Aspen & Snowmass on a Budget (Summer Edition)

Gondola ride, Aspen Snowmass, Colorado
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A few months back we wrote a post on ways you could stretch your dollar in Aspen and Snowmass Village during the winter. Now that we’re in the throws of summer, we thought we’d offer up some similar budget-conscious suggestions with a decidedly summer twist.

THINGS TO DO

Ride the Gondolas

Summer view from Sundeck, Aspen Mountain, Colorado

The view from the Sundeck. ©Kevin Day

We will admit to our bias on this one, but when you consider all you can do atop Aspen Mountain and at Elk Camp on Snowmass, the Perfect Summer Package makes for a pretty good deal. For $29 a person, you get three days of unlimited gondola rides (and access to all the requisite free activities on the mountain) plus a $10 dining voucher to use at Sundeck or Elk Camp Restaurant. Add in a free guided tour of the Maroon Bells and you have a the start of a nice long budget weekend.

Attend a Free Concert

It’s hard to imagine two mountain towns that love live music more than Aspen and Snowmass Village. Throughout the summer you’ll find plenty of live music, including free concerts atop Aspen Mountain (Bluegrass Sundays, free with purchase of a gondola ticket) and in Snowmass Village with their Thursday Night Concert Series. The Aspen Music Festival and School also offers a variety of free performances around town throughout the season.

Let the Kids Play Downtown

Fountains in downtown Aspen, Colorado (summer)

Playing in the fountains downtown. ©Hailey Day

Parents of active kids can take them to the rock climbing-themed Wagner Park playground or the nearby water fountains at Hyman Avenue and Mill Street. Park benches, plenty of shade and great people watching make this an appealing place to chill out for a couple of hours. The fountains were originally installed in 1979 and were revolutionary (well, at least in aquasculpting circles) for being the world’s first dancing fountains controlled by a computer.

Aspen Art Museum

The Aspen Art Museum made our list for winter as well, but now that the new building at South Springs St. and Hyman Avenue is set to open August 9, visiting the AAM is a “must-do” for any of you visiting in late summer. Architectural Digest called the new, Shigeru Ban-designed building “one of the 14 most anticipated new buildings of 2014.” The museum boasts world-class exhibits, and has long been a supporter of arts in the community.

Visit a Ghost Town

Independence Ghost Town, near Aspen, CO

Independence Ghost Town

To take a proper glimpse of the area’s mining history visit a ghost town. Two in particular — Ashcroft (located up Castle Creek Road) and Independence (off Hwy. 82 just west of Independence Pass) — are easily accessible and offer a haunting look at what happened when the bottom fell out of the silver boom. Independence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

RECREATION

Hike in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

Whether you head up one of the popular trails that originate at Maroon Lake, or climb up Snowmass Creek valley to Snowmass Lake, the wild and vividly-colored Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness offers unparalleled scenery.

Hike in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness

Hiking in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness, near Aspen, Colorado

Wildflowers in the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. ©Dan Bayer

On the road to Independence Pass you’ll find a two trailheads that access the rugged Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness. Trails to Lost Man Lake, Linkins Lake and Independence Lake pass by numerous cascades and flower-filled meadows, making for a great day hike.

The hiking trails due east of Aspen are adored by locals, but often overlooked by visitors. The aptly named East of Aspen Trail is a good, mellow alternative, passing by beaver ponds, willows and the oxbow waters of the Roaring Fork River.

Have a Picnic at The Grottos

Also en route to Independence Pass, you’ll find The Grottos, an area of granite boulders and slabs which surround the tumbling upper reaches of the Roaring Fork River. Bring lunch, sit on a boulder and take in the scenic beauty.

Go for a Cruiser Ride

You don’t have to be a major gearhead to enjoy cycling in Aspen. While many cyclists flock to the area for the famous ride to Maroon Bells or the tour-de-force climb up Independence Pass, more low-key riders can take a cruiser bike around town or down valley along the Rio Grande Trail. You can either rent a bike from Four Mountain Sports, or with a quick ride on a WeCycle bike (30-minute maximum). Also, guests of the Limelight Hotel have access to the hotel’s fleet of cruiser bikes.

WHERE TO STAY

Lodging deals abound in Aspen and Snowmass, and they’re not just limited to the shoulder season. Check out Aspen-Snowmass’ deals section for hard-to-pass-up packages, or visit StayAspenSnowmass.com to peruse individual lodging rates and last-minute deals.

WHERE TO EAT

Just as in winter, you can save significant cash at restaurants around Aspen and in Snowmass Village by stopping in for happy hour specials. Even many of Aspen’s internationally acclaimed restaurants offer deals between 4pm and 7pm.