Snapping aerial photos of sun-splashed destinations ranging from Bora Bora to Bondi Beach helped fine art photographer Gray Malin build a fan base that includes the likes of Reese Witherspoon and Rihanna. But for his latest project, Malin turned his lens to a frostier locale: Aspen.
For The Little Nell’s 30th anniversary, he partnered with the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star hotel on “Gray Malin in Aspen,” a series that pays homage to the chic mountain town of yesteryear. Malin’s interpretation of retro Aspen includes models in ski attire from the ’50s to the ’80s alongside props like vintage Goyard and Louis Vuitton trunks, a classic Porsche, a shaggy Bernese mountain dog and, of course, those striking snow-dusted mountains.
“In celebrating The Little Nell’s 30th anniversary this ski season, we knew we wanted to evoke memories from treasured times over the years,” says Jonathan Fillman, general manager of The Little Nell. “We could not think of a better way to bring visions of the past to life than with this collaboration with Gray Malin. He perfectly captures the hotel’s storied history and the skiing culture of Aspen.” Select pieces are on display at The Little Nell’s Living Room and are for sale at the hotel’s gift shop and online.
Read on to learn more about how Aspen inspires Malin, where he goes for après-ski and the one shop he always visits when in town.
What made you decide to focus on Aspen for your latest series?
After photographing Aspen from doorless helicopters for my aerial ski series “A la Montagne” in 2013, I realized from the response that there was an authentic connection between my audience and this magical destination.
Coming to scout Aspen last April, I was focused on the concept of transforming modern beloved sites into vintage scenes and imagining what contemporary ski concepts may have looked like in the past. For example, I had an idea to create an après-ski scene on the deck of Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, with the look and feel set in the 1960s.
With these concepts in mind, I partnered with The Little Nell to continue my theme of shooting luxury properties with a vintage twist, and the timing seemed perfect to rev up this project in conjunction with celebrating The Little Nell’s 30th anniversary and a look back at yesteryear.
What do you find inspiring about Aspen?
First and foremost, the sheer natural beauty of Aspen is second to none year round. Beyond the dreamy winterscapes, there’s the stunning fall foliage. In the summertime, the mountains, sky and sun dance together in breathtaking fashion.
Being in town during the height of the winter season, the town crackles with energy and camaraderie amongst the skiing community. The lively spirit and joy shared by those racing down the gorgeous white slopes combined with the infectious joy of après-ski moments makes Aspen a truly inspiring place you want to be a part of.
What makes The Little Nell special?
The Little Nell epitomizes the glamour and hospitality you come to expect in Aspen and from a Five-Star hotel. What really makes this hotel unique — beyond the ski-in/ski-out location at the base of Aspen Mountain — is the special place it holds in the hearts of locals and frequent guests.
The lobby and Living Room, where several of the pieces from this new collection are on display, have a residential feel with the wood-burning fire, cozy seating and warm ambiance. I’m so honored to have my work from this vintage series on display in the Living Room and lobby through President’s Day for all who come to Aspen to enjoy.
What are your can’t-miss spots in Aspen?
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro:If you’re there at noon, it’s a calmer time. The 2 p.m. seating, however, is a one-of-a-kind ski experience. This cabin mid-mountain on Aspen Highlands is a touch of St. Tropez meets Aspen meets St. Barts, with a raucous time that you can share with your friends and will never forget. Remember to bring a change of clothes or a parka because the champagne spraying is all part of the party.
Living Room Bar at The Little Nell: Sitting in this cozy spot in the evening, the service is impeccable as well as the attire of the other guests and their glamorous furry friends.
Aspen Highlands: This is a truly fabulous mountain for moderate and experienced skiers. They really have a great range of runs that are enjoyable and rarely crowded. At the top of the mountain, you can see amazing vistas in the distance, including the Maroon Bells.
Kemo Sabe: This is such a personal favorite of mine! This store has authentic Western hats and gear that are gorgeous and far from kitschy. I make sure to stop here for a little shopping trip every time I am in Aspen. There’s a stunning wooden bar upstairs for private events as well.
What are your favorite restaurants and what should we order there?
Cache Cache: the frisée salad. I have never had a better version of this dish anywhere else. I also love the scallops.
Meat and Cheese: an amazing rotisserie chicken from Meat and Cheese is perfect for a more casual evening.
French Alpine Bistro Crêperie du Village: a fondue that cannot be beat.
Ajax Tavern: truffle fries, mussels, salade nicoise.
Another new spot is Almresi Aspen for an authentic German dining experience in the Dancing Bear Mountainside building.
Where do you like to go for après-ski?
Ajax Tavern: their patio on a spring day cannot be beat.
Chair 9: also at The Little Nell with DJs and a vibrant scene.
Snow Lodge: just opened this ski season, it is run by the same team that operates the Surf Lodge in Montauk — we’ve been friends since partnering on a project several summers ago. Great music, alpine décor, drinks and cuisine in the Aspen outpost.
Red Onion: this place transports you to the mining days of Aspen when it opened and is a true locals’ scene.