Lonely Planet Writer

Just back from: Colorado

ES Emma taking centre stage against the iconic Maroon Bells backdrop. Image courtesy of Emma Sparks

Emma Sparks, Deputy Editor at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a jaunt in the Rocky Mountains. More precisely: Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado.

Tell us more… I spent a week in Aspen and Snowmass on an adrenaline-pumping press trip. I’ve done the classic east and west coast US hotspots, but this was my first time venturing inland. My knowledge of Aspen was limited to the understanding that Dumb and Dumber was set in the town – but I later found out that it was actually filmed in nearby Breckenridge! Despite this initial disappointment, I somehow managed to enjoy myself anyway...

In a nutshell… Aspen and Snowmass are known as winter destinations, due to their world-class slopes and resorts. But once the snows have thawed, the region emerges as a beautiful adventure playground of charging rivers, crisp mountain air and tree-lined hiking trails.

Defining moment? Clapping eyes on the Maroon Bells, the most photographed mountains in North America, was a bit of a ‘pinch me’ moment. While I’m no photography expert, I did my best to capture the scene – but nothing compares to the real thing.

Aspen Gazing out over Aspen's stunning mountain vistas. Image courtesy of Emma Sparks

Good grub? I scoffed a banana and chocolate muffin the size of my face for breakfast, ate the best burrito ever at Venga Venga in Snowmass (possibly enhanced by the margarita – alcohol hits you hard at altitude), picked a tipple from the most comprehensive cocktail menu west of the Mississippi at Aspen’s Justice Snow’s (ask for the bible), and gorged myself at a restaurant whose name says it all: Meat and Cheese. So yeah, I’d say I ate pretty well.

You’d be a muppet to miss… The free Thursday night summer concerts in Snowmass. Bring a blanket and some snacks (and a rain jacket, for those occasional evening showers) and settle down for an evening under the stars. Acts from far and wide perform bluegrass, rock, funk and more to a laidback audience of young families and loved-up couples. The sloping ski run setting means everyone gets a good view of the stage.

Fave activity? I packed a lot into a week: mountain biking, white-water rafting, hiking and yoga – there’s so much to do! But my two absolute favourites were paragliding and stand-up paddleboarding. Paragliding gave me a new, thrilling perspective of the region’s snow-capped mountains, while SUP was a test of my balance and focus. Both were surprisingly peaceful.

If you do one thing… Check in with the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. As well as providing educational classes for budding naturalists and inspiring locals and visitors alike to conserve and respect the great outdoors, ACES runs regular guided hikes in the area and offers free yoga classes overlooking Hallam Lake every Tuesday evening from June until September.

Emma Sparks travelled to Aspen and Snowmass with support from Aspen Chamber (aspenchamber.org) and Go Snowmass (gosnowmass.com). Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.