Hotel Jerome, Aspen, Colorado

| By Jonathan Auerbach | From Laurence Fishburne, Jan/Feb 00

A century ago, Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown with the world's richest lode. By the end of the Second World War, a different group of prospectors had come and put a ski lift on the mountain. Today, Aspen is golden, the glitzy grande dame of Rocky Mountain resorts.  

Avant-garde Aspen teems with chic stores, art galleries, restaurants and bars. Movie stars and other celebrities abound. Four-season Aspen offers the quintessential alpine sports adventure--from world-class skiing to hiking, fishing, white-water rafting, horseback riding and golfing. Yet, pioneer Aspen still mines the glory years in its elegant Victorian structures. Grandest of all is the red brick-and-sandstone Hotel Jerome, which opened in 1889 during the silver boom. Built to rival the Ritz in Paris, the opulent hotel boasted a number of firsts: first elevator west of the Mississippi, first building in the West to be lit by electricity, and so on.  

In that era of prosperity and pageantry, the Jerome was a landmark--no mining tycoon with a lucky strike would celebrate anywhere else. Shortly after its opening, the silver industry crashed and the hotel slid into neglect. Nevertheless, more than 100 years later, the Jerome stands restored to its original splendor, thanks to a $20 million renovation in 1985.  

The stately hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a charter member of the Historic Hotels of America program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, an organization of 315 luxury hotels. Mere steps from the town center and a snowball's throw from Aspen's fabled ski slopes, the hotel is the place to lay over in town. Aspenites insist you haven't really been to Aspen unless you've stayed at the Jerome.  

Throughout the hotel, guests enjoy all the luxury touches. A grand fireplace relief carved in oak with a silver-dust mirror mantel dominates the broad sweep of the lobby. Antique brass light fixtures, etched cranberry glass and copper-and-brass door latches add a period feel. Broad arched hallways carpeted in rich florals lead to 93 spacious, jewel-toned rooms and suites, many with mountain views. Each room is unique and lavishly decorated in Gothic Victorian style. Special touches include period antiques, carved armoires, down comforters on king-size beds and crocheted bedspreads. The rooms have opulent, oversized marble baths, many with Jacuzzi tubs.  

Guests feel pampered with in-room massages, a year-round heated pool, and a spa and fitness center. They also get a rare luxury in car-crammed Aspen: hotel valet parking, complimentary ski slope transfers to Aspen Airport and Aspen Mountain, and the personalized attention of a ski concierge in the winter.  

In a town renowned for fine dining, the Jerome's Century Room restaurant is noteworthy. Decorated in burgundy velvet with Italian tapestries and overstuffed Victorian furniture, the room transports one back to a time when million dollar silver deals were made over memorable meals by a roaring hearth. Happily, chef Todd Slossberg's regional American cuisine presents more than just a taste of history. All-natural and organically raised native ingredients blend in such signature specialties as grilled Colorado trout with lemon butter sage, seared loin of elk with wild berry reduction, horseradish crusted native rack of lamb au jus, and buffalo rib roast with caramelized onion jus. The cuisine is understated; it tastes fresh and savory, yet never overpowering. Tantalizing desserts include a luscious made-to-order peach-and-wild-berry crust-crumble and a sinfully creamy flourless chocolate silk pie.  

Exceptional Burgundy and Meritage picks from a wine list of depth include a 1996 Joseph Drouhin Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatières at $121 and a 1985 Niebaum-Coppola Rubicon Napa Valley at $132.  

The best place to smoke in Aspen is at the Jerome's Library bar. Decorated like a plush gentlemen's club, this secluded watering hole has oversized leather chairs and sofas, a gilded tin ceiling, built-in bookshelves and an antique light-wood bar. It offers ample single malts, including Cragganmore and 25-year-old Macallan, as well as fine cigars such as a Partagas 8-9-8 Lonsdale, Davidoff Gran Cru No. 1 and H. Upmann torpedo.  

With all it has to offer, the Hotel Jerome is a tribute to silver-boom-era grandeur and gracious hospitality.

onathan Auerbach is a Los Angeles-based freelance travel writer.  

330 East Main Street
(970) 920-1000 or (800) 331-7213
Rooms from $325; suites from $635