Aspen (featured on Page 1) has become...

Times Travel Editor

Aspen (featured on Page 1) has become one of Colorado's liveliest small towns. Skiers crowd bars and discos, browse in a string of Fifth Avenue style shops, art galleries, and dine in a lineup of top-notch restaurants. Poppies accommodates guests in an old Victorian on the outskirts of town. Guests gather in three small dining rooms. The tab for a first-rate meal with service to match runs $60/$75 per couple.

In cosmopolitan Aspen, that's reasonable.

Still, Aspen has its share of restaurants for the skier on a budget. The Cantina, a Mexican restaurant near the Hotel Jerome, is getting lots of action this year. Dinners start at about $7. Competing with The Cantina is The Red Onion on E Cooper Street ("Some of the finest Mexican cooking you have ever eaten," boasts the proprietor, and Aspen regulars agree). A few doors away customers line up at Takah Sushi for chicken and steak teriyaki, shabu shabu and other Japanese fare.

For breakfast try the Wienerstube. Belgian waffles, Austrian pudding, pure butter croissants, hot chocolate. Lunches feature Wiener schnitzel, selchwurst, bratwurst, Austrian-style meatloaf, frankfurters, sauerkraut, smoked Westphalian ham, Sacher and Linzer tortes, Black Forest cake. Figure on about $20 for lunch for two.

Schlomo's Deli on E Durant is another favorite with the ski crowd. Pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, shakes, chocolate layer cake. Other skiers pack the Ute City Banque on E Hyman, an old-time bank with a safe behind the bar. Cashiers' cages line the booths. The menu features steak, lamb, veal, fish, duck, fresh pasta. Lunches are fairly reasonable, but dinners are on the expensive side.

Little Annies, also on on E Hyman, serves burgers, homemade soups, stews, pizza, chili and vegetarian plates at reasonable prices. Other skiers make a run on Poppycock's for breakfast and lunch (crepes along with sandwiches, soups, pastas).

Apres-Ski

When the lifts shut down, skiers pack Little Nell's and The Tippler at the foot of Ajax. Little Nell's does a big breakfast/lunch business. The bar remains open till 2 a.m. Others make a dash for the Jerome bar at Hotel Jerome.

For an unusual outing, skiers do nighttime cross-country tours (using miners' headlamps) to the Pinecreek Cookhouse on Castle Creek Road. Non-skiers make the trip by horse-drawn sleigh. The Pinecreek Cookhouse also serves a Sunday brunch.

Tours

--Dog sled rides are offered by Krabloonik kennels ($80 per person with lunch), telephone (303) 923-4342.

--Snowshoe tours, (303) 925-5756. The tour and lunch costs $24.

--For details on cross-country skiing, call Ashkroft Ski Touring, (303) 925-1971; Snowmass Club Touring Center, (923-3148); Ute Nordic Center, (303) 925-2145.

--Hot-air ballooning: Unicorn Balloon Co., (303) 925-5752.

--Carriage rides: Aspen Carriage Co., (303) 925-4289.

--Sleigh rides: Snowmass Stables, (303) 923-3075; T Lazy Ranch, (303) 925-7040; Aspen Carriage Co., (303) 925-4289.

Accommodations

Aspen and neighboring Snowmass accommodate up to 18,000 skiers per night. Contact the Aspen Resort Assn., 700 S. Aspen St., Aspen, Colo. 81611, call toll-free (800) 262-7736. For Snowmass accommodations, check with the Snowmass Resort Assn., P.O. Box 5566, Snowmass, Colo. 81615, call toll-free (800) 332-3245.

We've had good feedback on the Independence Square Hotel. It's on the mall in Aspen. This is a small, country-style hotel with a Jacuzzi and a sun deck on the roof. Rooms feature cable TV, wet bars, queen beds. A good location (near the lifts) but pricey. Rates: $95/$220.

Snowmass has some excellent condo accommodations on the mountain slopes. Great for families. Prices start at about $70 a night. (Information from the Snowmass Resort Assn. listed above.)

Ski Scoop

Skiers have a choice of four mountains at Aspen/Snowmass with 40-plus chairlifts and the new $6-million Silver Queen Gondola. Lift tickets run about $30 a day. More than 25 ski schools cater to beginners, intermediates, etc., including the Vic Braden Ski College on Buttermilk Mountain. Other schools concentrate on seniors and youngsters ages 18 months through 5 years. A free shuttle bus operates between Aspen and Snowmass. For ski details, contact the Aspen Skiing Co., P.O. Box 1248, Aspen, Colo. 81612, phone (303) 925-4444. For general information on Aspen, call the Aspen Chamber of Commerce, (303) 925-1940.

Transportation

United Express operates nonstop flights Thursday and Sunday to Aspen from LAX, and on Friday and Monday from Long Beach Airport. For reservations call toll-free (800) 241-6522. Reservations can also be made through the Aspen Skiing Co., (303) 925-4444. In addition, Continental serves Aspen from LAX, with flights via Denver. Call toll-free (800) 525-0280. Or skiers can travel by Amtrak from Denver to Glenwood Springs with a bus connection (45 minutes) to Aspen. The one-way adult coach fare (train and bus) is $45.50, or there's a "family plan" for couples that figures out to $68.50. Contact your travel agent or Amtrak.

This trip by Amtrak features spectacular scenery. As the train crossed the Continental Divide the other day, an old engineer commented, "We're getting pretty close to where the angels live."

Reader Recommendations

California--Michael Goodwin, Long Beach: "On Catalina Island we rented a beautifully furnished two-bedroom condo for $200 (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). Located in a quiet, tree-lined canyon. Has a spa with a view of the hills. Write to Robert and Sheryl Ballew, 4338 Exultant Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes 90274. Compared to the cost of a good hotel room, it turned out to be a bargain."

California--Elsie and Stan Sharpe, Playa del Rey: Praise for the Bodega Coast Inn, 521 Coast Highway 1, P.O. Box 55, Bodega Bay 94923. Rates: $88 weekends, $75 Sunday through Thursday.

Mexico--Cathy Jones: "In Cabo San Lucas discovered Terrasol, a condominium beach resort complete with maid service, swim-up bar, room service, television, telephone. On Cabo San Lucas' most breathtaking beach. This two-bedroom condo sleeps six, rents from $200/$275 U.S. per day. For information write to P.O. Box 431, Pacific Palisades, Calif. 90272."

England--Don Owen, Rolling Hills Estates: "Visitors to London desiring a luxury hotel should give consideration to the Londonderry, Park Lane, London, England W1Y 8AP. Service friendly and efficient. Equal or better than that found at the world's most prestigious hotels and private clubs. All rooms are richly appointed, comfortable and quiet. Regular rates for a double with bath is 170. For a short time, however, the Londonderry is offering a grand opening special of 75."

New Zealand--Mary Alton, Del Mar: "Just returned from New Zealand and some farm stays. Want to tell you about a lovely spot in North Canterbury section of the South Island--Julie and John Douglas' Seaward Downs, Greta Valley R.D., North Canterbury, New Zealand. This is an 800-acre working beef and sheep farm overlooking the Pacific, 1 1/2 hours north of Christchurch. They give you huge meals, heaps of hospitality, dinner, bed and breakfast for $50 New Zealand per person. They can accommodate anywhere from one to four guests."

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