That’s So Aspen: A Refined and Rejuvenating Stay at The Little Nell

Welcome to The Little Nell, where the Aspen Idea comes to life through unparalleled hospitality, offering sanctuary for mind, body, and spirit amid breathtaking landscapes. This is more than a getaway; it's an ode to the art of living well, Aspen-style.

The Little Nell
Photo courtesy of The Little Nell.

Indulgence greets us at every turn as we step into our haven at The Little Nell. Nothing less than an elegant charcuterie board and a chilled bottle of champagne await our arrival in our room. I highly recommend you order one of the popular welcome options, which includes: complimentary puppy kit (house-made biscuits, placemat, silver bowls, canine menu); chocolate covered strawberries; charcuterie and cheese plate; Little Nell cuvee champagne, and more. At 2 p.m., the decision to pop the bottle is not a question; rather, it’s an ode to Aspen time—a world where the clock surrenders to the luxe embrace of mountain leisure. A celebratory clink of glasses with my partner, and an unceremonious slump into the plush upholstered armchairs in front of our private fireplace. I don’t think I will ever be getting up. 

Amid the opulence of Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond ski-in, ski-out resort, the Aspen Idea finds its fullest expression here at The Little Nell. Established in 1989 and owned by the Aspen Skiing Company, it stands as Aspen’s grande dame, holding its place alongside renowned destinations like St. Moritz in Switzerland and Courchevel in France. Walter Paepcke, the founder of Aspen Skiing Company, paved the way for Aspen’s aspirations of nourishing “the whole man,” aesthetically, physically, and intellectually. The Little Nell strives to fulfill this goal with accommodations that provide easy access to and ultimate experiences in the outdoor playground surrounding it, beautiful decor that honors the heritage of the town and speaks to a discerning palate, and now, a brand new spa that fosters wellness after a day of working or working out. Peggy Clifford, a journalist at the Aspen Times for twelve years, famously said, “Aspen was a place, became an idea, and now it’s also an adjective.” That’s because no other word quite encapsulates its superlative height of allure. It’s a place where everyone is encouraged to become both a mountain man and a thinking man, aka a great man. Because who wouldn’t want to be nurtured towards their fullest potential? Sounds like vacation to me.

Warm Welcomes

As we pull into the porte cochere, helpful concierges wait to grab our bags. It’s one of the few instances in which I am entrusting all my most expensive clothing and gear to men in ski masks. But hey, it’s 5 degrees out. 

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The staff here know my name before I even introduced myself. Not in a pretentious, stuffy sort of way, but rather like a cherished regular (which I am not, but dearly wish I could be.) They know I have a facial that afternoon and am skiing the next. Whisking my ski gear to the Ski Concierge, located right next to the gondola and on the second floor of the hotel, I know it is in good hands. But I had no idea just how good until I picked up my skis the next morning. (Hint: overnight tune-ups and waxes as well as boot warming are on the menu, as is a delicious espresso while you slip into your boots.) 

Because of the U-shape of the hotel, each of the 92 rooms has a unique layout, making each one feel like your own home, rather than a carbon copy of your neighbor’s room. Here, the experience is extremely tailored to you. You can choose from 30 different room varieties ranging from guest rooms to premium guest rooms, suites, two-bedroom suites, and residences.

Your Own Kingdom

The Residences at The Little Nell are fit for a king and his whole court, offering a sanctuary that rivals even the grandeur of the surrounding peaks. The regal accommodations, renovated this year, are just at the base of Aspen Mountain, across the gondola from the hotel, and meticulously crafted to immerse you in Aspen’s excellence. 

Step into luxurious two- and three-bedroom residences designed to provide the utmost privacy for your party, ranging from spacious guest rooms to expansive retreats spanning up to 4,000 square feet. The rooftop pool has a stunning view overlooking Aspen Mountain, as well as game tables, an outdoor TV, and a grill. The communal and private spaces here are decorated with fine art like the framed Hermes scarves that elevate the lounge area. The gym here competes with the world-class slopes with state-of-the-art equipment and a meditative yoga studio. Private ownership earns you six guaranteed weeks of Aspen indulgence, or rentals are available for shorter stays. 

Step Inside Our Champagne Chalet

Our room back at The Little Nell features a dining table, two armchairs, a private fireplace, warm wool carpeting, a small balcony with chairs and a table, a king bed piled with pillows and fluffy duvets, a cubby area for our ski accessories, and a large bathroom with two separate sinks, a sunken soaking tub, heated marble floors, and luxurious towels, robes, and slippers. The hotel’s exclusive line of cosmetics, First Tracks, is formulated for the high altitude climate. Should you be traveling with kids, you can have cribs, strollers, and Playstations delivered to your room. 

The decor fits the trend of quiet luxury: a palette of blue, tan, and beige complements the relaxed yet indulgent amenities that grace the rooms. It’s a place where holistic hygge meets mountain modern, and cozying up inside its warm embrace is food for the soul. State-of-the-art technology adds to the relaxing nature of the room rather than overwhelming it: Bluetooth speakers that are easy to connect to, digital light switches that tell you which lights they control, and a gas fireplace that comes on with the flick of a switch. Peaking out the window, each room at The Nell has a view, whether it be overlooking Aspen Mountain (known to locals as Ajax), Red Mountain, the Continental Divide, Durant and Spring streets, or the hotel’s courtyard and pool. We faced the W Aspen Hotel and absolutely loved the people-watching. We like to play a game called “spot the local,” where we jest at tourist fashion trends (think skinny heels over an icy walkway and fur-lined coats collecting piles of snow) and admire the innate ability of true locals to look warm in very few layers.  

I think I could experience all the indulgences of Aspen without ever leaving the room—which I am highly inclined to do. And that’s saying something. I am typically the vacationer who packs the itinerary and comes home needing a vacation from my vacation. The Little Nell, however, seems to cater to both my desires: adventure and rejuvenation.  

My room has everything I need for an afternoon of resting, relaxing, and recharging, and what it lacks is only a push of a button and a white-gloved staff member away. After finishing the champagne, we go looking for the ice machine to fill our water bottles—a silly thing to do in a hotel like The Little Nell, where the proper way to get what you want is with a call for service, not a call for action. (There are no ice machines, but there are attentive staff who will be there in minutes with a full bucket.) You can even arrange to have in-room treatments brought to you, like an oxygen rental, should altitude be bothering you. Eventually, my partner convinced me to shed the robe and slippers—and to stop calling the front desk for favors—in favor of a sweater and jeans to check out the Living Room.

The Living Room
The Living Room. Photo courtesy of The Little Nell.

Rub Shoulders With the Rich

The Living Room is well-named. Shielded from the bustling check-in area by a slated wall, this aptly named space boasts low tables surrounded by inviting couches and plush chairs, beckoning guests to unwind with après-happy hour bites and toasts over Clicquot champagne. Here, posh guests make themselves at home, often wandering into the space in their Prada slippers, and lively conversations fill the air, creating an atmosphere that’s both refined and delightfully relaxed. A double-sided fireplace brings warmth, while fine art pieces and historic photographs give the space a decidedly Aspen appeal.

As we all know, Aspen appeals to everyone, whether you are looking to send the slopes, shop the streets, or just relax in the lap of luxury. But, it’s only accessible to those with financial means. It’s a popular hotspot for tech giants, musicians, and celebrities alike. Their overnight stay of choice? The Little Nell, of course. The guests here, often regulars, don’t bat an eye at the celebrity clientele. One afternoon we strolled through the Living Room to see Cameron Diaz enjoying drinks with friends, only to find Woody Harrelson in that same seat later in the evening. I seem to be the only one around giddy about it. That is, until a famous dog arrived, and the hotel went up in howls. The adorable Samoyed dog named Boomer (with 399K followers on IG) jumped from his car with unmatched energy and enthusiasm for his Little Nell photoshoot. Later that evening, there he was again, strutting his stuff, this time under the professional supervision of one of Nell’s pet whisperers (who, by the way, double as kid-sitters). While dogs are allowed in most of The Little Nell’s spaces, they are not allowed in the restaurants, so the hotel thoughtfully added a section of dog food to the room-service menu that redefines “fancy feast.”

The Little Nell restaurant dishes
Photo courtesy of The Little Nell.

Dinner Is Served

If, like me, you have already been convinced to leave your room for the evening, you still won’t need a coat to go to dinner. (Though in-room dining service is available and offers a cozy alternative to taking off your robe.) The property hosts the upscale Element 47 for fine dining, Ajax Tavern for the lively après scene, and The Wine Bar offering a charcuterie carving station, cheese boards, and a full bar menu. Element 47, named after the silver mining that paved the way for the town’s progression, epitomizes Aspen. It’s a place where you can dine on a $100 wagyu steak in designer jeans and your favorite cashmere sweater, contemplating what type of caviar you should order next, and which of the 20,000 bottles of wine in the cellar you want to pair it with. 

The Little Nell’s wine selection can be intimidating, but fear not, for the Nell has the best-trained staff at your beck and call to help you make your selection. The hotel has graduated 11 of North America’s Master Sommeliers, the most of any establishment in North America, as well as winning the Wine Spectator Grand Award every year since 1997. 

The wine director at The Little Nell, Chris Dunaway, even taught the staff an entertaining 18th-century Portuguese tradition of wine-opening technique called “tonging.” Using red-hot tongs wrapped around the neck of a wine bottle, the servers then brush the neck with cool water, and voila! The glass neck cleanly separates from the rest of the bottle. It’s the touch of theatrics that perfectly pairs with your Nell wine experience. 

If you have the time, be sure to book a tour (or a private dinner for four or fewer) in the wine cellar. It’s a cool space—both literally and figuratively, so bring a jacket. The small space is stacked to the ceiling with impressive bottles, the most expensive of which goes for $48,000. Between all the bottles are signatures from guests who have toured the cellar; I signed right next to the DJ, Zedd. My partner, the more romantic of us, joined our signatures with a heart and the year: 2024. That way, when we come back years later to show our family our favorite spot in Aspen, our first trip is commemorated forever.

Ski slopes
Photo courtesy of The Little Nell.

Burn off the Calories

Tours of the wine cellar just scratch the surface of the experiences offered at The Little Nell. There are constant shuttles to Snowmass, Buttermilk, and Highlands should you not want to ski the black diamond runs of Ajax. Whether you are taking a lesson at Buttermilk or trekking to the Highlands Bowl, skiing is not just a recreational pursuit here—it’s an embodiment of the Aspen Idea. It’s about pushing your limits while finding inner peace, striking the delicate balance between adventure and responsibility. It’s the sort of activity that feeds your mind, body, and soul simultaneously, making you feel like you can conquer the world. 

If you choose to stay at Ajax, ask the ski concierges about First Tracks, which let you onto the mountain 30 minutes before everyone else, and get some good turns in before breaking for breakfast at Element 47. Ski boots are not only allowed but encouraged during the morning service—they are the breakfast badge of honor showing that you are ready for the ultimate Aspen day. It’s a symbolic toast to Walter Paepcke’s vision of nurturing mind, body, and spirit amid Aspen’s breathtaking landscape, while never sacrificing on luxe amenities and refined culture. 

Private rides as well as Nell’s fleet of Audi Q7, Q8, and E-tron are available for test drives if you are looking to venture further afield. Looking to cat ski private powder stashes? At The Little Nell, every Friday is a powder day on Ajax’s backside. Want to buy out Gray Malin’s Snow Beach for your own ski celebration? AspenX, the adventure branch of Aspen Skiing Company’s portfolio, can get you all set up. Want an unparalleled shopping experience? Luxury jewelers line Nell’s lobby, Gorsuch is attached to the hotel, and AspenX’s line of designer clothing has you covered on and off the slopes. From cozy cashmere and elite hoodies to rentals with a dedicated fitting time, premium skis, and Carv Digital Ski Coach, you will want for nothing. And after all this activity, the best way to unwind is with Nell’s brand-new luxe spa.

The Little Nell spa
Spa treatment room. Photo by Shawn O’Connor.

Destination Bliss

Flying down Ajax, elated by the year’s first snow, my feet throb and my face burns in the wintery air. Gratefully, my stay at The Little Nell proves serendipitous, boasting Aspen’s sole ski-in, ski-out spa that opened just a few weeks ago. Entrusting my sticks and boots to the Nell’s efficient ski valets, I, as any passenger princess should, beeline it to the spa.

The treatment room sets the scene for an ideal après experience, complete with a warm fireplace and deluxe service, ensuring you leave more hydrated and revitalized than when you arrived. Designed by Luis Bustamante, the creative mind behind Nell’s inviting lobby, these rooms feature a fireplace, a hybrid infrared/halo-therapy sauna, and a steam shower providing a seamless transition from your adrenaline-fueled day on the slopes to a world of wellness. The Spa takes inspiration from Paepcke’s vision for Aspen to care for the mind, body, and spirit with its distinct therapeutic pathways, Recover + Repair, Replenish + Restore, and Reset + Rebalance. 

All the services surpass expectations, focusing on delivering maximum relaxation. Dr. Barbara Sturm, an aesthetics expert and anti-inflammatory pioneer, collaborated with the spa, curating services tailored to high-altitude adjustments, like the Mountain Metamorphosis Ritual using massage and oxygen inhalation to thrive in Aspen’s high altitude and attitude atmosphere. Even a quick facial immerses you in a world of bliss. During my Signature Sturmglow Facial, there was no downtime. My aesthetician, Joanna, not only refreshed my face but also melted away the day’s fatigue from head to toe. The Sturmglow treatment is designed to deliver hydration and improved blood flow for a more youthful glow. Every product is meticulously massaged into the face, neck, chest, and shoulders for profound penetration, lymphatic drainage, facial sculpting, and, most importantly, luxurious relaxation. As my mask worked its magic under the calming blue light, Joanna skillfully eased the tension in my ski-weary feet. 

Every service is exquisitely customizable and employs Dr. Sturm’s premium products, as well as the all-natural skincare line, Seed to Skin Tuscany; and organic skincare brand ISUN, formulated in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. 

The Little Nell offers guests a comprehensive Aspen experience that encompasses all aspects of the Aspen Idea from the alpine-inspired decor, luxe amenities, and welcoming communal space that infuse the hotel with aesthetic appeal and refinement to the adventure excursions with AspenX that provide unparalleled opportunities to explore the breathtaking natural landscape to the new spa offering guests relaxation and rejuvenation for the mind, body and soul. The resort’s commitment to providing a transformative and enriching experience sets it apart as a true embodiment of Aspen’s ethos. If Aspen is an adjective describing holistic indulgences, then The Little Nell’ stands as the proper noun personifying it.