Elena Bowes

New York-London design & culture writer of a certain vintage looking for meaning and wholeness in life

Aspen Sans Skis

March 21st, 2016
Aspen, Colorado

Why are you going? You don’t ski. You’ve never met the people you’ll be staying with. And you’re flying thousand of miles for the pleasure. Are you nuts, my therapist asked.

Obviously, I thought. That’s why I’m sitting on this sofa facing you. Haha. Jokes aside, I will admit that I was a bit anxious about spending a week in a ski resort when I had decided post multiple knee surgeries and divorce that skiing and helmut hair could be scratched off my list with indelible ink. Then my boyfriend invited me to Aspen, and ignoring my eldest daughter’s sage beauty advice to stick to urban holidays, I said yes. There must be other things to do in Aspen besides shredding the gnar. 


In fact, Aspen is loaded with “other things”. Top on the list is mountain restaurant  Cloud Nine where as much champagne is sprayed as consumed, skiers dance on tables and things get so heated that everyone cools down by removing their tops. The source of this good info was our gregarious host Rick. His adorable wife Zibby was equally as helpful although their strengths differ; Rick excels at apres-ski, night-life, the Best of Jimmy Fallon and value for dollar, Zibby everything else. So our bases were covered.

Day One I went to O2, a great yoga/pilates spot that offers conventional yoga classes which I loved,


and  unconventional classes which I boldly tested. Cirque de Soleil for the newbie, otherwise known as Aerial Yoga, is not as easy as it looks.  No, I am not one of the lovelies below.


O2  offers classes with names like “How to Practice during Your Lunar Cycle”, “Soul Quest”,  “Messages from the Other Side” (not the other side of the wall) which, had I more time and knowing me, I definitely would have tried.

But instead the friendly town of Aspen beckoned. March is sale time, and from Loro Piana and Dior down to Stash and Dragon’s Den, there are shops to satisfy every taste bud.

I like the one-off spots, such as Souchi, run by the charming Suzi Johnson below, who knits by night and sells by day.


Suzi used to have a knitting studio, two shops in Portland, Oregon, sell wholesale and to Net a Porter. Then she fell in love with Aspen and decided to scale back her business. (Suzi doesn’t ski either, by the way).

I love designing and making things. Now I don’t have to design a sweater that Nashville, San Francisco and New York all like.

She makes beautiful hats, tops and head scarves in a range of colors.



I could while away the whole day at my next stop – the cosy and well-stocked Explore Bookshop adjoined by the light-filled Pyramid Bistro, a nutritarian restaurant (yes, that’s a word) that is as delicious as it is healthy.


From books to art- the Aspen Art Museum designed by 2014 Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, his first museum in the States, is an eye-catching addition to the mountain town. Both current exhibitions by Liz Larner and Judith Scott are worth a visit. The guards could double as guides, they are so well-informed and helpful. Catch some rays on the sun-trap terrace  facing out onto the dramatic Aspen Mountains.


Another cultural highlight not to miss is Winter Words at the Aspen Institute. I listened to Pulitzer Prize-winning husband and wife authors Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks. I was prepared to hate this over-achieving super-couple, but they were too funny, insightful, down-to-earth and normal.


I have to confess that I did end up donning skis. Turns out the only way to get to champagne-fueled Cloud Nine is on skis. Talk about motivation. I started out with cross-country which was heavenly, and then moved onto downhill – which I actually enjoyed.


 Cloud Nine, here I come! So much for not skiing in Aspen.

March, 2016