If you’re a luxury aficionado, visiting Aspen, Colorado is a treat. Whether you’re a skier or just want to check out the storied town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Aspen is not just a scene, it’s an experience. Because it welcomes in so many tourists each year, there are numerous places to stay, but our research on luxury hotels in Aspen kept leading us to The Little Nell. While luxury can be defined a number of ways, The Little Nell defines it as exceling in the details of its legendary service and amenities and is a true gem in this mountainside town.
This was our first trip to Aspen, but it has long held an allure for being both an outdoor activity mecca and luxury hot spot. Aspen is full of year-round outdoor activities, high-end restaurants and boutiques, and in the winter, it’s all about the powder. Since this was a quick trip for us, we didn’t ski (snowboard, really) this trip, but we had plenty to occupy our time while there. COVID meant things had changed up a bit for our visit, but in a normal year, the partying and après ski scene is also legendary (we’ll have to come back for that!).
Aspen further differentiated itself this year by becoming the first destination in Colorado to require a negative COVID test from visitors as of mid-December. This makes the appeal of the town that much greater. I am heavily in favor of testing, mask-wearing, and distancing to prevent the spread while allowing tourism to be as safe as possible for locals and visitors alike. Pitkin County (where Aspen is located) also capped indoor dining at 25% capacity and everywhere we went used contact tracing forms as part of their containment efforts. You can find more information on testing requirements and the Pitkin County five commitments of containment here at the Pitkin County Response+Recovery site.
I partnered with The Little Nell on a hosted stay for this trip, but I would recommend booking either directly with the property or through a travel advisor, depending on what amenities each may be offering at the time of booking. If you book through a Virtuoso advisor, you would receive the following benefits:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily full breakfast for two guests per bedroom, served in restaurant ($85 credit daily)
- A $100 USD Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay, not valid for room service (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full, valid only for lunch or dinner in element 47 or Ajax Tavern)
- Early check-in/Late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
We went in mid-December when rates started at $1,100/night for a Town Side Guest Room before taxes and fees. The room we stayed in, a Mountain Side Guest Room, was $1,300 a night before taxes and fees. In their peak season of January to March, The Little Nell will usually require minimum stays around the weekends, though that may be waived this season. During these peak months, expect Town Side Guest Rooms to run around $1,400+/night and Mountain Side Guest Rooms to start around $1,500+/night. Taxes and fees add an additional 18% to the base price.
There are three main top-tier luxury properties in Aspen that most people looking at five-star accommodations will consider, but the only five-star, five-diamond resort that offers the unrivaled convenience of ski-in, ski-out access is The Little Nell. The Little Nell truly has the mountain at its back door and the heart of downtown steps out the front.
There are 92 rooms at The Little Nell and additional condos next door at The Little Nell Residences. The rooms offer different layouts and unique views and were recently renovated in 2017 by Champalimaud Design, a New York luxury design company. The aftermath of the renovation is a space colored in blues, tans, and grays to subtly “complement the relaxed nature of Aspen.”
Each room features a gas log fireplace and wool carpeting, and the luxe bathrooms feature soaking tubs along with heated marble flooring and walls. Most guest rooms have private balconies with mountain or town side views and the room types include guest rooms, premium guest rooms, suites, luxury suites, and residences.
AMENITIES AT THE LITTLE NELL
If you’re a skier, The Little Nell’s ski-in, ski-out access comes complete with a team of Ski Concierges that offer services such as boot warming, tune-ups equipment storage, arranging lessons and tours, communicating current conditions, and booking opportunities like First Tracks. Once you’re prepped and ready to go, you’re just steps from The Silver Queen, a 12,000-foot-long gondola that ascends 3,267 vertical feet to 11,200 feet in 14 minutes to the top of Aspen Mountain (also known as Ajax).
Even if you’re not skiing, you can get a footpass for the gondola to ride it up the mountain and back down after a snack at The Sundeck, the cafeteria-style eatery run by The Little Nell at the top of the mountain. We took a footpass onto the Silver Queen and loved the sites of Aspen Mountain as snow was falling!
The Little Nell also features a heated pool and hot tub ready for post-run soaks, a health center, and even pet amenities. While we didn’t get to bring our beloved golden retrievers Connor and Cooper, we loved seeing a section of the room service menus dedicated to pooches – we’ll have to figure out a way to bring the pups next time!
The concierge team will attend to your requests and inquiries, from making dinner reservations to babysitting to setting you up with a private massage. We contacted the team ahead of our stay for restaurant recommendations and reservations. If you have your eye set on specific restaurants, it’s definitely worth reaching out to their team with enough notice to secure some of those more difficult reservations.
Just across from the concierge’s desk is the hotel’s comfy lounge, the Living Room. The hotel finished renovating its Living Room lounge along with the lobby and entrance just before opening for the 2020/2021 winter season. The tasteful redesign creates a hospitable experience that evokes true Aspen living. The area features a double-sided fireplace and is decorated in fine art, honoring the heritage of the hotel’s history. It’s designed to be a social space for guests to enjoy and the final product is an elegant, private, yet engaging atmosphere for Aspen travelers.
The resort also offers convenient luxury transportation to and from the airport and around town, and guests can even arrange for complimentary use of the resort’s Audi fleet for a up to a two-hour trip.
The Little Nell is a Relais & Châteaux property, so our expectations were high for their food and beverage programs. Not only were those expectations met, they were far exceeded. There are two restaurants and three bars on site at The Little Nell. Each has a carefully curated menu with the finest ingredients where guests can enjoy tasty bites before or after a day of exploring Aspen. Menus can be found here.
Element 47 is a fine dining restaurant located in The Little Nell whose name pays tribute to the metal that put Aspen on the map – silver. Element 47 serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an all-day bar menu seven days a week. Breakfast was a hit for us both days – between the two of us, we indulged in the wagyu hash, huevos rancheros, chef’s omelette, and the bagel with house-smoke salmon (the lox was heavenly).
The prix-fixe dinner is a must and consistently makes it onto lists of the best dinner reservations to land in Aspen. The menu features Colorado Contemporary cuisine with local wagyu beef, house-made pasta, and fresh, seasonal produce. We died for the wagyu tartare (go for the additional shaved white truffle on top; it really made the dish stand out even more) and loved indulging in local venison. The restaurant has redefined fine dining by ensuring you’ll be greeted with warmth over formality and the dress code is “Aspen casual” – just our vibe.
The Little Nell’s other restaurant, Ajax Tavern, is located at the base of Aspen Mountain between The Little Nell’s equipment room and the Silver Queen Gondola. It’s a casual après-ski vibe that serves a killer lunch (ask anyone in town and they’ll tell you the wagyu cheeseburger and truffle fries are a can’t-miss). The vibe is calmer and more collected this year due to COVID regulations that require the tables to be spaced out and fewer guests at any given time, but it’s otherwise a lively hotspot for post-run fun.
Finally, while it’s not a full restaurant, you can grab small bites from the Element 47 bar menu at the Living Room, where you can also indulge in The Little Nell’s legendary hot chocolate. Voted best in the US by Travel+Leisure and best hot chocolate ever by Buzzfeed, it’s truly decadent with homemade whipped cream and marshmallows. Long after your trip to Aspen, you’ll still be dreaming of the hot chocolate.
WINE LOVERS, UNITE
The Little Nell is known far and wide for its wine program which has earned the Wine Spectator Grand Award every year since 1997 and has graduated 11 of North America’s Master Sommeliers. The Little Nell’s staff consists of dozens of sommeliers, ensuring guests are surrounded by expertise as they enjoy the various wine-centric amenities the property offers. There are over 20,000 bottles of wine in the cellar to choose from and the property hosts several wine events throughout non-COVID years.
One of our favorite experiences of the trip was getting attending The Little Nell’s opening weekend for The Wine Bar. The Wine Bar is the newest après-ski spot in town, taking over the space of former après-ski spot Chair 9 and reimagined in the wake of COVID. It has intimate seating accompanied by a live DJ spinning from an all-vinyl collection (the DJ booth is behind glass for safety). The Wine Bar draws from the property’s storied cellar, offering 35 different wines by the glass and 16 wine enomatics on tap. To heighten the experience, Little Nell Wine Director Chris Dunaway even trained the staff on “tonging,” an 18th century Portuguese technique for opening wine bottles that involves a red-hot set of tongs heated over a flame and wrapped around the neck of a wine bottle; once brushed with cool water, the glass neck instantly and cleanly separates from the rest of bottle. It’s a history lesson and theater all in one! For light bites, The Wine Bar offers a charcuterie carving station and cheese boards as well as a full bar menu. It’s an exclusive reservation and is open from 3-9:30pm.
The Little Nell Hotel is a truly luxurious, convenient, and engaging stay when visiting Aspen. With its location at the foot of the mountain, it’s not only beautiful but also allows you to easily explore town or jump right on the mountain to ski. It lives up to its five-star, five-diamond rating with its above-par customer service and decadent amenities and food. For your trip to Aspen, this is an incredibly magical place to stay!