A trip to Aspen during peak ski season is going to set you back some cash. But even those who can afford the posh Colorado mountain town will enjoy checking out what’s free, from high-altitude adventures to creature comforts.
• Aspen Art Museum: The Aspen Art Museum hosts a steady rotation of exhibits of contemporary art from around the world, and it doesn’t cost a thing to see them. The institution’s influence can be felt around town. The museum’s new building is under construction downtown and is scheduled to open in 2014. Until then, visit its location along the Roaring Fork River at 590 N. Mill St., www.aspenartmuseum.org.
• The bus: The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority provides free bus service in Aspen, and rides from Aspen to nearby Snowmass Village also are free. The buses don’t run into the wee hours but are still an option for exploring the two towns during the day or most of the night, www.rfta.com.
• Warm drink: Aspen Skiing Co. offers free coffee for skiers, snowboarders and even passers-by at the base of its four mountains: Aspen, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass. Anyone can grab a cup of joe, not just those with lift tickets.
• Snow and ice: There are more than 60 miles of groomed cross-country and snowshoe trails around Aspen and Snowmass, open to all comers: www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Cross-Country-Skiing.
Sun Dog Athletics owner and guide Erik Skarvan likes to take his customers to higher-altitude locations that aren’t as accessible to find more powder, but he says snowshoeing at Difficult Campground five miles southeast of Aspen on Highway 82 can be good if the snow is deep enough.
“Snowshoeing on some of the Snowmass hiking and biking trails like Tom Blake Trail is pretty nice, and so is Hunter Creek Valley — Aspen’s backyard,” Skarvan said. Skarvan prefers snowshoeing ungroomed routes.
Ice skating on the outdoor rink at the Aspen Recreation Center is free if you have your own skates. The Whoa Nelly sledding hill is here, too.
And for the truly athletic, there’s uphill skiing. That would be the trendy term for walking. Uphill. Without using the lift or gondola to get up the mountain before skiing or riding down. Aspen Skiing Co.’s four mountains allow it but with some restrictions for safety. Details on the rules: www.aspensnowmass.com/en/events-and-activities/events/power-of-four-ski-mountaineering-race/uphilling-rules.
• Concert series: The Bud Light Hi-Fi Concert Series brings nationally known musicians to town for free outdoor concerts that are open to the public. There’s roughly one every month. Blues Traveler and English Beat are among those who have performed in the past. This season’s concerts are scheduled for Jan. 24, Feb. 15, March 14, March 21, and March 29. Details: www.stayaspensnowmass.com/events/bud-light-hi-fi-free-aspen-snowmass-concerts.