The BHS Edit

All About the Altitude

Maroon Bells, mountain and greenery landscape

The spectacular Maroon Bells, said to be the most photographed peaks in North America. Photo by David Benhaim

If Aspen earned its reputation as North America’s top mountain town for pristine winters and epic skiing, it has garnered its most loyal devotees for magical summers. I know because I am one, having spent a good portion of my adult life living in the town set at 7,908 feet. While Aspen’s summer is short, it reveals what locals have long known: It’s a town rich in history, intellect, philanthropy, culture, and endless outdoor pursuits. No matter how you choose to engage in Aspen’s summer, it promises to be an experience unlike any other. Where else can you ascend a 3,000-foot vertical rise, see world-class art, catch a major musical performance, and indulge in a world-class meal with an equally unparalleled view—all in the same day? If you aren’t already a convert, follow this guide, and we promise you will be by the end of the season.



An Aspen summer is thick with events—some many decades old—that somehow never lose their luster. To wit, this summer ushers in the 75th season of the legendary Aspen Music Festival and School. Renowned for drawing both the classical music world’s top talent as well as its most promising young musicians, the festival showcases grand performances in the Michael Klein Music Tent—née the Benedict Music Tent—as well as casual concerts, free to the public, at the top of Aspen Mountain. (And when you’re inevitably in line for an evening ice cream at the beloved Paradise Bakery, you’re almost always guaranteed an impromptu student concert.)

Jazz Aspen Snowmass’s summer roster kicked off with the June experience—a whopping 40 performances across 12 Aspen venues from June 20 to 23. And every Thursday, from mid-June through August, Snowmass hosts the Free Concert Series on Fanny Hill. Music-lovers gather on the grass to mingle, imbibe, and take in the views at 8,500 feet—with a backdrop of bands playing everything from rock and reggae to country and funk. Then, come Labor Day, JAS presents its festival in Snowmass Town Park, this year featuring headliners Brandi Carlile, Tim McGraw, and Sting. 

Aspen Music Festival performance with audience and performers on stage

This summer will mark the 75th season of the Aspen Music Festival and school.

For those whose outdoor pursuits are more about breaking a sweat, hike the Smuggler-Hunter Loop, an approximately five-mile excursion that traverses wide meadows, scenic vistas, and 150-year-old cabins. Or, try the steep and arduous hike up Aspen Mountain, best completed by starting on the Ute Trail, whose trailhead lies just east of downtown. The vertical gain is significant, and the calories burned will be impressive—all the more reason to kick back with a beer and a snack at The Sundeck at the summit, a restaurant with views as delicious as its food. (Head up on a Sunday and be rewarded with a Bluegrass concert on the deck that overlooks Highland Bowl.)

If biking is more your speed, rent one at any of the town’s many outfitters, such as Aspen Bikes, and enjoy the rolling, picturesque Rio Grande Trail to the legendary Woody Creek Tavern, where you’ll be welcomed by campy décor (it was Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s primary hangout) and potent margaritas. The divey atmosphere is intended, and the food is top-notch.

If you’re an avid road cyclist, the rides to Ashcroft Ghost Town up Castle Creek Road or to the Maroon Bells (said to be the most photographed mountains in North America) up Maroon Creek Road are great workouts, with scenery to reward your effort.

Exterior of Hotel Jerome

The historic Hotel Jerome, a social hub of Aspen since 1889.





The contemporary art world descends on Aspen in the summer, thanks in no small part to the Aspen Art Museum. This year, the museum celebrates its 45th anniversary with Allison Katz’s exhibit “In the House of the Trembling Eye.” The show comprises new works by Katz; fragments of frescoes on loan from the Archaeological Park of Pompeii; and more than 100 works spanning the 17th to 21st centuries, from private collections. The museum’s ArtWeek draws a who’s who of the art world, kicking off July 30 with performances, talks, and events, culminating in the ArtCrush gala on August 2—undoubtedly the season’s premiere art event. This year the theme is “Golden Hour,” and the evening will honor the museum’s architect, Shigeru Ban, musician/artist Jason Moran, and painter Jacqueline Humphries.

Aspen Art Museum exterior

The Shigeru Ban–designed Aspen Art Museum.

Up the road in Snowmass, the Anderson Ranch Arts Center’s Summer Series: Featured Artists and Conversations brings an array of artists and art-world insiders together for lectures and moderated discussions. Cultured magazine Founder and Editor-in-Chief Sarah Harrelson was recently appointed creative director for the series, which will entail five public presentations taking place throughout July and early August. The Ranch’s much anticipated Annual Art Auction & Community Picnic takes place on July 13, with more than 100 works to be presented in a silent auction.

And further expanding Aspen’s artistic offerings in July: Intersect Aspen, now in its fourth year, will return to the Aspen Ice Garden with a mix of modern and contemporary galleries; and the new Aspen Art Fair will bring approximately 40 dealers to the Hotel Jerome, with works displayed throughout the historic building. The inaugural event will also include home tours, as well as a series of talks.

Film buffs should make a point to experience Cinema Under the Stars, the monthly screenings on the lawn of Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain. A partnership between The Little Nell and Aspen Film, the roster consists of timeless flicks, made even better from the perspective of a blanket or fold-up chair under the stars. To up-level the experience, purchase VIP seating, which includes two lounge chairs, light bites, house-made popcorn, a bottle of Champagne, and a dedicated server.

The Little Nell Gondola overlooking the town

The Little Nell Summer Gondola offers breathtaking views of the entire town and Aspen Mountain.

But perhaps The Little Nell’s Ride + Dine is the epitome of Aspen in the summertime, combining the culinary with the calorie-burning. Riders of all levels earn their dinner by biking up Castle Creek Road to Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ Catto Center at Toklat. Each dinner features a different winery’s varietals, making it a truly rich sensory experience.





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