Visiting Aspen: What to eat and where to stay in Roaring Fork Valley

In photographs of Andy Warhol taken during his visits to Aspen in the 1970s and 1980s, the iconic artist looks happy and relaxed, like he’s “having a really lovely time,” according to Aspen Art Museum assistant curator Simone Krug.

Krug and curator-at-large Monica Majoli spent hours sifting through photos, archival materials and Warhol’s journal entries — which also included praise for the Roaring Fork Valley and Colorado more broadly — while putting together the museum’s “Andy Warhol: Lifetimes” exhibit, on view now through March 27.

“Andy Warhol loved spending time in Aspen,” Krug said.

It’s fitting, then, that Aspen is the only U.S. venue for the exhibit, which was organized by Tate Modern and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, in collaboration with the Art Gallery of Ontario. Aspen Art Museum director Nicola Lees noted that it “feels like something of a homecoming,” since Warhol not only visited Aspen regularly but also purchased land near Carbondale and exhibited some of his work in the museum’s inaugural exhibition in 1979.

It’s a big winter in Aspen. In addition to landing this major international retrospective, the city is celebrating the 75th anniversary of its iconic ski resort, welcoming new restaurants and unveiling new and newly renovated lodging options.

If it’s been awhile since you last visited Aspen, this is the winter to plan a road trip. Here’s what’s new in the Roaring Fork Valley.

What to do

The exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum, which offers free admission year-round, explores some of the lesser-known aspects of Warhol, weaving in bits and pieces of the late artist’s identity and biography to help provide context for his seminal work. The museum tapped Majoli, a Los Angeles-based artist, to re-conceptualize the show, which includes more than 200 Warhol pieces organized into six themes.

“We worked with ideas around Warhol’s queerness, we worked with ideas specifically around pop art and his profound contribution to contemporary art in the 20th century and today,” said Majoli. “It gives a general sense of how, in many ways, Warhol is an almost Nostradamus-like figure because of the ways he seemed to foretell the future we’re living in now in terms of social media and celebrity culture that has really exploded since his death.”

The exhibit includes some of Warhol’s most recognizable works — “100 Campbell’s Soup Cans,” for example — but also pieces that casual Warhol fans may have never seen before, like a series of portraits of drag queens and trans women of color in the mid-1970s.

“It strikes a balance between the iconic work that so many viewers are familiar with, but also brings in new perspectives, new works, the archival things that people aren’t familiar with,” said Krug. “If you feel like you’ve seen every Warhol show, you certainly have not seen this one.”

In collaboration with the Aspen Art Museum, the Powers Art Center in Carbondale (30 miles northwest of Aspen) is also showing some of Warhol’s work with “Warhol in Colorado: The Artist’s Relationship with John and Kimiko Powers,” on display through April 30. That exhibit features the complete portfolios of landmark works like “Marilyn” and “Flowers.” Admission to the Powers Art Center is free.

This winter also marks the 75th anniversary of Aspen Mountain, which officially opened Jan. 11, 1947. A few weeks before that, in December 1946, the newly formed Aspen Skiing Corporation (now the Aspen Skiing Company) had unveiled Lift 1, which was, at the time, the world’s longest chairlift.

The ski area is celebrating with events, deals and a special “Aspen 75” cocktail — a riff off the French 75 — for $7.50 at all on-mountain restaurants throughout the season. (Note that Aspen Skiing Company is requiring guests to show proof of vaccination to dine at its full-service fine dining restaurants and stay at its hotels; the full policy is online.)

Aspen is counting down the days until its anniversary by posting historical photos, facts and stories on its social media accounts. On Jan. 11, it will host a celebration at the base of the Shadow Mountain lift and, from Jan. 9 to 11, the resort is collaborating with Pop-Up Magazine to host three nights of mixed-media storytelling about the resort’s heritage and history at the historic Wheeler Opera House.

The Aspen Historical Society also is hosting a series of live theater performances honoring Aspen’s skiing pioneers, retro film screenings, lectures and panel discussions throughout the winter season. The society’s Wheeler/Stallard Museum has an ongoing exhibit called “Decade by Decade: Aspen Revealed” that explores Aspen’s evolution from a prosperous silver mining town to a quiet ranching town to a glamorous international destination.

Where to eat

Coinciding with the opening of the Warhol show, the Aspen Art Museum has a new culinary team and restaurant concept called the Rooftop Café. Helmed by chef Brian Banister and food and beverage director Alex Fonseca, the new third-floor eatery will partner with local farms and food c

ooperatives to offer seasonal, plant-forward menu items, plus a selection of natural wines, local coffee and Colorado craft beers.

Chica, a Latin American-inspired eatery with locations in Las Vegas and Miami, opened at the base of Aspen Mountain inside the Residences at The Little Nell. Helmed by celebrity chef Lorena Garcia (of “Top Chef Masters,” “America’s Next Great Restaurant” and Univision’s “Despierta America” fame), the restaurant has 4,335 square feet of indoor seating, plus a 2,969-square-foot patio with views of the slopes.

Also new this winter is Catch Steak, a modern steakhouse with sister restaurants in New York, Los Angeles, Playa Del Carmen and Las Vegas. The menu includes a wide range of seafood and steaks, from a 40-ounce Prime tomahawk to a Japanese Wagyu trio flight.

The Snow Lodge — the Rocky Mountain offshoot of the popular Surf Lodge in Montauk, N.Y. — is back for another winter in Aspen, this time inside the Chefs Club at the St. Regis Aspen Resort. Dante, the historic New York City cocktail bar, will spearhead the lodge’s food and beverage offerings.

Florida-based chef-owner Angelo Elia also opened the Aspen version of his Italian restaurant Casa D’Angelo over the summer.

Aurum Food & Wine, which has locations in Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge, is opening a new outpost in Snowmass Base Village, complete with apres-ski happy hour deals, lounge space and outdoor fire pits. Snowmass skiers and riders also have a new place to dine on the mountain with the opening of the Alpin Room, which features cuisine inspired by the ski culture of the French, Swiss and Austrian Alps.

Where to stay

The downtown site of Aspen’s Limelight Hotel has evolved a lot over the years, from a Wild West watering hole called The Ski and Spur Bar to the popular 1950s Limelite nightclub to the long-running Limelite Lodge, the first hotel in Aspen to install telephones and televisions.

Since 2012, it’s been the Aspen Skiing Company-owned Limelight Hotel. The space has undergone yet another transformation, this time in the form of a full remodel.

The flagship Limelight property (there are also Limelights in Snowmass; Ketchum, Idaho; and, coming soon, in Boulder on the University of Colorado campus) reopened this winter after undergoing a top-to-bottom renovation of its public spaces and 126 guest rooms and suites. The eight-month project, led by New York City design firm Stonehill Taylor, also included a new retail space and kids area, plus expanded dining seating.

The Roaring Fork Valley is also now home to The Residences at Aspen Valley Ranch, a gated, 813-acre community in Woody Creek with luxe vacation rentals that range in size from 5,700 to 13,000 square feet. (Rates start at $175,000 per month.)

Decorated in a mountain contemporary style, the homes are brimming with art from world-renowned artists and offer stunning views of the valley’s pastures and the Elk Mountains.

Guests can enjoy perks like weekly housekeeping, concierge services, airport transfers, grocery delivery, private chef services, babysitting, event planning, car service and more, plus take advantage of on-site activities and experiences that range from ice skating to snowmobiling.

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