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Aspen, Without the Trust Fund

That's not to say this won't involve a little discomfort; indeed, those of us who wish to see Aspen cheap must suffer a bit. But I say it's worth it, if not just for the mountain scenery than for the chance to pretend that you have -- as Dickens might say -- great expectations.

So when you see a pack of children running through Aspen's pedestrian malls and assailing all passersby with a crass "Are you famous?" you should know what to do. Hide your disdain for their obvious ill-breeding. Disguise your contempt for their grubby little hands. And then solemnly answer their question.

The gondola costs $17 to ride up Aspen Mountain but is gratis on the way down -- a good thing for hikers on a budget. (Aspen Chamber Resort Association)

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"Why yes," you'll tell them. "Why yes I am."

Details, Page P7.

Ben Brazil last wrote for Travel on Charleston, S.C.

Budget Aspen, Colo.

GETTING THERE: United offers connecting service from D.C. to Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, with round-trip fares from $350. Free buses to Aspen run past the airport on State Highway 82. If you plan to camp and/or explore the area, though, you'll need to rent a car. You might save money by flying to Denver, renting a car and driving the roughly 3 1/2 hours to Aspen. Many major airlines fly from D.C. to Denver; round-trip fares begin at $173, with restrictions.

WHERE TO STAY: You can save lots of money by camping in one of the Aspen Ranger District's eight campgrounds in the White River National Forest. The closest spot to Aspen is Difficult Campground ($15 per night), about five miles southeast of town. Reservations: 877-444-6777, www.reserveusa.com. For general campground info: Aspen Ranger District, 970-925-3445.

Getting a bed in Aspen isn't cheap. Less expensive options include the St. Moritz Lodge & Condominiums (334 W. Hyman Ave., 800-817-2069, www.stmoritzlodge.com), with a heated pool, comfortable lobby and hostel-style bunks for $36 per person; doubles with shared bath begin at $88. Mountain Chalet (333 E. Durant Ave., 800-321-7813, www.mountainchaletaspen.com; doubles from $85) has similar amenities. The Tyrolean Lodge (200 W. Main St., 888-220-3809, www.tyroleanlodge.com; doubles from $95-$120) is decorated with old ski equipment and all but one room has a kitchenette. (Rates quoted are for high summer; they drop in fall, then rise again for winter ski season.)

WHERE TO EAT: Aspen has plenty of good places that won't break the bank. A local favorite for Mexican food and margaritas is La Cocina (308 E. Hopkins Ave.), where wrought-iron furniture and arched doorways create a pleasant atmosphere. Entrees start at $8.95. Eat a relaxing breakfast at the Main Street Bakery & Cafe (201 E. Main St.), with entrees from $5.25. For steak and other hearty fare, check out Little Annie's Eating House (517 E. Hyman Ave.), where the chandeliers are made of wagon wheels and entrees and sandwiches start at $6.95.


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