ASPEN, Colo. (MainStreet) -- Warm and sunny weather isn't exactly what a ski destination wants come December and early January, but in Aspen that's exactly what they got with an unusually late snow season. You wouldn't know that mid-February, though, with recent snowstorms putting a coat of white on Aspen's four ski mountains and a smile on the face of a chauffeur from The Little Nell -- what many consider America's ultimate ski hotel.
The 10-minute drive from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport is arranged in advance for guests of The Little Nell, free of charge and in nothing less than a Cadillac Escalade. Driving through town one sees the benefits of investment before the real estate crash, which brought several hotel properties to Aspen and nearby Snowmass, glossy names such as St. Regis, Grand Hyattd-Season L.A. and Viceroy have joined the marquee of fashionable hotels sought out by visitors, but The Little Nell manages to stay atop the competition even with room prices that are also higher than the others'.
More modest guests of The Little Nell will insist it's the ski-in/ski-out location next to the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain that makes it Aspen's "it" hotel. Opened in 1989 and built on land once used as a railway stop, pasture and favored watering hole called Little Nell's, the hotel is a crown jewel for Aspen Skiing, a company privately owned by the Crown family. Aspen Skiing also operates the ski areas at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass, as well as dining and nightlife properties throughout the area.
Arrival to The Little Nell's porte-cochere brings no less than four valets to your SUV, making for a seamless arrival to a smaller-than-expected lobby with stone floors, crackling fireplace and lounge that's in full swing even at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday. The concierge desk is twice the size of the check-in counter, in part because much of the "hotel business" is paid before arrival and enforced with a strict 30-day cancellation policy. Even before your first step inside you've likely marveled at the staff operating one of the most meticulous and efficient guest experiences in the industry. Weeks before arrival, restaurant reservations are discussed and booked, as well as bar options and nightlife.
There are four guest floors, for a mere 92 guest rooms arranged along angular corridors with muted, dark carpeting. Premium rooms vary between mountain and village views with interiors by Holly Hunt, an arbiter of the interior design world with a line of home furnishings favored by America's moneyed set. "Aspen modern" interiors translate to stylish arrangements of club chairs in front of a glass fireplace recessed behind chocolaty wood paneling with overhead LCD screens. One corner of the room features a built-in double closet fit for multiweek stays, while the other is arranged with a writing desk and two-person sofa. Bathrooms are accented in marble with heated floors and his-and-hers sinks with soaking tubs and separate showers and a selection of full-size First Tracks signature toiletries.