obviously enjoying the après ski ambience at Aspen’s popular spot

After all, it was her third birthday and she’d brought along a lot of friends to celebrate. “Toddler terror on tourists,” joked her mom Susan Glatt. Not really, the babies and toddlers and their parents congregated on a couple of big couches eating the Limelight’s famous après ski pizza. “We can hang out, have a drink and the kids can run around,” Glatt said. Since it’s loud, there’s no concern about the kids being noisy—a reason we chose the Limelight to meet up with local friends and their 3-month old twins the other night.

“It’s a real mix of locals and tourists,” said Glatt.

That was true on Snowmass Mountain too at the Lynn Britt Cabin known for it’s lunches and snow cat dinners now is doing après with specialty drinks from Woody Creek Distillers in nearby Basalt. When my kids were small, it was all about finding hidden stashes in the woods to ski through—bumps and jumps. They still revel in challenging themselves—going to Snowmass’s famous Cirque area at roughly 12,500 feet up a long Poma lift.

Apres Ski on Snowmass with Woody Creek Distillery

Apres Ski on Snowmass with Woody Creek Distillery

But at 3 p.m., they were glad to bask in the sun, sitting in the bright red Adirondack chairs at the Lynn Britt Cabin sipping “gin n’ juice” in the sunshine– $6 each.

Lest you think Aspen is only for celebs and wealthy Hollywood types, there’s plenty affordable here—from the Limelight Hotel with rates under $200 a night , the Hotel Aspen with even lower prices (think four star amenities at three star prices, complete with complimentary breakfast) to Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain famous for their truffle fries and burgers — there are nearly 100 restaurants in downtown Aspen. We loved the casual dinner atmosphere at Ajax Tavern which incidentally is a popular après ski spot—especially the patio on a sunny afternoon. It’s affordable too with mac and cheese $11, onion soup $12 and most main dinner courses under $30.

Signature cured meat and cheese board at Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop in Aspen

Signature cured meat and cheese board at Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop in Aspen

On our last night in Aspen, we opted for the new Meat and Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop With so many varieties of cheese, salami and sausage and artisanal breads , it would be a great bet for picnic fixings too. The Avalanche Cheese Company was started in 2008 to supply the Roaring Fork Valley with artisan goat cheese; The company opened in the fall of 2014 to the restaurant and retail shop and another expansion is in the cards. We shared “boards”—most under $30– with cheese an cured meats, steak and locally grown chicken with delicious roasted potatoes.

A tip from locals: Check out the less expensive bar menus and happy hour specials like at Mezzaluna where you can score a $7 pizza every afternoon from 3 p.m. to 5:30. Locals also like Wood Creek Tavern, the famous hangout of journalist Hunter S. Thompson and famous for Mexican food and margaritas.

The Yemma boys at the top of Snowmass

The Yemma boys at the top of Snowmass

Another local tip: When the professional athletes who live here upgrade their gear, they unload nearly new equipment and clothes at Replay Sports where you can score a bargain. You’ll find gently used designer duds and at Susie’s Limited and plenty of ski wear at the Thrift Shop of Aspen

Check out the free art at the Aspen Art Museum or borrow a pooch from the Aspen Animal Shelter’s Rent a Pet Program for a walk.

Locals will tell you they came for the snow but stayed for the gorgeous—and far cheaper summers.

Ready to take a hike?

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