Wintertime Glitterati Make Aspen Migration

ASPEN, Colo. (TheStreet) -- As usual celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Heidi Klum, Barry Diller and fashion designer wife Dianne Von Furstenberg are descending on Aspen to traverse Buttermilk and stake out the city's latest hot spots.

But don't let the fur-trimmed Bogner and Chanel snowboards fool you. Aspen has had its fair share of recession woes. The city was blanketed in restaurant closures, and the stalled Snowmass base village was so embarrassing it's been outfitted with vinyl wrapping made to look like stores and hotels to cover the abandoned construction site. But the winter is already looking better, with record early snowfall and some of the most exciting openings to hit the town in years.

Viceroy Snowmass offers one of the poshest hotel addresses in Colorado, and there's even last-minute Christmas availabilities.

Where there's financial distress, there are also great deals to be had. For anyone who doesn't mind being away from Aspen Village, Viceroy Snowmass offers one of the poshest hotel addresses in Colorado, with interiors by Jean-Michel Gathy and a casual restaurant and pool area designed by Kelly Wearstler.

While rooms are sold out for New Year's Eve, last-minute Christmas availability includes ski-in/ski-out accommodations in private residences offering gourmet kitchens with SubZero refrigerators, Wolf ranges and bathrooms stocked with Neil George bath products. For the rest of the nonholiday ski season the hotel offers rooms from $275 per night including airport transfers, up to $50 per day for ski rentals and up to $100 per day for apres-ski comforts such as dining or spa treatments.

For those prefering to be within clinking distance of Mariah Carey's champagne flute, a village address is essential, with The Little Nell once more maintaining its top spot in Aspen lodging. If you don't have your room already booked for the holidays or a personal pad in its Little Nell Residences, though, you'll have to settle for a seat in the Terrace Bar off the hotel's main lobby.

A dressy collection of locals, Terrace Bar is especially popular with over-40 singles lurking with cocktail in hand and snacking on an upgraded tapas menu. For something with a bit more gourmet appeal, grab a table at the Nell's Montagna Restaurant, where chef Ryan Hardy whips up a Christmas Day menu of sturgeon and caviar latkes, foie gras ravioli and sole with white truffles for $175 per person.

Two of the season's most anticipated restaurant openings aren't so much new as new to Aspen or refreshed. From its Snowmass location last year, Junk relocates to the old D-19 space with a novel feel-good food concept ideal for families and younger couples. Its modern design with indoor-outdoor dining options features innovative pop art on walls with recycled mosaics from crushed aluminum cans and booths of vintage denim jeans that literally makes use of old junk.

Outside, a covered patio is surrounded in corrugated metal sheeting with walk-up bar and groovy vibe ideal for Aspen's youthful snowboarder contingent. The menu includes a selection of international street foods, from Chicago hot dogs and Mexican steak tortas to Asian garlic noodle and crispy pork belly skewers.

In a year that has seen the arrival of membership houses to Los Angeles and Miami, Casa Tua Aspen brings its Miami eatery and membership lounge to the historic Guido's building (home of the short-lived Ruth's Chris Steak House ( RUTH) a few seasons back). The iconic South Beach eatery, which counts Rosie O'Donnell and Alex Rodriguez as members, is known for its sexy terrace dinners and upstairs lounge. The Aspen location looks to give Caribou Club a run for its membership money.

Unlike Caribou Club, which offers weekly memberships for upward of $500, Casa Tua will offer exclusively full-time memberships with access to the Miami and Aspen locations. The two-level restaurant and lounge will feature an Italian-inspired restaurant and bar that is open to the public. Upstairs, the starry action is to feature an all-year membership lounge with bar and private dining area that should have been available to members of the Aspen club set as of Monday and will likely dominate the season.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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