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Sunday,  July 14, 2024 4:16 AM 

On Location: Big energy at The Little Nell – Shinan Govani unpacks alpine luxury in Aspen

  • Hotels
  •   02-14-2024  11:02 am
  •   Shinan Govani

On Location: Big energy at The Little Nell – Shinan Govani unpacks alpine luxury in Aspen
The Little Nell, a luxury hotel that's synonymous with Aspen, Colorado. (Shawn O'Connor).
Shinan Govani

A playground for the fabulous, the very word Aspen conjures up images of glamour set amongst the slopes.

A Colorado mountainscape where ski instructors can charge up to $1,000 a day, restaurants like Matsuhisa attract gluttons night after night, and the shopping scene effectively rivals Rodeo Drive (for example: a new 5,600-square-foot Gucci boutique).

And if there is one hotel that itself is synonymous with Aspen, it is indubitably The Little Nell – a hotel that signified “quiet luxury” eons before that was a buzz phrase, ever since its opening in 1989!

Discreetly designed. 92 rooms. A small lobby unfolding more like a warren of living rooms. A place that has long drawn a who's who clientele, and boasts a myriad of niceties, such as its ski valet (where they store your skis, and even warm your boots, holding your hands getting them on).

Cozy Living Room at The Little Nell. (David Marlow)

The Little Nell signified “quiet luxury" before that was a buzzword. (David Marlow)

But what has always given the Relais & Chateaux gem its halo is – duh – location, location, location, situated, as it is, at the very lip of Aspen Mountain. Not just walking distance to everything, but, as the legend goes, it’s also the only “ski in/ski-out hotel” in town.

Adding yet more to the allure now? A just-opened spa in the hotel – cleverly branded as the only “ski in/ski-out spa” in the region (the world?). Partnering with various wellness brands, chief among them, the renowned Dr. Barbara Sturm line of skincare, the space is about both the pre and the après-restoration, circulation, and quick fixes.

“A facial with massage,” as my specialist told me before welcoming me recently to my “Signature Sturmglow Facial.” 

Blood flow. Radiance. Go.

Unsurprisingly, the entire enterprise makes it easy-peasy to get a fully body reboot, or altitude-refresh, directly coming from the lifts (should you wish).

The Little Nell, the only “ski in/ski-out hotel” in town. (Shawn O'Connor)

Equipment can even be left with the hotel Ski Concierge, found atop the pool deck stairs, mere steps away from Aspen's Silver Queen Gondola.

The intimate-feeling spa, by the way, was designed by the acclaimed Luis Bustamante Interior Design of Madrid – just one more reason to get thee to The Little Nell. Not that we needed another!

Here, some other highlights from my stay at one of the finest small hotels in America:

Alpine amazingness

Cozy is the name of the game at The Little Nell, and the suites play to that strength.

Coming with their own unique configurations, and many of them with the best serenity money can buy – views looking directly onto gondolas gliding up and down Aspen Mountain – they are all sizable, but notably unostentatious.

Inside the Paepcke Suite at The Little Nell. (Shawn O'Connor)

Mine had a gas fireplace, elegant armchairs, a writing desk, even a dehumidifier (important, this high up!).

The marble-floor bathrooms came with twin stone vanities, heated flooring, and a tub for major chillaxing; the bed situation c/o Fili D’oro down comforters and white goose-down pillows.

A one-bedroom suite at The Little Nell. (Shawn O'Connor)

The whole feel? Like staying at some in-the-know inn, where much is taken care off – everything from complimentary pick-ups to and from the airport to the in-room mini-bar, loaded with snacks and non-alcoholic drinks that are all complementary and regularly restocked (alcoholic drinks costs extra, as does the oxygen – a container of which sits in the fridge!).

Psssst...if travelling with kids, or wish to splurge even more, you cannot go wrong with either the Pfeifer Suite or the Paepcke Suite.

Five-star fluffies

The only creature that lives better at The Little Nell than humans is, well...Fido.

Happily receiving puppies – those tenderly wrapped in Moncler or not – the hotel has long been ahead of things on the four-legged front.

With “puppy jet leg kits” on hand, as well as specialty dog menus – think wagyu beef and specialty salmon – there is also dog walking and sitting available upon request.

Recommended pet-friendly hiking trails! And gourmet biscuits galore. Woof. (But, alas, no ski-in-ski-out spa for dogs. At least not yet!).

A $125 initial fee is in effect for pets and an additional $25 fee for additional per night.

Bordeaux, baby

What sits under The Little Nell is perhaps even more wow than what is on top – its legendary wine cellar, boasting about 23,000 bottles. 

Lit in a kind of bordello-red, and open for visits – and even small dinners! – the subterranean cellar is truly one of the most iconic in America.

Paying a visit during my stay for a small hang-out was a highlight, as one of its master sommeliers – there are ten of them who serve in the hotels – gave us the spiel.

Winter wonderland at The Little Nell. (Shawn O'Connor)

Lined up in this space that looks like it could be the den of some suave Bond villain, but still kind of gives off a DIY vibe (the scribbly signatures of visitors pounded into the wood), there are multiple vintages from a roster of the world’s biggest names, from Roulot and Romanée-Conti in Burgundy to Ridge and Screaming Eagle in California, via Chave Hermitage, Piedmont’s Gaja and an enviable collection of world-class claret. 

No wonder the wine program here has received a Grand Award from Wine Spectator since 1997, and during the Aspen Food & Wine Classic – the premiere culinary fest in the States – this nook serves as a kind of de facto clubhouse.

Wine director Chris Dunaway oversees things, pulling from the cellar to pair for dishes like Braised Wagyu Agnolloti and Rack of Colorado Lamb, found on the menu in the hotel’s signature Element 47 restaurant.

In the heart of it

One thing is for certain: staying at this hotel is like being in the nucleus of Aspen itself, an entree to everything cool on those streets that first came to be during its storied silver boom in the late 1800s.

All the great fashion brands are around the corner – everything from Dior to Brunello Cucinelli. An Oliver Peoples store? Sure thing. Even a Frette boutique? Got it.

Staying at The Little Nell is like being in the nucleus of Aspen. (Photoshop - Dominica Devaney)

A party vibe rages daily at the infamous Kemo Sabe shop, where cowboy hats go for $700 a pop, and where Rihanna was spotted over the holidays.

All the best hot spots? Super nearby, too, including the buzzy, Beautiful People canteen Clark’s Oysters and the 1 Michelin-star restaurant, Bosq.

Just a stroll away, let us not forget: the fabulous Aspen Art Museum, a hybrid structure of concrete, steel, and wood, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban.

Little Nell...big energy.

For more on The Little Nell, click here

To learn more about Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort, click here. 

For information on skiing in Colorado, click here.


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