Wheelchair Accessible Aspen, Colorado
onald Davies 1997

Ronald Davies vacationed in the Aspen, Colorado area and returned with some Rocky Mountain insights.

I visited Aspen during the week of June 14 - 21, 1997. The annual Food and Wine Festival was held on 14th through the 16th. While I did not attend the festival itself, I did take advantage of special wine and food dinners conducted by individual local restaurants.

I traveled by air on United from San Diego to Denver and by United Express from Denver to Aspen. Upon arrival in Aspen, I found that the airline had damaged a circuit breaker switch on one of my two scooter batteries and my scooter was inoperable. The airline representatives were very responsive to the situation and were very helpful. With their aid, tools, electrical tape, and a switch obtained from a nearby hardware store, I was able to jury rig a bypass switch and make the scooter operable on a temporary basis. They did compensate me for the cost of the eventual circuit breaker replacement.

If I were to take the trip again, I would look into flying to Denver and renting a car there and driving to and from Aspen. It does not appear to be a bad trip, and if you plan on renting a car anyway, it might be a preferable way to go. There is also the possibility that the airfare would be more advantageous (cheaper).

I stayed at Shadow Mountain Lodge, a timeshare condo that I had exchanged for. I believe that the lodge does, on occasion, have units available for rental. Several rooms on the lower level are accessible via a ramp. My unit was a one bedroom with a large living/dinning area and a full kitchen. Studio units are also available. The pool did not seem to be directly accessible. There are many other lodging options in the area. Advance reservations are recommended.

The town is small and great for scooters and power wheelchairs. For the first four days, I used only my scooter to go everywhere I pleased, day or night. The last three days I rented a car to go to out of town destinations. The main area of interest, hotels, shops galleries and restaurants is only about five blocks by seven. The Aspen Institute, music festival, and concert area is only about twelve blocks from the town center. The wine and food festival is held in the down town area.

There are curb cuts throughout the area of interest but not consistently. Many of the restaurants are not accessible. (Chart House for example, and several that had chair type step lifts or a HC elevator that were not in operating condition.). There were many others that were fine. It seemed to me that not many HC persons visit there and there is not a significant awareness of accessibility concerns by the locals. These limitations should not discourage anyone since there are still many accessible options.

While I was there, the weather, I was told it was typical, was quite warm during the day and very cool at night. There were also some light rains of short duration.

I enjoyed taking short scooter tours of the town. An interesting one was a residential area near Hallam Lake and the Music Festival grounds. There were no sidewalks there, but the streets were wide and restricted to slow moving residential traffic. Many of the residences and grounds were quite impressive. First St., Main St., Lake Ave. and Sixth St. bound the area.

In addition to the shops and galleries of the town center, it was a great people watching experience and by the end of my visit a trip to town included speaking to several locals that I had met at one point or another. Everyone I had contact with was friendly and helpful. The local police never failed to wave to me or stop and ask how I was.

The last three days I rented a car and took several short trips. The most satisfing one was south on Route 82 over Independence Pass and then north on Route 92 to Leadville. The trip from Aspen to Independence Pass was a scenic wonder. Snow capped peaks, rushing mountain streams, green forests and then climbing to 12,000 feet elevation and over the continental divide pass. It was the highlight of my trip.

The little town of Leadville is quaint but was over shadowed by the trip over the pass. The history of the town and its fantastic wealth of mineral resources is very interesting but little remains of its past glory. Located at an elevation of 10,188 ft. it is the highest incorporated city in the US. Leadville was also where the American saga of wealth and romance depicted in the opera "The Ballad of Baby Doe" occurred.

Once a year a Denver newspaper and either a TV or radio station sponsor a week long bicycle tour of the Rockies. This tour, consisting of thousands of participants, coincided with my trip on Route 92 to Leadville. Mile after mile I passed cyclist of every age, sex and physical shape. Leadville was the day’s destination where they were to spend the night. It was the most significant expenditure of human energy I have ever witnessed. (other than holystoning the teak decks of the battleship Missouri)

I also traveled north on Route 82 to the town of Glenwood Springs. The route there and also east on I-70 through Glenwood Canyon is quite scenic. The town is a popular spa destination due to its mineral springs and natural vapor caves.

I also took short scenic trips around Aspen. One was to Marroon Lake, a short drive through peaceful valleys and mountains to a small lake at the foot of the Maroon Bells Mountain. The rood is restricted to tour bus and foot traffic but the Forest Service control gate will issue auto passes to persons with HC placards or equal. Once at the small, very small, lake the only option for HC persons is visual appreciation and a photo opportunity. There are beautiful views along the rood and several very tranquil spots for reflection. Another scenic trip is on Castle Creek Road to the Mount Hayden area.

I tried several Aspen restaurants with general good results. Ones I enjoyed included:

Mezzaluna, Italian
Mirabella, Mediterranean
Little Annies’s Eating House, American – one or two steps at entrance
Little Ollies’s, Great Chinese. Located below street level but has a ramped path down.

There's a pub next to Ollies’s but an not remember the name. Good fish and chips. It is a hangout for members of the Aspen Rugby team (National Champions that year).

Ute City Bar and Grill, Bistro Cuisine – One step at side entrance.

The only restaurant that I did not enjoy was the highly recommended Ajax Tavern. The service was so poor that I left without eating there. If you do want to give it a try there is an access free entrance from The Little Nell Hotel.

I enjoyed my visit to Aspen and would recommend it if you enjoy the things that I have described.

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