Turn the corner of many a quaint street in Aspen, Colorado, USA, and you might think it is just and only a quaint, quiet town.
Some paving bricks, engraved with their kiln birth year of 1904, still sit underfoot on some of these blocks. But those mountains, at the feet of which lie some splendid resorts and the requisite ski lifts, tell a different tale, one of breathtaking scenery and enough double-black diamond ski runs to keep medics on full alert. But the most tell-tale sign of all, that rusticity is not the rule but the exception, is the Prada boutique, in all its alpine glory, a few short blocks from the base of Aspen Mountain.
The woody, rich interior of Prada Aspen. Photo: brandallen.com
Three levels of larch wood, fur and plenty of black leather bespeak Prada’s nod to the locale, while not striding too far from the core values of minimalist chic and understated taste-making. The mannequins in the front window—not so different in expression and demeanour than some of the regular inhabitants during high season—have the nicest gloves and goggles you are ever likely to see. The Louis Vuitton and Gucci boutiques are not far away, but standing in front of Prada Aspen at four o’clock in the afternoon, you can actually hear the beginnings of the après-ski festivities resolutely, determinedly, even voraciously launching, nowhere more voracious than at The Little Nell’s tucked away establishment, The Ajax Tavern.
A rare still moment within The Ajax inner sanctum. Photo: rowlandbroughton.com
It is a buzz you can hear easily from the street, but upon opening the door, several discreet paces from The Little Nell’s own lobby doors, under a sign that says “Montagna”, The Little Nell’s fine dining restaurant, is a small hallway. The buzz is now a roar. The Ajax is situated pretty much right at the base of the mountain, ski lift to the right of you, pool and large hotel patio to the left. People who are famous can be seen, alongside the many more who one supposes should be famous. They are loud, and not because they are already sufficiently fuelled by their poison of choice, but because they are simply thrilled to be there.
They cleared the room for a Kodak moment, but the sound of diamonds clinking crystal still reverberates in Montagna.
The après-ski scene in Aspen is unlike any other. That simple joy of being in such a splendid natural setting, among like-minded others who may or may not have spent time on the slopes that day, leads to some kind of nearly primal, raucous celebration. It’s every day about this time, this après-ski time, call it four on the dot.
It reaches a crescendo, then tapers a little as people begin to eat something, or disperse, perhaps even to Montagna where the wine list and a talented chef capture everyone’s attention. The roar becomes a din, and by 9 or so, it is nearly, what is the word? Tranquil.
The St. Regis’ snowy exterior.
Nearby at the St. Regis Aspen Resort, a bit of pop jazz is performed live by a one-man band that Three Dog Night would be proud of. Songs like “Reminiscing” by Little River Band or “Miss Sun” by Boz Scaggs get new life in the spacious bar and lounge. And the occupants here are a little older, quieter, and more overtly comfortable. The diamonds and pearls glow, the garments, many of them fur, many of them possibly purchased that day or week at the Prada store, tell you these folks have arrived. They have settled in. They have what they want and what they need. Aspen après-ski is the jet set world in social motion, one breath at a time.
For more Aspen adventures, peruse the April 2011 issue of WOW Travel.