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A Weekend in Aspen On Any Budget

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Sitting on a Ski LiftSitting pretty at 7,945 feet above sea level in Colorado`s majestic Rocky Mountains, Aspen is home to some of the world`s sickest ski slopes and [second] home to some of the world`s sleekest people. Whether you`re rubbing elbows with Heidi Klum, counting the number of dead mink strolling down the streets, or pulling out your best 360 in champagne powder, Aspen is the perfect playground for a posh weekend recess.

We’ve put together two Aspen vacation packages – one for the budget traveler, and weekend getaway for the man with money to burn:

An Aspen Vacation Package For the Budget Traveler

Commercial flights into Aspen are notoriously pricey, usually edging up into the mid-hundreds for a roundtrip weekend. But if you don`t mind adding some legs to the body of your travel itinerary, there are ways to cut cost. We suggest booking a flight to Denver, CO for as little as $199 roundtrip on Frontier Airlines and then catching the Colorado Mountain Express shuttle for a $90 one-way, four-hour drive to Aspen. The Colorado Mountain Express drivers are very friendly (as in, they work off tips) and often double as tour guides during the trek. So not only are you saving money, you`re gaining knowledge. And knowledge is power, my friends.

Once you`ve arrived in Aspen and are feeling high, mighty, and well informed, it`s time to unload your bags in a hotel that won`t unload your wallet. Finding budget lodging in Aspen is a lot like playing foosball with sticks of butter in your hands. It`s tough work. We stand behind The Independence Square—Aspen`s only lodge on the downtown mall. Prices hover around the $250 mark, which (trust us) is cheap for a ski town where most dinners for two people cost an arm, leg, and a couple hundred dollars. The Independence Square is also just a short walk from Aspen Mountain, so sweating your balls off while trudging around in your ski boots is a no issue.

If you`ve picked up your ski pass, hit up the Silver Queen Gondola to take you to the top of Aspen Mountain. The best part: it`s free with your pass. You`ll get a chance to see the whole mountain on your 14-minute trip to the top—where you can max, relax and loosen those boots to take in bomber mountain views from the Sundeck restaurant. Sundeck is the perfect ski lodge to pick up a hot chocolate pre-run, post-run, or instead of a run. 

Aspen affords some great dining options for the budget traveler. A reasonably priced (warning: vegetarian!) dinner at Explore Bookstore will serve your physical and mental health well. Explore is both bistro and bookstore stuck in a rambling Victorian, so catch up on some pleasure reading while you`re chomping down a $9 helping of coconut tofu spears. Another winner is The Cantina, a Mexican joint going 12-years strong in Aspen and a favorite among the locals. We like the enchilada with a $14 price tag and generous reserves of guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. And with $2.50 margaritas and drafts après ski, Cantina is a great place to eat and drink the night away with an authentically Aspen crowd.

And remember, if Aspen isn’t your scene, Colorado has many other ski destinations for the budget traveler.

The Ultimate Aspen Getaway When Money is No Object

Fancy Ski ResortHop a private jet to Aspen like Jay-Z, but be ready to spend some serious cheese. We`d recommend flying in style with Blue Star Jets, an on-demand PJ travel service giving wealth-healthy travelers the ultimate flying experience with only four hours notice. Fly from New York City to Aspen—round trip—for a cool couple thousand dollars per passenger. And with access to five thousand private airports across the United States, it`s easy to plot your weekend escape even if you`re throwing business bows in Podunk.

When in Aspen, do as the people with copious amounts of money do: spend, spend, spend. Stay at The Little Nell Hotel, the ski town`s only five-star, five-diamond digs. Nestled at the base of Aspen Mountain, this glittering gem of a hotel blends small-town charm with big-world services and indulgences—and comes with an even bigger price tag. One night here during ski season can really pull the pin on your wallet, burning a hole up to $3,300 deep. As a heads-up, rooms often book up 12 months in advance, so it`s a good idea to hone your powers of persuasion before attempting to make a reservation.  

Aspen is a wet dream for the adventurous palate—be you an extreme skier, shopper, or eater. Practice your parallel turns on any of the four mountains in the area: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Highlands. A three-day mountain pass runs about $200, depending on the week (read: sucks for you if Santa is coming to town). Post-slopes, stretch out your shin splints and dodge Range Rovers on Aspen`s designer store-studded streets: Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Fendi, and Brioni, just to name a few. Dior is conveniently right across the street from The Gap, so feel free to laugh at the peons buying synthetic wool scarves while you drop $400 on an indigo-stained crocodile belt for your secretary`s assistant.  

Once night falls, you must get your roll on at Nobu`s über-trendy hotspot Matsuhisa, a gastronomic dreamland where Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton reportedly ran an eating campaign by spending $9,000 on insider favorites like yellowtail jalapeno sashimi and tuna tataki. Post chopstick action, digest and dance the night away at Aspen`s most exclusive nightclub. A swank, member`s only hotspot with a generous dance floor, Caribou Club is filled with millionaires, Playboy Bunnies, and regulars Jack Nicholson and Owen Wilson.

This article was originally published March 31, 2008 and was reproduced with permission.

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