Accessible only by skiing, snowboarding or snowcat, Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro nestled on Highlands Mountain in Aspen, Colorado has gained the reputation of being one of the best Alpine dance parties in North America. This high-end bistro leaves you feeling full, out of breath and drenched in champagne. Our travel editor gives us his take.
On another fortunately uneventful, if sleepy, 2020 summer afternoon, it’s difficult to beat back nostalgia for the most excessive, ridiculous, and yes, fun, experiences the ‘normal’ world has to offer: in this case, the 2pm seating at Aspen’s Cloud 9 Alpine Bistro. Open only during ski season and situated amidst intermediate slopes on Aspen Highlands, this legendary Aspen venue is this ski town’s answer to the alpine après-ski excess of Val d’Isere, St Anton, Verbier or many other entries on the other side of the pond.
Getting a reservation can be tricky - the last few times I’ve tried to go, they appeared to not even take reservations, until we eventually found a way in by buttering up the assistant of someone important (making friends with the staff is another reasonable option; or calling frequently and waitlisting multiple days). If you are going to the trouble, the 2pm seating is the more raucous and therefore authentic of the two; this is not the place to grab a quick bite.
What to wear is another consideration. Though you may be tempted to don your latest duds purchased in Aspen’s ample retail offering, resist the urge: you will be thoroughly, and I mean thoroughly, saturated with champagne. I heard a rumour that Cloud 9 sold more Veuve Clicquot than any restaurant in the world, and while I can’t confirm this is true, I will simply have to assume that it is, because it’s unfathomable that someplace could sell more. To be sure, most of it is sprayed, by hand or by champagne gun, by patrons, onto other patrons. Hide your ski haute couture in the corner, and wear something waterproof. Sunglasses or goggles are a plus.
The spraying doesn’t start right away. You are well-advised to get a quick food order in - the tomato soup and salmon is a decent option (this is not the place to take your time with raclette), wolf the food down, and prepare yourself for Veuve spraying, dancing on chairs, and Neil Diamond at full volume, which happens about halfway through the hour-and-a-half lunch. The food is pretty decent but, as you’ve probably already gathered, not quite the point.
Should you decide to contribute to the champagne spraying, the staff are happy to sell you bottles (or cases) of Veuve, and bring them to your table. Celebrating a special occasion with several friends, I at least tried to sneak a few sips of the stuff between sprays. More music will happen, dancing on chairs, and even some inter-table fraternising. Of course, Cloud 9 is pretty much at the bottom of the list in terms of COVID friendliness, about on par with Glastonbury, which is probably why I’m daydreaming about it now.
Then, of course, the fun part: skiing down after one (or a few) too many. There’s no other way down, and they will not let you download the lift. Bon chance!
Cloud 9 Alpine Bistro
Address: 76 Boomerang Rd Top of the Cloud Nine Lift, Aspen, CO 81611, United States
Phone: +1 970-923-8715