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Wedged in a valley between the Elk Mountain palisades to the southwest and the high-altitude massifs of the Sawatch Range in the east, the Roaring Fork Valley is a Rocky Mountain Shangri-la with Aspen at the headwaters. The charm and beauty of this isolation can make reaching Aspen both a scenic and frustrating journey.
The only way in or out of Aspen is Highway 82—either up the Roaring Fork Valley from Glenwood Springs or over Independence Pass in summer from the eastern side of the mountains (the pass begins at the junction of U.S. 24 and Highway 82). Aspen's explosive growth hasn't come without some headaches. Despite expanded lanes, Highway 82 quickly clogs with skiers and day commuters.
Aspen. Head here for a dose of the high life in an almost too-pretty town, where Hollywood celebrities and couch-surfing ski bums cross paths on the slopes and in the hot tubs. The twin Fourteneer peaks and aspens of the Maroon Bells constitute one of the state's iconic images.
The Roaring Fork Valley. Snowmass is a year-round family resort destination rather than a true town. The historic towns of Glenwood Springs, Redstone, and Marble offer a pleasant—and less expensive—alternative experience, and have great fly-fishing and rafting in summer.
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