I had never really thought about skiing in Aspen until a friend told me about The Mountain Chalet Aspen. The fundamentals are unbeatable: great location two blocks from the Gondola and just steps from the bus stop from which you can easily access (for free) Buttermilk, Snowmass, and Highlands; spotless rooms that are old but warm and comfortable; all-you-can-eat breakfast that sets you up for the rest of the day included in the price; easy access to restaurants and shopping; sensible pricing; helpful front desk help. For the serious skier who wants to ski one of the world's great ski destinations but has a modest budget, it's impossible to beat The Mountain Chalet Aspen. When you get to the property, look around. Right next door is the St. Regis that costs four, five, six times as much. Do they have heated floors in the bathrooms?
But there's much more to the MCA than value and other tangibles. My family has stayed there seven times now and we feel like part of the family that has owned and run the lodge for over 50 years now. Ralph Melville, the founder who pretty much built the place with his own hands, could not be friendlier. It's the same way with the entire family, as you'll find out at the Monday evening drinks party usually held in the rooftop meeting room with its wonderful views of Aspen Mountain, Wagner Park (the rugby field), and the St. Regis, where people are paying four, five, six times as much. Some very wealthy people stay at the MCA, people who could stay anywhere. They choose the MCA because it's home.
Quite often, my son and I will take Ralph's dog across the road to play in the snow in the park.
We always stay in the least expensive room available but I understand that the better rooms are very well-appointed. The architecture is quirky and clearly layered and it's not textbook but, in a world full of cookie-cutter hotels, the MCA is a welcome change. And nobody will bat an eyelid if you wander through the lobby in your capilene and not much else to grab a cup of hot chocolate and a cookie (both free) after a big day.
There's a swimming pool, fitness center, whirlpool, and wifi in the lobby. So the MCA has many of the standard Aspen amenities.
And Aspen actually has a number of restaurants that are sensibly-priced all within easy walking distance. You won't need to rent a car if you are staying at the MCA but if you have one, you get underground parking--a serious bonus as finding a parking place in Aspen is like finding fresh powder in the Sahara.
Another bonus? Denver hordes rarely make it to Aspen; they usually get to Vail and stop there. So Aspen, while it can be crowded at the peak times, is never choked with the Front Range hordes. My worst ski lift line wait ever? 15 minutes. Once.
A skiing vacation is never inexpensive and the only discount you'll get at the MCA is a healthy 10 per cent (or is it 15?) for returning guests but if you want value and if you want that cooked breakfast (a $30 value per person in Aspen) and if you want to experience Aspen without blowing an unlimited budget, then call up the MCA right now. But book early because space is limited in the ski season.
Other regulars, and I see the same people there year after year, will probably be annoyed that I am writing this review. Like me, we're all worried that MCA will go the way of other family-owned lodges in Aspen and be plowed under to make room for fractional ownership condos with granite countertops in the kitchens. And the "regulars" feel like they have their own secret stash of powder! But it's important to tell it like it is and, I'm telling you, the MCA is my second home and the Melvilles are my second family and my son and I can't wait to get back next year so that we can see Ralph and everyone else and play with Ransom in the park. And one of these days, I'm going to get there outside the ski season.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Friendly, casual ski lodge centrally located at the base of Aspen Mountain. Directly diagonal to shuttle service and two blocks from the Gondola. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
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- Also Known As:
- Mountain Chalet Aspen Hotel Aspen
- Mountain Chalet Hotel Aspen
- Aspen Mountain Chalet Hotel