Aspen’s pristine slopes, snow-dusted evergreen trees and downtown adorned with festive holiday lights make it an idyllic winter destination for skiers and snowboarders from all over the world.
But this mountain town in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley is also a prime warm-weather basecamp for outdoor pursuits, fine dining and cultural activities. The many attractions, coupled with the city’s popularity among celebs and other high-rollers have made Aspen a pricey place to visit, but visitors can still find deals in the quieter seasons.
High season: December to April; June to September
Best time for skiing; Best time for hiking and mountain biking
Aspen has two high seasons: winter and summer. Winter is the most popular – and the most expensive – time to visit Aspen, when travelers flock to this high-altitude playground to ski, snowboard, snowshoe and ride snowmobiles, sipping apres-ski drinks in a hot tub or by a fireplace when they’re done.
In the summer Aspen comes alive again, this time with travelers basking in the sunshine and consistently balmy weather. In addition to hiking, mountain biking, road cycling, fly-fishing and other outdoor activities, there are dozens of world-class arts and culture events to take part in. Summer is slightly less expensive than winter, but not by much.
Shoulder season: September to November
Best time for fall color and quieter trails
Though Aspen gets plenty of visitors for its vibrant, golden-yellow display of fall color each year, this season offers more affordable hotel rates, and less crowded trails. Some venues close for a few weeks during the lull, but there’s still plenty to see and do. Behind spring, this is one of the best times to visit Aspen if you’re looking for a deal.
Low season: April to June
Best time for budget travelers
Once the ski lifts stop running, Aspen becomes much more relaxed. Spring is the cheapest time to visit and though some trails may be a bit muddy as the snow melts, it’s a great time to get outdoors and explore without the crowds. Bring a raincoat and lots of layers, as spring snowstorms are common. As with shoulder season in the fall, some restaurants, shops and even hotels close for a few weeks.
Ski season is in full swing in January, with most lifts and runs open to skiers and snowboarders. The main draw is the region’s ski areas – Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands. Snowmass’s spacious terrain and laid-back vibe appeals to families, while Aspen Highlands tends to attract expert-level adventurers.
Key events: Wintersköl, Aspen Gay Ski Week, X Games
Another cold month, usually with lots of fresh powder for skiing and riding. February is a very popular time to visit for winter activities including sleigh rides, ice skating, dog sledding, uphilling, tubing and more. It’s also a great time to warm up with a concert at Belly Up Aspen or an exhibit at the free Aspen Art Museum.
Key event: Aspen Laugh Festival
This is historically one of the snowiest months in Aspen, so book a trip in March for the best skiing conditions. The days are starting to get longer, which means more time for apres-ski drinks too.
Key event: Apres Ski Cocktail Classic
Ski season is starting to wind down, but there are still plenty of blissful bluebird days to be had in April until the resorts close. After that, Aspen settles down for its low season, when hotel rates are more affordable. It’s a great time to visit if you’re on a budget or you don’t mind a little snow and mud on the hiking trails.
Key event: Shortsfest
May is peaceful and serene in Aspen – the skiers and snowboarders are gone and the summer crowds haven’t arrived yet. As the snow begins to melt, tulips, daffodils and other perennials bloom in the immaculately landscaped gardens of Aspen’s Victorian-era West End neighborhood. May is an ideal time to visit if you’re a cyclist, as many high-elevation roads are still closed to cars but open to bikes.
Key event: Ride for the Pass
In late June, Aspen Mountain and Snowmass reopen for the summer, offering visitors a chance to take sightseeing gondola rides, hike among the aspens and evergreens, take mountaintop yoga classes, dine outdoors, attend performances and ride award-winning mountain bike trails (the Roaring Fork Valley was named a gold-level ride center by the International Mountain Bicycling Association).
Key events: Aspen Saturday Market, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Ideas Festival, Food & Wine Classic
With perfect 70-degree weather and many arts and culture events to attend, July is a very popular time to visit Aspen, with the sunny days perfect for hiking, cycling and fly-fishing. Restaurants, bars and activities can get booked up quickly, so make reservations where possible.
Key events: Aspen Music Festival and School, Aspen Arts Festival
By now, nearly all of the snow has melted, making August the perfect time to tackle a high-alpine mountain summit. Wildflowers are still popping, the city is bustling and alfresco dining reigns supreme. Visitors flock to the Roaring Fork Valley for the mild weather and the wide range of outdoor activities from golf to cycling. Lodging prices are high and hotels book up fast.
The fall colors peak in September, with leaves gradually starting to turn until entire groves are bright gold. Though many people visit Aspen to leaf-peep this time of year, it’s still relatively affordable and calm. The days remain sunny and warm, making September an ideal time to go hiking or mountain biking, especially on less-traveled trails.
Key events: Snowmass Balloon Festival, Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience
October is a slower time in Aspen. As autumn’s crisp temperatures give way to the frosty grip of winter, the golden-yellow aspen leaves fall and the city takes a collective deep breath before starting preparations for the high season.
Key events: John Denver Celebration
Ski season typically kicks off around Thanksgiving, though only some runs have enough snow for action. November is a lower-traffic month and a great time to find deals on lodging, as long as you don’t mind being a little limited with where you can ski or snowboard.
Key events: Opening day at Aspen Mountain and Snowmass ski areas, Shining Mountains Film Festival
As more snow piles up and more terrain opens up for skiing and snowboarding, Aspen remains relatively uncrowded during the first part of December. However, in the days before and after Christmas, the town is filled to the brim with travelers. Restaurants are packed and hotel rates tend to be the highest in late December.
Key events: Opening day at Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands ski areas, 12 Days of Aspen
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