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Summer in Aspen: What’s New and Noteworthy in Aspen, Colorado for Summer 2009

Brandon Wenerd's picture

A Sign of Summer in Aspen: Independence Pass is OpenA Sign of Summer in Aspen: Independence Pass is OpenDespite a fairytale image, Aspen has not been impervious to the tsunami of distressing economic news. In a certain sign of the times, headlines in the Aspen Daily News or the Aspen Times hint at gloomy economic conditions: the turtle-like crawl of vacation real estate sales, raising unemployment rates, and lower-than-average hotel occupancy are common themes littering the local headlines. Even in fantasyland woebegone national news of corporate bankruptcies, gloomy markets, bailout quagmires, foreclosures, and bank buyouts contribute to a crestfallen public consciousness.

As off-season transitions into summer high season, there are signs of a silver lining to the doom and gloom. Warm weather means Jimmy Buffett melodies, backyard grilling, rafting trips, shorts and flip-flops, and the opening of the narrow, 12,000 foot switchback over Independence Pass, making Aspen immediately accessible to historic Leadville. Although everything isn’t peaches and blue bonnets in this alpine resort town, a gang of intrepid Aspen-based entrepreneurs, business-owners, and organizations are still swinging for the fences by opening up shop or preparing for a superlative line-up of festivals and events occurring over the summer. Here’s a list of new and noteworthy shops, restaurants, and events debuting with giggly excitement for the summer 2009 season, economic torpedoes be damned.

Fashion and Retail

James Perse

The trendy Los Angeles designer is scheduled to open a high-end boutique in downtown Aspen over summer. Self-dubbed as “low maintenance high end fashion,” Perse’s collection of top-shelf premium threads appeals to the celebrities, rock stars, and the tragically hip. Even though luxe retail boutiques are chockablock in downtown Aspen, James Perse could carve a niche from the urbane glitterati mold by introducing a dash of casual Left Coast cool to a Rocky Mountain audience.

For more information:

Aspen Tan

Aspen residents Adam Lang, Peyton Peeples, and Cari Mosely started the town's only tanning salon in early May after Adam lost his construction job when the economy took a nosedive in 2008. Peyton invited Adam to the tanning industry's annual Las Vegas tradeshow in 2008 and the rest was history. Their salon is comfortable, private, and conveniently located next to Clarks Market. Customers can boost their base with Vitamin D by bronzing in three Ergoline tanning beds armed with creature comforts like aromatherapy, satellite radio and even an I-pod docking station. Aspen Tan also offers VersaSpa, an advanced spray-tanning booth. Ambitious and 25-years old, Lang’s determination to succeed is evident in a press release quote. “People might think we’re a little crazy right now with the state of the economy, but we’re living proof that there are people out there trying to live their dreams and open a business. We know we'll be successful, and locals are going to be one of our biggest elements towards thriving in Aspen.”

For more information:

300 Puppy Smith Street

Fat City Plaza

Drawing its name from Aspen’s bohemian nickname in the 1960s and 70s, this retail space will feature tenants like an Apple Computer Store, scheduled to open over the summer. Quoted in a December 1, 2008 article in the Aspen Times, real estate developer Peter Fornell enthusiastically said, "I think I’m gonna bring the Fat City name back to town, baby. Maybe we’ll bring back a little of the old, with a little of the new."

520 East Cooper Ave.

Ute City Cycles

This professional bike shop moved from it’s a smaller shop to a central location on Main Street, between Explore Bookstore and the Grateful Deli. Ute City cycles also a store in Carbondale. The Aspen location sells top shelf road and mountain bikes, offering premium brands like Yetti, Time, Obbea, and Look.


Little Ollie's Asian Café

The popular Asian bistro formerly known as “Tang” spent the mud season remodeling its restaurant and revamping its menu of delicious noodle and saucy Asian fusion dishes.

For more information:

308 S. Hunter St.

Escape Bistro

In addition to a décor and ambiance update in the dining room, the popular all-vegetarian eatery atop the cozy Explore Bookstore has re-named itself “Escape Bistro, attached a deck for al fresco dining, and added fresh fish entrees to the menu. At the helm of the new Escape Bistro is Chef Johnny Alamilla, a recent transplant to Aspen from San Francisco, where he was chef-owneer of Alma, a popular Nuevo Latino restaurant in the Mission district. Allamilla’s culinary vision for Escape Bistro draws heavily from serious California vegetarian eateries and “will elevate vegetarian cuisine out of the granola era with serious veggie-centric entrees.” All vegetables served in Escape Bistro will be sustainably produced and locally grown at artisan farms in the Roaring Fork Valley. Lunch will feature familiar vegetarian dishes like a house-made black bean burger. In addition to vegetarian entrees, dinner will include selections of sustainably harvested fish. Expect to see dishes like Thai-citrus calamari and ceviche on the menu.

For more information:

221 E Main Street


Gisella will take over the former Gusto Restaurant space after a name change, a menu and wine list update, and sexy and sophisticated facelift from Bloom Design. The atmosphere in the new eatery will be modern, organic, and romantic. The cuisine will focus on the Liguria region of northwest Italy and the Campania regions in Italy’s southwest. Liguria is famous for its pesto, olive oils, and Cinque Terre vino and Campania, the home to the city of Naples, is known for delicious Mozzarella di Bufala. Gisella will feature an impressive 20-plus page wine list with labels from all over the world. The Italian feast in this new Aspen establishment begins on June 12.

Il Mulino

If your idea of an Italian restaurant brings to mind a scene from the Godfather, lots of marinara sauce, or a Billy Joel lyric, there’s a pretty good chance you’ve never dined at Il Mulino. While the chain has expanded around the globe to Tokyo, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Miami, the flagship restaurant remains in New York’s West Village, where the sophisticated cuisine focuses on the Abruzzi region. The New York eatery has received nods from New York Magazine as “One of New York's very best Italian restaurants.” The chain is slated to open in a scenic alcove of the new Residences at the Little Nell, practically adjacent to the Silver Queen Gondola on Ajax Mountain. Although it is uncertain how the cuisine will translate to the Aspen market, foodies can expect a menu featuring innovative dishes like fresh veal and shellfish prepared in garlic-heavy sauces.

For more information:

Steakhouse 9

What was touted as an exclusive spring fling has morphed into a weekend summer dining affair in the Funworldwide Lab on the Hyman Mall. Steakhouse 9 is one of restaurateur Scott Degraff’s sleek business-class steakhouses with locations in Chicago, Dallas, and in the Palms at Las Vegas. Executive Chef Chris Conlon’s menu of prime aged steaks and chops are a carnivore’s delight. Classy offerings like Russian Caviar and fresh seafood make the steakhouse standout from other Aspen chop houses.

For more information:

414 E. Hyman Street

The Restaurant @ St. Regis Aspen

The name of the new eatery in one of Aspen’s most elite hotels lack’s pretension. Yet The Restaurant boasts an elegant interior of hardwood floors and stylish antique and a new menu blending Contemporary American mainstays with Mediterranean influences. Mouthwatering dinner entrees like fresh wild Pacific Northwest sturgeon and red brick oven roasted rack of lamb with rhubarb chutney will entice diners and hotel guests.

For more information:

315 East Dean Street

Lunch at Aspen’s Summer Market

Aspen’s outdoor summer market on East Hopkins and South Hunter streets is adding a food court for outdoor a la carte lunching. Located behind City Hall in Conner Park, the food court will feature fresh bratwurst, organic coffee, toffee, paella and other delectable items. The market is open from 8-3 on Saturdays.

The Red Onion…?

Though it was scheduled to re-open over the spring, the windows of this venerable Aspen landmark are still boarded up, making the saloon’s opening date somewhat of a mystery. As of late, there hasn’t been a peep as to when the Red Onion will reopen under its new “Junk at the Red Onion” moniker, though the small-town rumor mill is spinning with gossip about an August opening. An Aspen Resort and Chamber of Commerce Association Press Release in early April claims the new Red Onion will include Vegas-like flash with two DJ booths, a chandelier made with hundreds of LED-lit beer bottles, pub grub for lunch, and upscale steakhouse dinner fare.


Jazz Aspen Snowmass June Festival
June 18-27, 2009

In addition to the popular Labor Day Festival and the free Snowmass Concert series on Thursday evenings, Jazz Aspen Snowmass has added a new festival to its summer lineup. Soulful and swinging grooves will bebop from the Benedict Music Tent in Aspen for four nights in June. The stellar marquee of musicians taking the outdoor stage includes pianist and vocalist Jamie Cullum, trumpeter Chris Botti, soul singer Smokey Robinson, and vocalist Al Jarreau. During the week Esperanza Spalding and Naturally 7 will play at Belly Up, one of the most popular music venues in Aspen.

For more information:

Woody Creek Community Center Events

Almost every week this summer brings an exciting new event to the Woody Creek Community Center, the quirky breakfast and lunch nook adjacent to the Woody Creek Art Gallery and the Woody Creek Tavern. WC3 is the physical heart of a tight-knit community of Woody Creatures. Events include King Pong Tournaments, art gallery exhibits, and the first ever Woody Creek Beer Festival in July.

For more information:

Kids Events, Street Musicians, and Buskers on the Aspen Mall

In an effort to regale families and the hordes of tourists descending upon downtown Aspen on beautiful summer days, The City of Aspen has put up $20,000 for kids events and local musicians on the pedestrian mall. The events and activities will take place Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 to 7.


Sunny the Solar Roller

City-permitted special events in Aspen have the option to be sustainably solar powered by “Sunny the Solar Roller,” an interactive trailer lined with solar panels. The trailer, built by Aspen Solar, is able to provide 500 watts of power for 6 to 8 hours. While “Sunny” isn’t quite powerful enough to power The Grand Tasting Pavillion or the Benedict Music Tent, the state-of-the-art trailer can provide enough voltage to amplify a small sound system.

Do you know of anything new around Aspen for the summer season? Share it in the comments!