Aspen’s Limelight & Molly Gibson
By William C. Triplett
I’ve never done the math but it sure seems that, for every one of the 76 runs on Aspen mountain, there are at least three hotels and rentals available in the area. Put simply, there’s no lack of bunks in Aspen, and for just about any budget.
During my most recent ski adventure there, I was able to check into two really great places in different locations, on different price levels. The first was the Limelight Hotel Aspen, which has the feel of luxury at sub-luxury prices (for Aspen, at least). More than five decades old, the Limelight was fully redone in recent years and is now a sleek, hip-looking building with lots of floor-to-ceiling glass and an array of leather furnishings in the spacious main lounge, which also features a full bar and a fireplace the size of a small cave.
It’s right smack in the downtown area overlooking Wagner Park, not even a 10-minute walk to the Silver Queen Gondola. Complimentary rides from the hotel staff are also available.
The staff was immensely helpful and friendly from the minute I was met and picked up at the airport – again, complimentary. At registration, I got the scoop on where and when to find breakfast every morning – included with the room – and also the après scene, said to be the longest happy hour in Aspen (3–7 p.m., seven days a week).
My room was bright, airy, well-appointed, and sporting a plump bed – big enough to get lost in. The two nights I slept in it were extremely relaxing, though I’m sure the dips I took in the hotel’s heated outdoor jacuzzi beforehand were good preparation for a restful night.
Breakfast, which I expected to be continental style, was extensive, offering just the kinds of things to fuel you for a day’s skiing. From my notes on the buffet spread: pastries, yogurt, granola, fruit, bagels, pancakes, coffee, juice, tea, oatmeal, biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, French toast, veggie frittatas, chorizo, bacon, sausage. I went with yogurt, fruit, eggs, and a bagel washed down with fresh OJ and then some hearty-roast coffee.
Après was every bit as advertised, and maybe a little more. I sat near the roaring fire, which soothed achy bones as I sipped on a glass of pinot noir and listened to the live music – a different act every evening, usually an acoustic guitarist or two. The place was fairly crowded, complete with a couple dogs camped out on the floor. (The Limelight is very pet-friendly.) I could tell from a bit of eavesdropping that not everyone was a hotel guest. The Limelight happy hour, I learned, was popular among locals, too. Why not? The drink prices are down a bit, the après menu – hummus, salads, pizza, fries – pretty reasonable as well, and the vibe very convivial.
A deluxe room in early February will run you about $728 a night before taxes and fees, but check out the Limelight Hotel Aspen website for special offers.
About four blocks further out but still within easy walking distance of downtown is the Molly Gibson Lodge, family-owned and named after an old silver mine. With a more traditional ski lodge vibe, the Molly Gibson has a real down-home feel and prides itself on being family-friendly (pets welcome, too). It’s extremely cozy and quiet and staffed by yet more people who were warmly welcoming and helpful.
I had a big room with a king bed and a fireplace – and a jacuzzi, which came in very handy after a day on the slopes. The outdoor heated pool and hot tub looked pretty inviting, too, particularly with their view of the mountains, but the in-room soak was too good – and convenient – to try anything else.
I’d been told that not many hotels in central Aspen include breakfast with the room price, but I guess I managed to find two that do. Like the Limelight’s breakfast, the Molly Gibson’s was a full buffet. Again, from my notes: waffles, eggs, oatmeal, cold-cuts, cheeses, bacon, sausage, muffins, rolls, bagels, yogurt, cereal, coffee, tea, juices. I started another day with a full belly and a big smile.
Getting to the slopes was pretty easy. Four commuter shuttle lines run frequently from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. throughout the area – no charge for any of them – and there’s a stop just outside the main front doors. I think it was maybe a 10-minute ride to the Silver Queen, and I looked at it as a chance to cruise past parts of downtown I hadn’t seen yet. And I didn’t have to worry about schlepping my rental gear since I stowed it at the shop near the gondola.
Après-ski ran 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Molly Gibson, shorter than the Limelight’s, but instead of ordering drinks and food, you help yourself to a big spread of both hot and cold hors-d’oeuvres and drinks. We’re talking about an array of cheeses, crackers, fresh fruit, along with the main feature that alternates: tacos, pizza, nachos, quiche, hot soup, or chili. There’s also a healthy selection of wine, beer, juices, flavored waters, hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. Plus a crackling fire nearby. Best part? It was all complimentary. Talk about a great way to cut down on your dinner appetite – and bill.
Can’t say I was surprised to learn from the manager that the Molly Gibson has a lot of repeat clients, especially when considering not just all of the above, but also the fact that returning guests get a discount. For any guests – returning or first-timers – the thing to keep in mind is that the sooner you book, the better the rate. Right now, for early February, a standard room starts at $299 a night excluding taxes and fees; rooms with a fireplace start at $329. But as with the Limelight, check the Molly Gibson’s website for any special offers or promotions.
Two different hotels, two different experiences – and both of mine were great.
William Triplett is the former DC bureau chief for Variety. Triplett has written about various destinations, from Scotland’s Inverness and Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and the Beatles’ old haunts in Hamburg. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, The Baltimore Sun,and Capital Style.