Why Aspen Is Still The One

Celebrating its 75th year as a renowned snowy playground – well, what are you waiting for?

By Richard Clune 06/01/2022

Aspen. Let that simple, bisyllabic utterance sit a while and sew together transportive images of snowy, Coloradoan mountain life.

Say it over … ‘Aspen.’

Like Maldives or Paris and, ah, Madonna  – Aspen is proudly mononymous, the world’s only global ski town to truly burn such a candle.

Aspen. Those who’ve never been will become lost to cerebral celebrity snapshots – known names wrestling fur, garish print or excessively padded Moncler jackets that could easily drive the central narrative of a Seinfeld episode.

Those who’ve been simply smile approvingly and nod knowingly.

Aspen. It’s Colorado’s famed playground. The Centennial State’s most expensive outdoor jolly. It’s also a town of art and ingenuity, fervent community and acute pride. See, Aspen is so much more than its name conjures. And it’s this that has us regularly returning.

We choose to hit town in either early December or February. January, you see, has become dominated by ‘strine’. The locals love it – these regular interlopers from a sandy, far away land – to the extent of hosting Australia Day functions replete with lamington bake-offs and the like. That’s not our jam – because what’s worse than swapping, ‘oh, you live in Paddington too’ small talk on a gondola to the top?
No, we prefer our lift life to involve a local and a slice of chat that will further deliver insights into this twinkling valley of charm (or a local conversation that provides awareness of contemporary America and Colorado’s geographical location via a conversation heralding the many positives of Trump’s former presidency).

Aspen is in fact a loose term used to cover what is an expansive playground covering four key areas – Aspen Mountain (the peak that looms over Aspen town and which is best known as Ajax), Buttermilk, Highlands and Snowmass. It translates to 241km of trails and more than 1335 hectares of incredible terrain in which to strap-in and find some fun.

Our last adventure began in Snowmass – bunking down for a first time in the village at the recently opened Limelight Hotel. It meant an easy one-minute wander to the slopes and accommodation that runs to neat and modern if a little ski-country conformist. Outside sits an ice rink while indoors the property boasts a climbing wall. It’s all very family friendly, which extends to the soft stuff – a set of runs that caters to all comers and one we find incredibly enjoyable given an ability to link through some magical blues and blacks that push the legs given the expansive nature of Aspen’s largest mountain.

In the midst of a $600 million redevelopment that will ultimately bolster accommodation offerings and ameliorate village facilities, Snowmass also offers a new, exclusive Mountain Club – think secluded lounge areas and bar facilities, lockers, heated boot rooms, fitness centre, hot tubs, personalised concierge service and a side of celebrity, such as Gwyneth Paltrow. Member numbers are strictly capped and require, like golf, an initial buy-in with further annual dues.

Of the dining at Snowmass we point to the mountain and the elevated and warming charms of Sam’s – think housemade pastas and a decent wine list – and the historic appeal of Lynn Britt Cabin for some hearty Rocky Mountain chilli, shared boards, pates and more. So too make a morning ritual of The Crepe Shack – orders delivered by a Parisian-raised chef.

Skipping between the resorts is a simple process with most decent accommodation providing private shuttles, though there is also a free and frequent public bus network. So too are skis and boards easily placed in overnight storage or transferred between mountains so as you don’t have to cart things off slope and back each day (note – this service is included when hiring gear from Four Mountain Sports).

And so to Aspen proper – a stunning town held under muted lighting and dustings of gentle snow as if cut from a saccharine, if charming, Christmas movie. Rising tall above all is the ascendant Ajax – a tightly held and steep mountain where blue runs would prove themselves black elsewhere and double black diamonds dominate most short cut throughs. Ski here through trees and knee deep in powder, across wide groomers and all with the town twinkling below. Most runs funnel directly back to the main base and the start of the Silver Queen Gondola – home to some of the best people watching at the sprawling Ajax Tavern (be on deck on bluebird days) and a worthy refueling post that delivers via truffle fries, wagyu burgers and their kind.

It’s here too that you’ll discover Aspen’s finest accommodation – The Little Nell. A five-star offering of rightful renown, ‘The Nell’ is Aspen’s only ski-in-ski-out option – the place to stay and where James Packer maintains a residence and the Obamas, among many others, choose to rest when in Aspen.

A central and recently refurbished main lounge is immediately warming and sets the tone for rooms that are equally spacious, light and appealing. Nothing here is overdone – there’s a welcome simplicity to what’s presented; textures kept across neutral tones, a flourish of colour via artwork and coziness furthered by gas fireplaces (so too the warming appeal of complimentary mini-bar snacks and non-alcoholic drinks).

Of all rooms aim for the Walter Paepcke suite – the Nell’s largest and Aspen’s most acclaimed. Named for the visionary industrialist who planned for post-war Aspen to be a community of like-minded individuals engaging activities to improve the mind, body and spirit (read: The Aspen Idea), the one-bedroom suite (which can be expanded to include two additional bedrooms) covers 2,500 square feet, offers a private balcony with sweeping views of Aspen Mountain and its various happenings, central living room with work station, six seat dining table and more.

The Little Nell does attentive, discreet and personalised service like few other global properties. It’s an ask and you shall receive set-up – first tracks (skiing prior to the daily lifts lurch into being)? Of course that can be arranged, sir. Exclusive snowcat tour seeking powder with a former Olympian as guide? Sure, what time would you like that. Nothing at The Nell is a bother and it’s a level of service that again shines a spotlight on the general letdown of similar luxury outposts across ANZ.

Element 47 is the Nell’s fine diner and one of Aspen’s most celebrated restaurants. Ingredients are these days largely local and exquisitely curated across wagyu cuts, duck, seafood and more. As for the list – well, it is a thing of wonder with more than 26,000 wines held in the cavernous cellar, a $2.8 million treasure hunt that holds a $67,000 Burgundy and sticky dating to 1875.

Take dinner down here – it can be arranged – or indulge the one-hour tour.

The Nell also offers heated outdoor pool with hot tub and a small spa (they can arrange ‘oxygen rental’ should the altitude become too much – it won’t) and the world’s best bootroom – staff willing to strap you into your heated boots each morning while discussing mountain conditions, necessary daily news headlines across politics and pop culture while also delivering a decent espresso to kick start things the right way.

All of Aspen is walkable from The Little Nell and various town meanders are a must. The expected labels are all here – Louis  Vuitton, Gucci, Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino, Moncler, more. Our last visit saw Paltrow’s Goop owning a small retail space and the ability to purchase one of her memorable candles; we were also drawn to the retro sartorial stylings of Aviator Nation while Kemo Sabe supplies necessary Coloradan cowboy attire – it’s a vibe.

Eating in Aspen – compared to, well, the majority of small town America – is a welcome pleasure. All the food groups – Japanese, Italian, French – are covered and generally done very well, even by snobbish Australian standards.

Ellina elevates hearty plates with a cellar of 1300 wines while 7908 is a cool downstairs outpost for both drinking, dining (aim for the $200 nachos) and late-night dancing. Running a bar tab across town should always involve Hooch, Bad Harriett, Eric’s (for games of pool and actual locals) as well as Betula. As for the exclusive Caribou Club, know ‘casual’ memberships can materialise for those visiting from out of town.

Elsewhere, Silverpeak is a marijuana dispensary lifted from Mad Men (seriously mod luxe; take your passport) and the Aspen Art Museum, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban, is an hour well spent (perhaps two if following a trip to Silverpeak?)

Aspen – more than its name suggests.

aspensnowmass.com; thelittlenell.com; limelighthotels.com/snowmass

 

This piece is from our new Car Of The Year Issue – on sale now. Get your copy or subscribe here, or stay up to speed with the Robb Report weekly newsletter.

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How To Make the Ultimate Hangover Cure

Is this the ultimate cocktail to know by heart?

By Belinda Aucott-christie 29/05/2024

The Savoy in London, a beacon of luxury and opulence, holds a significant place in British history as the nation’s first luxury hotel. It was a haven where the affluent sought to experience a taste of royalty. Interestingly, it was within these grand walls that the alleged liquid remedy for hangovers, The Corpse Reviver, was born.

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The Corpse Reviver is aptly named for its life-affirming qualities and claimed ability to knock a hangover on the head.

It’s reassuring to know that the dreaded hangover was such a cause of social consternation in the late 1940s, that it demanded a creative response from Savoy’s hotel bar staff. We’ll drink to that.

Adding to the Corpse Reviver’s allure is the mystery surrounding its creation. Was it the ingenious work of Savoy bartender Johnny Johnson or the creative genius of Joe Gilmore? The exact timeline of its inception between 1948 and 1954 remains a tantalising enigma. 

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To make, take a cocktail shaker and add equal parts dry gin, triple sec, lemon juice, and Lillet Blanc (3/4 of a shot each). 

Add a tiny dash of sugar syrup and absinthe, shake all ingredients with ice until very cold, strain and pour into a chilled coupe.

Garnish with a chic lemon twist and say cheerio to your hangover. 

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ThirdHome Arrives Down Under

The global home-swap club targeting Australia’s millionaires.

By Belinda Aucott 24/05/2024

Wayne Shealy made his name developing resorts from New England to the Caribbean, and shifting more than $3 billion in luxury real estate. In 2010 he started ThirdHome to let luxury homeowners leverage the empty parts of properties in their portfolio to enjoy better holidays. Billed as an exclusive community of ‘neighbours’, ThirdHome now facilitates swapping second and third homes for the super-wealthy.

Wade Shealy, CEO and Founder of ThirdHome, a luxury home-swapping membership program. THIRDHOME

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Turin Castle in Forfar, Scotland. THIRDHOME

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“We’re super excited for the next chapter of our Australian journey,” Shealy says, from his horse farm outside Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. 

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Château De Vézins in Loire Valley, France. THIRDHOME

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Learn more about membership and the rules of engagement here

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Art for Investment

A new private gallery in Sydney helps collectors enter the secondary market.

By Belinda Aucott-christie 24/05/2024

When Art Basel opens next month in Switzerland, it will do so with fresh power under its wings. In 2022 the global art market totalled $67.8 billion, showing 3 percent year-on-year growth*. This year, art topped Knight Frank’s Luxury Investment Index, with prices rising by 11 percent over 2023. According to most reports, art is now a positively appreciating asset class. By comparison, the values of rare whisky, classic cars, handbags, and furniture fell.

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Rover Thomas, Desert Meeting Place, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas.

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Though A Secondary Eye was founded in 2020 in Brisbane, De Denye says the larger pool of collectors drew them down to Sydney. The new gallery’s private aspect seems to be a key selling point for the duo, who prize discretion and private sales. 

Rover Thomas, Lake Argyle, 1994 natural earth pigments on canvas

“Whereas auctions are publicly advertised, a private dealer can offer a work discreetly to a handful of clients without over-exposing it. And we can also present works in a more considered way through curated, high-quality exhibitions that tell the story of each work.”

While some may be intimidated by entering the art market, these art dealers say exposure to the art world is key to unlocking its potential. “Take the time to attend art fairs, exhibitions and auction viewings. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for advice. With time and experience, you will learn what you are drawn to and how the offered prices sit relative to other works in the market.”

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Follow A Secondary Eye here for future exhibitions. 

*According to the 2023 Art Market 2023, authored by Dr. Clare McAndrew, Founder of Arts Economics and published by Art Basel in partnership with UBS

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Watch of the Week: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph

Roger Dubuis unveils its innovative chronograph collection in Australia for the very first time.

By Josh Bozin 21/05/2024

When avant-garde Swiss watchmaker Roger Dubuis revealed its highly anticipated Chronograph Collection halfway through 2023, it was a testament to its haute horology department in creating such a technical marvel for everyday use. Long at the forefront of cutting-edge design and technological excellence, Roger Dubuis (pronounced Ro-ger Du-BWEE) is no stranger to such acclaim.

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“Roger Dubuis proposes a unique blend of contemporary design and haute horlogerie and the Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is the perfect illustration of this craft,” says Sadry Keiser, Chief Marketing Officer. “For its design, we took inspiration from the MonovortexTM Split-Seconds Chronograph, while we decided to power the timepiece with an iconic complication, the flyback chronograph, also marking its come back in the Maison’s collections.”

The Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph is bold and flashy—a chronograph made to be seen, especially at its 45mm size. But Roger Dubuis wouldn’t have it any other way. The supercar-inspired watch is certainly captivating in the flesh. Its multi-dimensional design reveals different layers of technical genius as you spend time with it: from its case crafted from lightweight carbon to its hyper-resistant ceramic bezel, black DLC titanium crown, open case back with sapphire crystal, and elegant rubber strap to tie the watch together, it’s a sporty yet incredibly refined timepiece.

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The complete set is now available at the Sydney Boutique for those wishing to see the Roger Dubuis Chronograph Collection firsthand.

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Model: Roger Dubuis Excalibur Spider Flyback Chronograph
Diameter: 45mm
Material: C-SMC Carbon case
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: RD780 calibre
Complication: Chronograph, date
Functions: hours, minutes, and central seconds
Power reserve: 72 hours

Bracelet: Black rubber strap

Availability: upon request
Price: $150,000


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