Aspen’s Secret Season

It might be known as “off-season” but when it comes to experiencing Aspen like a local, springtime is on.

Aspen River and Valley in Springtime

You can’t beat Aspen’s happening events calendar and epic weather all summer long, but what a lot of people don’t realize is how much the locals covet the calm before the storm, those last few weeks of May when the snow finally melts and the grass is green again and town is nice and quiet. It’s a time when you can always find a parking spot, parking is free on the weekends, and when going to places like City Market and the post office become a social event.

Here are five ways to challenge the meaning of off-season.

#1) For whom the Maroon Bells toll.
The road to the Bells officially opened for the season on May 14 and there actually is no toll. Starting June 11, there is a fee of $10 per vehicle between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. so most people take the RFTA bus from Aspen Highlands (tickets are $5 and dogs are allowed). So it’s a real luxury to be able to cruise on up there any old time you like with no fees, no cars, and very few people. The Bells are still there, waiting for you, and beautiful as ever. For more information, click here.

#2) Some like it hot, hot, hot.
There is nothing better than sitting in a natural mountain hot spring on a cold, rainy day. If you’re up for a field trip, our favorite new hot springs are Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood. These brand new natural pools are right on the river with 16 mineral hot springs pools (tempertaures range from 92-108 and are constantly being measured and reported on little chalkboards so you can choose how hot, or not), a fresh water family pool, and jetted spa. Brand new amenities include super nice locker rooms appointed with Kohler showers and sinks, a cafe, a store (in case you forgot anything). There’s even bar service — they’ll come to you so you don’t even have to get out of the tub to order another drink. What more could you ask for? www.ironmountainhotsprings.com

#3) Everyone loves a cheap date.
Not only is parking free in the downtown core all weekend long (if you’ve spent any amount of time in Aspen, you’ve probably gotten a parking ticket so you can really appreciate this) and it’s easy to get a table at your favorite restaurant (because the good ones stay open all year round). Not only that, off-season specials are the local’s excuse to gather and enjoy some of their favorite dishes for a fraction of the price. For a list of off-season hours other restaurant information, click here.

#4) She’s got a ticket to ride.
While the weather can be somewhat unpredictable, that doesn’t stop most Aspenites from jumping on their bikes. The can’t-miss kick off sporting event of the season is Ride for the Pass on May 21, when bikers of all stripes come out to ride up Independence Pass to Ashcroft for the last time before the road is open to car traffic. The Ride benefits the Independence Pass Foundation’s restoration work on the Pass. There will be two finish lines thie year: The first at Weller Lake turnout, just over two miles from the starting line for families and recreational riders, and the second at the traditional Independence ghost town site ten miles from the start. If you’ve never done it, there is nothing better than having a road all to yourself without any cars, especially one as beautiful as this. We can’t promise it won’t be cold, but we can guarantee it will be gorgeous. For more info, go to: http://www.independencepass.org/ride/

#5) Get your culture on.
While the events calendar is hardly the frenetic, non-stop, party-every-day pace you see in the summer, there are still a lot of great events and happenings to choose from, especially in arts and entertainment. The Aspen Art Museum remains open, free to the public and with ongoing exhibitions and events, including an Artist Talk with Sam Durant on May 19, a multimedia artist whose work engages a variety of social, political, and cultural issues.  Also check out a screening of the film, “What Happened, Miss Samone” as part of the Movies at the Museum series. For info visit AspenArtMuseum.org. The Belly Up has live music all month long with Appetite for Destruction performing on May 28.