Beyond the full-length furs and vintage Champagne is a world of free fun in America's chicest resort.
Every year for two weeks at the end of December, during Aspen's winter "high season," the small mountain town of Aspen, Colorado swells from a population of 6,700 residents to approximately 27,000 people covering its mere five-block downtown.
Many come here for the swank parties, or the Champagne powder, but even the rich and famous—and certainly the locals—are amenable to a freebie now and then. Fortunately, the wealth of holiday cheer here is spread around with a variety of free activities on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Read on for our list of what to do.
Wagner Park Celebration
On New Year's Eve in the city's downtown Wagner Park, there is a free outdoor party with a bonfire and DJ, followed by two displays of fireworks over Aspen mountain: one at 8 p.m. and one at midnight.
Aspen's neighboring town of Snowmass Village celebrates New Year's Eve with a torchlight parade at 5:45 p.m., followed by fireworks with musical accompaniment at 10 p.m. Skiers ages 8 and older are invited to take part in the illuminated parade, in which skiers hold torches while descending downhill in the dark.
Party at the St. Regis
On New Year's Eve at the St. Regis Aspen Resort in the Shadow Mountain Lounge, there is a free party with a DJ beginning at 5 p.m., and a complimentary champagne toast at midnight.
Watch the Fireworks at Smuggler Mountain
The best seats in the house for fireworks viewing is atop Smuggler mountain. Join dozens of other outdoor enthusiasts for the 45-minute hike (dress warmly; poles and traction devices for boots recommended) to the Smuggler viewing platform.
Outdoor Winter Wonderland
The Aspen Recreation Center's outdoor Winter Wonderland features the "Whoa Nelly" Sledding Hill and outdoor skating rink, the ARC-tic Pond, free to use with your own gear. Open until 9 p.m. on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Aspen Art Museum
At the Aspen Art Museum, featuring modern art, there is free entry on New Year's Day and every day throughout the year. Or visit the free exhibit, "The Legacy of Herbert Bayer" at Aspen Meadows' Resnik Gallery.
Special Ski Activities
Aspen Skiing Co. allows free uphilling on all four of its ski areas. Start your New Year off on a healthy note with an early morning or afternoon "skin" or hike up Buttermilk or Snowmass mountain, and then ski or ride the chairlift down for free.
Later in the evening on New Year's Day, after hiking up Snowmass Ski Area to Elk Camp restaurant, join a naturalist from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies for a free Ullr Nights Snowshoe Tour, a one-of-a-kind nighttime exploration of the snow-covered forest under a brilliant winter sky.