Picture that winter snow globe you would eagerly shake as a kid. It likely had a skating pond and snowy bridges covering ice-cold streams. Towering mountains stood sentry over a quaint town with twinkling lights, and colorful ribbons and decorations hung from the street’s lamp posts while couples stood underneath them kissing in the snow.
Christmas in Aspen is this winter wonderland brought to life; a time of year when the town shines brightest. (It’s also the busiest time of year, so plan accordingly.)
Light it Up
If you’re in town a little early, stop by The Little Nell’s 4th annual tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, December 10. Complimentary with cookies and hot chocolate, caroling and photo ops with Santa, Aspen Animal Shelter puppies and dogs as “reindeer” and a clothing drive for the Aspen Homeless Shelter, this is truly the best way to welcome Christmas in Aspen.
12 Days of Aspen
The 12 Days of Aspen, from Dec. 20-31, is arguably the best way to experience what Aspen has to offer. Organized by the Aspen Chamber Resort Association, this is a one-stop shop for events. Each day, a handful of community activities take place around town, and the chamber’s calendar makes navigating which ones to do as easy a beginner ski run.
Highlights include the Aspen Historical Society’s Caroling and Cookie Exchange (Dec. 20); Santa and his live reindeer (Dec. 21); an ugly sweater apres party at the Sky Hotel (Dec. 22); Hanukkah celebrations at the St. Regis (Dec. 24-31); and make your own s’mores (Dec. 28).
The best part is that many of the events are free and family-friendly, making it easy to skip from one event to the next.
Of course, hitting up the four ski mountains that make up the Aspen Snowmass contingent is the quintessential winter activity in this part of the world, but for non-skiers there are other ways to explore the outdoors. Try ice skating at the base of Aspen Mountain, on the little rink next to the Hyatt and fuel up on hot cocoa and fries from the adjacent CP Burger.
Just outside of town, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System offers 60 miles of free cross-country skiing, and visitors can get rentals at the headquarters on the Aspen Golf Course. The sport is a good calorie-burner, and a less impactful (read: easier) way to get outside.
On top of Aspen Mountain, daily snowshoe tours are led by knowledgeable naturalists from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. In Snowmass, the same organization hosts on-ski nature tours as well. If speed is more your style, check out snowmobile tours up to the Maroon Bells from T-Lazy 7. They’ll even pack a picnic to make a day out of it.
Eating is a central activity to anyone’s holidays, and Aspen’s restaurants make sure no meal is skipped. If you find yourself in a home away from home, leave the cooking to the professionals on Christmas Day. The Little Nell and Ajax Tavern both offer prix fixe Christmas dinners – opt for the late seating and catch the Ten Tenors at the Wheeler Opera House beforehand.
Look for Element 47’s and Ajax’s Christmas dinners here.
If you can’t wait to eat until you’re off the hill, try to snag a table at Highlands’ famous Cloud Nine bistro for high-alpine fondue, or check out the totally remodeled and expanded family-run Gywn’s on Snowmass.
On Ajax, the Sundeck is a popular favorite for drinks at 11,212 feet with a view.
If all of this sounds exhausting, relaxing may be the order of the day, and it’s the holidays – treat yo’ self. After getting pampered with services like a facial and massage at any of the day spas around town, settle in to your seat for the silver screen. Aspen Film hosts its Academy Screenings beginning Dec. 22, showcasing dozens of the feature-length contenders for Oscar season.
For an even more relaxing afternoon, sit down by the fire, hot toddy in hand and watch the world go by.
Sitting back and resting your legs will get you ready to do it all over again the next day.
What would Christmas in Aspen be without some shopping thrown into the mix? Wander downtown and stop into Aspen’s best stores; from local boutiques to top fashion brands, you can pick up something for your loved ones (and maybe something for yourself).
Stay for a While
If you’re lucky enough to be celebrating Christmas in Aspen and staying through New Year’s Eve, catch downtown’s anticipated fireworks shows. There are two displays on December 31; one at 8 p.m. and another at midnight. The town will be alive with locals and travelers alike, spending the final days of the holiday season before heading back to work on the Monday, January 2.