Even the most hard-charging, ultra-marathoning freaks of nature (Aspen is home to more than a few) need to take the occasional day off to rest and recover. The rest of us are usually better able to unwind, but when you’re paying the big bucks for a ski holiday or season pass, it can be hard to let go of the notion that you should be squeezing every penny’s worth out of those lift tickets.

I’m here to tell you: Relax.

Sometimes, we get so caught up pursuing the main attraction (that’s skiing or riding, fyi), it overshadows the more subtle charms and their attendant benefits. Aspen has no shortage of either. As an active, Type-A person, I’ve learned to own my inherent laziness, and there’s no better way for me to guiltlessly enjoy a day of doing nothing than by waiting out a white out (I’m a fair weather skier, shhh, don’t tell).

In reality, it doesn’t matter whether there’s a Polar Vortex or a bluebird day: It behooves you to try to set aside some time to enjoy the quiet pleasure of our valley. I give you my favorite ways to spend a lazy winter’s day in Aspen, no lift ticket required.

Visit a museum or gallery

The ideal way to spend a blizzard. The six-month-old Aspen Art Museum has stirred its share of controversy with its ultra-modern design and height, but it’s a gorgeous space- and it’s free. There are also great kids’ workshops. Even if art isn’t your thing, So, the stark, peaceful café sanctuary on the roof, offers delicious, locally-sourced fare and espresso at rock-bottom (for Aspen) prices; the menu changes every Tuesday. Kick back with a $5 croissant and housemade jam or a bowl of chili made with local Emma Farms Wagyu beef, and enjoy the near panoramic views. The Aspen Historical Society is another great place to while away some time- sign up for one of their distinctive tours.

Soak your stress away

Penny-Hot-Springs-ShadowWhether it’s in the Limelight hot tub, or in the middle of the Crystal River, this is an ideal way to enjoy the outdoors without shivering on a chairlift. In a region famed for its hot springs, you can brave the hordes in Glenwood Springs’ public pools, or do the local thing and jump in the river at Penny Hot Springs off Highway 133, outside of Carbondale. It’s at mile marker 55.

Have a spa day

Is there any better excuse to visit a spa than crappy weather? Aspen of course has no shortage of luxury facilities, but no-frills types will be just as happy at the (very impressive) Aspen Rec Center, which for a nominal day fee, will give you access to its gym, hot tub, sauna, and steam room. I also love the swank spa at the Viceroy Snowmass.

Hot toddies (or cold brews)

Drinking is often a given in bad weather. But give it some consideration. Do you prefer to warm a barstool at a local dive, a fireplace in a high-end hotel, a distillery, or stylish setting? We’ve got ‘em all, and excellent drink slingers, to boot.

Hitch a ride

aspensnowmass-photoForget the calorie burn of Nordic. Snuggle up in one of the provided blankets, and take a horse-drawn sleigh up to Ashcroft’s famed  Pine Creek Cookhouse for lunch or dinner. Reservations required.

Get Zen

Aspen has no shortage of yoga and Pilates studios and classes. Stretch and condition those ski muscles! Aspen magazine has a year-round, free Insider’s Guide (ask your concierge, check your hotel room, or get it at the information kiosk on Cooper Ave.), with a listing of the best studios and classes in town.


Few things are more delicious than bundling up and taking an evening stroll around town to look at the pretty Victorians, many of which remain festooned with fairy lights all winter long.

Read a book

Basalt libraryYou know, those things made out of paper? While Aspen has but a token bookstore- Explore Booksellers– it’s housed in a two-story Victorian- ideal for browsing. The Roaring Fork Valley is also home to two exceptional libraries: The Basalt Regional Public Library is one of my fave places to hang.

This high-ceilinged, LEED Silver-certified, 20,050-square-foot modern space has an heirloom Seed Lending Library, which is supported by the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute and serves as a statewide model to help promote genetic diversity in plants. There’s also rotating exhibits by local artists, talks by local authors, and a stellar Children’s Department. Best: the massive, floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Roaring Fork River, surrounded by cushy armchairs and a fireplace.

The Carbondale Branch Library is another stunning space with an excellent curation. The LEED-“inspired,” 14,000-square-foot library features green design details like Colorado beetle kill shelving and ceiling beams; water-saving toilets and faucets; south and west-facing, 21-foot-high windows overlooking Mt. Sopris; xeric landscaping with gray water irrigation; triple E glass; a 97% high-efficiency natural gas boiler for most heating; recycled content carpet and exterior pavers, and LED and compact fluorescent lighting. New this spring are solar panels. Functional art like service desks and benches have been crafted by local artisans. Of note, the funding for the building came from Garfield County property tax, roughly 60-percent of which comes from natural gas drilling. There’s also great kid’s section and programs, and again, cozy seating with a view.

About Laurel Miller

Laurel is a Basalt-based food and travel writer, cheese consultant and the editor of Edible Aspen magazine. When not sitting in front of her computer in her pj's, Laurel can be found enjoying the outdoors, or backpacking around the world eating street food and acquiring new and exciting tropical diseases.