On Location: Kinga Philipps' Adventure in Aspen
There is more to Aspen then the typical routine: Ski. Drink/Eat. Sleep. Repeat. Kinga Philipps, host of the REAL series, traveler and writer, gets to the heart of America’s ski town.
Watch REAL: Aspen 15:19
Kinga, what brought you to Aspen?
Kinga: Our team selected Aspen as a location for REAL because it’s the quintessential resort town loaded with stereotypes…but we knew there were plenty of colorful hidden layers, so we wanted to take a more comprehensive look. The goal with REAL is to dig a little deeper, challenge those perceived ideas, throw out the boilerplate brochures, address some of the issues that come to light when hanging out with locals and look at a place through various lenses. Our conversations covered everything from Aspen history, cost of living and snobby stereotypes to the rich sense of community that exists and fuels the eclectic nature of Aspen. I also wanted to try snowboarding in the epitome of winter wonderland: That went over about as well as teaching a giraffe to ice skate…but at least it made for a funny sequence.
What were your expectations while filming in Aspen?
Kinga: Aspen is a funny place because everyone’s heard of it and everyone has an idea of what they will find… “A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano.” Right? I’ve been to Aspen a few times before and I understand the appeal… It’s beautiful. It’s trendy. It’s luxurious. You will for sure eat well, drink well, find some cool spots for live music, sit in several hot tubs, see gorgeous people and have the time of your life on the slopes. However, look at bit deeper and you will find a passionate community of people who work 2 or 3 jobs for the chance to live in such a magical locale. Ironically though, one might expect to find cute mountain-esque, family-owned establishments and those are unfortunately becoming more and more, rare. Oddly enough we were also expecting to find snow and they had a serious shortage… until we decided to ride bikes.
What were some unforgettable moments?
Kinga: The best moments in travel are always the unexpected…and when you're filming it’s often the behind the scenes comedy that stays with you. Learning to snowboard with Olympian Chris Klug, who is hands down one of the nicest humans on the planet, was really fun and comical. I looked like a complete goof next to him. The part that didn’t make the cut was when I snowboarded down with Executive Producer Jim Morley and was so frustrated that I yelled the entire way down. He didn’t want to ride with me after that. I felt bad about it when I was sitting in my hotel room eating pizza alone and icing my knees that night.
Taking a historical snowshoe tour of Ashcroft was one of my favorite moments. It was perfectly peaceful and serene with only the sound of snow crunching under our feet.
Riding fat tire bikes with the mayor turned into an adventure when we were caught in a blizzard. We got on thinking it was quite warm and by the end I was slurring my speech because my lips were numb. It was on par with the frozen scooter scene from “Dumb and Dumber.”
Entering a cannabis store that looked like a high-end jewelry shop was also an unusual experience. It’s legal. They even have brochures giving you the 411 on everything from proper technique to what to do if you feel “funny.”
Do you have recommendations for things to do in Aspen?
Kinga: It depends if you come in summer or winter. Summer is all about camping, biking, hiking, fly fishing and enjoying all the festivals and concerts. Winter is about snow. The mountain is challenging, but spectacular. Make sure to locate the shrines on the mountain. Those are pretty special and a good place to stop for a break and a moment to reflect. Snowshoeing and cross country skiing are great ways to explore the back country and find some solitude. Aspen is also a place where you will uncover unique local art, a top notch museum, great music and a vast array of cuisine. Clearly, you have to sit in a hot tub with a glass of wine while it’s snowing.
What are your tips for planning a trip to Aspen?
Kinga: Decide your season of choice. All 4 are great. Be aware that it won’t be an inexpensive vacation if you go in the high season. I always encourage people to get off the beaten path and explore. Talk to the residents. They will guide you to the best local haunts. Sign up for First Tracks. There is nothing quite like being on the mountain with hardly anyone else. Check the local calendar for upcoming events. There is always something going on in Aspen that you might not expect.