One of the most talked about weekend getaway destinations from Denver is Aspen, but holidaying here can come at a premium price. We're talking Aspen after all – a favorite place of A-List celebrities and the diamond drenched crowd. But if you play it right, you can see the best of the area without breaking the bank.
How to Vacation in the Roaring Fork Valley Without Breaking the Bank — Photo courtesy of Carri Wilbanks
A hotel new to the Roaring Fork Valley area is Element. Located in Basalt right off Highway 82, travelers can save on lodging with average room rates starting at $161 a night.
The hotel is in the Willits Town Center, a mixed-use community full of different shops and boutiques, and it’s about a 30-minutes drive from both Aspen and Snowmass Village, one of the world's most well-known and renowned places to ski.
The hotel, a concept by Westin, comes with plenty of amenities too, including an outdoor hot tub, fully outfitted fitness center, complimentary breakfast, laundry services, a ski concierge and welcoming lobby with a fireplace – it doubles for a cozy social spot.
Rooms are outfitted with a full-size kitchen, which is perfect for guests staying for a longer period of time or who want to save money by cooking dinner on some nights. And with a Whole Foods across the street and a City Market a short drive away, it’s easy to stock up on groceries.
If you want to explore the area for eats, there are a surprising number of options within walking distance (or just a two-minute drive).
The attached coffee shop, Bonfire Coffee – which serves a strong cup of joe made with beans from local roaster in Glenwood Springs – is one such option. The menu also includes hot breakfast items like empanadas and lighter options like fruit smoothies.
For a hearty après-ski meal, check out Smoke Modern BBQ, which is walking distance from the hotel. You don’t want to miss any of the meats on this smokin’ lineup: pulled pork, beef brisket, sausage or chicken, all of which are slow-smoked over Colorado apple and hickory.
If you really want to splurge from a caloric perspective, the pulled pork and green chile mac-n-cheese is a house favorite. This is a great choice for families as dishes can be ordered family style and mains are big enough to share.
Another dinner option is just a few minutes' drive from the hotel on Basalt's Main Street, which boasts a charming Old West vibe. Here you'll find Tempranillo, where Spanish and Italian tapas are served inside a former hotel where miners once hung their hats in the late 1800’s. The paella and pastas are the showstoppers here, not to mention the well-rounded international wine list.
Across the street is Heathers Savory Pies & Tapas Bar where a buzzing atmosphere with live music on Friday attracts visitors looking for a social scene. Make sure to stop by the packed dessert case before taking a seat, and good luck choosing because these sweet treats are made fresh daily and include everything from massive éclairs to huge slices of pies and cakes.
For a different nightlife option, try Woody Creek Distillers, where you can choose from more than a dozen creative cocktail concoctions. Our favorite is the Basil Gimlet made with vodka, lime, basil, simple syrup and celery bitters. Or, try a small tasting of 3 spirits for $12.
The spirits here all catch a lot of attention, but the vodka takes the bulk of the spotlight because the potatoes used to make it are grown in the valley and handpicked.
When it comes to activities, skiing is the main draw for tourists and Snowmass is the closest mountain to Element. The ski area offers tons of runs for those wanting both well-groomed slopes and expert terrain. If you're looking for more of a challenge, check out Burnt Mountain Glades, High Alpine and the Cirque.
If you don’t have a car, there's a bus stop walking distance from Element that will drop you at Snowmass Village.
After a ski day, head to Carbondale (about 20 minutes away), to True Nature Healing Arts where yoga classes are offered throughout the day. For the ultimate relaxation, treat yourself to a massage afterwards at the True Nature Petit Spa, which incorporates organic oils.
Make sure to carve out time afterwards to enjoy the Tea Bar and overall setting, which incorporates antiques, décor and fitted restoration woodwork imported from Persia.