Nestled in the heart of the White River National Forest and surrounded by the Elk Mountain Range on all sides, Aspen is best known as a premiere ski destination; but the town’s history and outdoor adventure offerings go much deeper. With moderate temperatures, low humidity, and some of the most stunning landscape around, summer in Aspen is an outdoor lover’s paradise. We’re talking mountaintop yoga, fishing, trail running, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, rafting, climbing, paragliding, festivals, and craft brew drinking.
This idyllic setting made the perfect backdrop for testing shoes and apparel last month from the Deckers Performance Lifestyle group of brands — Teva, Hoka One One, and Sanuk.
As Wendy Yang, President of the Performance Lifestyle Group, put it when I sat down with her before the event started, “The three brands have their own unique personality. But what they all have in common is authenticity.” The same could be said of Aspen. Best known for being the Rocky Mountain playground of the rich and famous, Aspen is more than that. It’s an authentic mountain town — the perfect place to put Deckers gear to the test.
Our first full day in Aspen gave us the opportunity to throw on our Teva Arrowood Mid WP and hit the Hunter Valley Trail system just northeast of town. The trail follows the creek, winding through the aspen groves, ascending 1000 feet up and over the occasional rock garden before opening up to a grass- and wildflower-filled meadow with views for days. Fully waterproof, the Teva hiking boots may have been overkill for the warm summer day but you’ll appreciate them once the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm hits. The boots are both lightweight and super comfortable out of the box, thanks to a foam midsole and outsole with cushy rubber pods. And important for Aspen — they look great, too.
No trip to Aspen is complete without a trip up to the iconic striped peaks of the Maroon Bells. As I had my bike with me, I woke up early and snuck in a cheeky road ride up to the Bells to watch the sunrise, before heading back down to town for breakfast. After breakfast, the entire group headed back up (this time on the shuttle bus) for a trail run — power hiking in my case — four miles round trip to Crater Lake, followed by lunch on the shores of Maroon Lake. Sporting the new Hoka Speedgoat 2 trail running shoes, we were joined by famed ultra runners and Hoka athletes David and Megan Roche — slightly intimidating to head out on a trail run with the couple that swept the podium at Aspen Backcountry Marathon just the week before. Oh and Megan is a full time medical student. No big deal.
I was already a huge Hoka fan but after just a few minutes in the new Speedgoat 2, I knew they would quickly become my favorite trail shoes. Built for the most technical of terrain, Hoka widened the base for some extra stability. For those extra long days on the trail, you now have a bit more room in the toe box without feeling sloppy — these shoes fit snug which I like for my relatively narrow feet. The oversize EVA midsole (men’s stack height: 32 mm heel and 27.5 mm forefoot and women’s stack height: 30 mm heel and 25.5 mm forefoot) feels so darn cushy and comfortable but the standard Hoka bucket seat means you don’t feel like you are running on platforms. The Vibram MegaGrip hi-traction outsole now has chunky, multi-directional 5mm lugs for superior grip on technical terrain.
While the Speedgoat 2 are designed for ultra running, I look forward to testing them out on some long backpacking trips. I know my body will thank me.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to forgo the après. What could be better than a few rounds of cornhole in a city park, followed by beer tasting at Aspen Brewing Company — the perfect opportunity to bring out the über cool Chiba Quest Knit from Sanuk. The company’s evolution of the classic Sidewalk Surfer, the Chiba Quest make your feet happy. Available in a variety of upper styles (both four-way stretch twill and knit), the unisex slip ons will start shipping in February.
On the last morning before departing ways, we threw on our Sanuk Yoga Slings and grabbed the Silver Queen Gondola for a thrilling ride to the top of 11,200-foot Aspen Mountain (locally known as Ajax). Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the summer, $5 dollars will get you an hour of open-air Hatha yoga instruction out on the lawn.While soaking up the warm morning sun and breathing in the fresh mountain air, we got our zen on with views across to the Elk Mountain range. Does it get any more spiritual than that?
When it was time to finally leave Aspen, all of us were trying to figure out how we could live there full time. As the old Aspen saying goes, “I came for the winter, and stayed for the summer.”
If You Go
Where to stay: Within walking distance of everything downtown, the Limelight Hotel offers all the modern amenities in a chic atmosphere, including complimentary shuttles around town. Be sure not to miss to huge breakfast spread included in the price of your room.
Where to Drink: If you are looking for a casual, laid back vibe, head to Aspen Brewing Company. Beloved by locals and beer aficionados across the world (they have created quite the following in the UK), the micro brewery’s tap room just off Main Street always features a variety of year-round and seasonal brews on tap. My favorite? The Independence Pass Ale. But with an ABV of 7% and at 8000 feet in elevation, one pint is more than enough. Time to switch to the light and refreshing Ajax Pilsner.
For a nightcap soaked in history, be sure not to miss J-Bar at the Jerome Hotel. Aspen’s favorite watering hole for centuries and the de facto office of the late Hunter S. Thompson for a spell, J-Bar’s walls are filled with stories.
Where to eat: For the classic American steakhouse experience, head to Jimmy’s — an Aspen institution. We’re talking crab cakes, tender cap of rib-eye, volcanic chocolate cake, and a wine list to die for. If you’re in the mood for an authentic Mexican extravaganza, don’t miss out on the hip and funky Mi Chola.