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Let's cut to the chase: Aspen can be snobby. It's true, but what do you expect, darling, from a place that's crawling with high-rollers clad in the latest in designer ski wear. Hand in hand with Vail, it's the winter playground for the wealthy.

But that certainly doesn't mean that you should turn your nose up at it. There is a reason people flock here, after all. The awesome Elk Mountains landscape offers not just top-notch winter sporting but also gasp-inducing scenery. In short, it's the nirvana of the outdoors.

The region is just brimful with 'fourteeners' (peaks towering over 14,000ft (4267m) high, but you probably knew that).And when you're tired of all the trees, craggy peaks, romping wildlife, wildflowers and frozen ski runs, pull up a chair in front of the Paradise Bakery and check out the brigade. You might see a Saab-driving policeman go past. Or better yet, you may find yourself nodding to local resident and gonzo-journo Hunter S Thompson, who once aspired to be Aspen's sheriff. Surely if he'd succeeded, we'd be telling you about a very different kind of place.

Facts for the traveller
Off the beaten track
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