ASPEN, Colo. — Houses may average a million dollars per in Aspen, but budget travelers can still make an economical stop in the area.
One of the best deals in town is the Little Red Ski Haus, a 101-year-old, red-and-white Victorian home at 118 Cooper St.
Back in the late 1800s, when Aspen was a silver mining town and Cooper Street was called Fanny Girl Street, it's believed that this house was a brothel. Now it's a cozy B&B with 51 beds, two blocks from the center of town.
You can book into shared men's or women's dormitory rooms (maximum four beds) for $20 a night in the summer or $30 to $33 a night in the ski season. There is a seven-night minimum stay in winter.
One of the nicest things about the home is that it offers a comfortable atmosphere of camaraderie for solo travelers. Guests mingle in the main lounge at breakfast and enjoy coffee on the front porch or in front of the fire. Breakfasts are free--continental in the summer and full breakfast in winter.
Guests range in age from teens to octogenarians. In winter, most visitors are from Australia. During the summer months you can expect a mix of travelers and music students, or guest music festival performers. For reservations, call (303) 925-3333.
Although it doesn't have the same interesting atmosphere and history, the St. Moritz at 334 W. Hyman St., phone (303) 935-3200, also offers clean, low-cost lodgings. Accommodations are in several dormitory rooms (most limited to three beds) and cost $19 a night in the summer, $14 in the spring and fall. There is a pool and lounge, plus TV, refrigerators and microwave oven.
Campers and hikers can get information from the tourist information office in the Wheeler Opera House or at the Forest Service Office on the edge of town at 806 W. Hallam St.
Several of the camping areas require reservations 10 days in advance, but sites such as Maroon Lake campground operate on a first-come basis. At the Forest Office you can buy the helpful White River National Forest map (it includes 1,500 miles of hiking trails) for $2 and "Trail Guide For Hikers" for $5.95.
Bikers can get information about special paths in the area from cycle rental shops. Both road and mountain bikes are available. Expect to pay $4 to $6 an hour, $20 to $25 a day, depending on type and quality.
The view of the mountains from Maroon Lake is one of the most photographic sights in Colorado. You can reach the area by taking the free Aspen Highlands bus from town, which connects with a special summer tour bus that offers a 30-minute trip with commentary for $3. You can catch a different tour bus back if you want to stay to camp or hike.
The Aspen Highlands bus also takes you past the 500-acre T-Lazy-7 Ranch--phone (303) 925-7040. It's one of the few stables in the nation that allows you to ride without a guide. Rates run $16 an hour.
The $1.50 Snowmass bus from Aspen will take you to Ranch Arts Center, where, for 24 years, leading artists have come to lecture and teach one- to three-week courses in photography, ceramics, woodworking, painting and drawing.
On Tuesdays at 6 p.m. a community potluck dinner is held at the log cabin compound. Everyone is welcome to contribute. At 7 p.m. one of the guest artists gives a free lecture.