In 1880, B. Clark Wheeler “skied” into Ute City, Colorado on Norwegian snowshoes and renamed the town for the Aspen trees that covered the landscape. But the roots of Aspen as a ski destination can perhaps best be traced to 1937, the year the first ski trail and boat tow opened on Aspen Mountain. Of course, Aspen as folks know it today is a far cry from the Aspen of the ’30s or even the ’50s, when skiing really began to take off. In the early days, getting to the top of a run meant hiking, getting a ride in a local’s Jeep when the lift was down, or riding in a 10-passenger Snowcat. Aspen today may even be a far cry from the Aspen of the ’60s and ’70s, when ski bums ran the scene, Hunter S. Thompson ran for sheriff, and the town was “almost like a beehive, everyone interacting, knowing what others were doing, skiing together and meeting up in the bars at night,” recalls Tony Vagneur, ambassador for Aspen Skiing Company and a fifth-generation local. “On a powder day, half the stores in town closed.”
Whether you choose to call Aspen home for 12 months a year or invest in Aspen real estate for seasonal stays, the fact remains that there is no better place for shopping any time of year than downtown Aspen. While there’s certainly no shortage of luxury standards such as Louis Vuitton and Prada, there’s also an incredible assortment of unique shops that reflect the town’s distinctive personality. In a downtown area filled with the different and delightful, here are a few of our favorites.
Wander the streets downtown and you’ll find outposts of just about all of the designer mainstays, but there are some other spots that are absolutely worth a visit. Pitkin County Dry Goods has been a staple for on-trend clothes for almost 50 years. Nuages offers a great selection of designer labels from the likes of Marni and Alaïa. Gorsuch has six locations, but stop in the Cooper Avenue store for clothes, gear, and housewares that are what mountain dreams are made of. Lil’ Boogie’s is a wonderland of fun, funky kids’ clothes. Kemo Sabe has all the cowboy hats and boots you could want, and Omnibus Gallery has a museum-like collection of original posters, from classic ski to iconic Toulouse-Lautrec designs, and is a must-see.