Reba McEntire has had a lot of good times in Aspen, and she owes them all to an old country music pal. “Barbara Mandrell told me about the Aspen/Snowmass area,” says McEntire, 52, who ended up paying a pre-Christmas visit to Mandrell’s Snowmass home in the early ’90s. Ever since, McEntire and her whole brood—including husband Narvel Blackstock, 51, their son Shelby, 17, and Narvel’s three kids and five grand-kids from a previous marriage—have been hooked. Here’s McEntire’s guide to the mountain paradise.
WHERE SHE PLAYS
SNOWMASS AND BUT TERMILK MOUNTAINS
Come Christmastime or spring break, expect to see McEntire’s family on at least two of the area’s legendary mountains. “Shelby likes to snow-board on Buttermilk,” says McEntire. The singer confesses that her own skiing days have been over since 1996, when she broke her leg on a Utah slope. But she still enjoys hanging out, having her traditional après-ski treat: hot chocolate and amaretto.
THE CRYSTAL PALACE
In the evenings the family often catches shows at this cabaret dinner theater. “It’s a ritual,” says McEntire. “They always have a new skit to perform.”
WHERE SHE STAYS
For longer stays McEntire is partial to renting houses, but she also enjoys bunking at this 1889 Aspen landmark. “It’s so old and they’ve kept that charm about it,” she says. McEntire also “loves” the Little Nell hotel “especially for its restaurants,” and in Snow-mass, the mountain-based Silvertree Hotel for “the ski-in and ski-out aspect.”
WHERE SHE EATS
Located inside the Little Nell hotel, the restaurant faces Aspen Mountain and serves up Rocky Mountain gourmet fare: wild king salmon, leg of lamb and Alaskan halibut. “Anything on the menu is great,” swears McEntire, who has a fond memory of a special salad made with fresh strawberries. “It’s so good,” she says. “And their steaks are wonderful too.” And if you can’t snatch a table inside, she suggests nibbling a few “truffle french fries” out on the patio.
McEntire visits the Paradise with her pal Alex Donnelly, who loves the bakery’s chocolate-chip cookies. “But I can’t do that myself,” she confesses, “because I’m always on a low-carb diet.”
One of McEntire’s favorite eateries is the Cantina on Main Street, across from the Hotel Jerome, and not just because her granddaughter Chelsea pulled out her first tooth in the Mexican restaurant’s downstairs bathroom. “I love their chips,” she says. “And I love their margaritas.” Favorite entrée: the combo platter “because I like the cheese enchiladas and tacos.”
For a great lunch hangout, McEntire suggests heading over to the Hickory House. “I had lunch there with [former The Young and the Restless star] Alex Donnelly and [author] Michael Lewis. It’s really good barbecue.”
PINE CREEK COOKHOUSE
The food at the Cook-house—including dishes like buffalo cowboy steak with green and red chile sauce and seared elk tenderloin—”is great,” says McEntire, but the real fun is in getting to the restaurant, which is situated in the upper Castle Creek Valley outside of Aspen. “You get in a horse-drawn sleigh and go to the restaurant to eat and then ride back,” explains the singer. “The original burned down to the ground, and they built a brand-new lodge. It’s beautiful.”
WHERE SHE SHOPS
Even though she has her own line of clothes marketed under the Reba label, McEntire admits she still can’t resist seeing what all the stores in town carry. “One of the things I love about Aspen is the unique clothes and jewelry and art,” says McEntire. And “one place I love to go shopping is Gorsuch Ltd. I bought two pairs of boots there.”
It figures that a woman who got her start singing at the 1974 National Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City would gravitate toward the town’s leading western specialty store. McEntire likes to shop at Kemo Sabe with her husband. “I bought a felt hat,” she says, “and Narvel bought boots.”
CHEQUERS OF ASPEN
“I do buy clothes,” explains McEntire about what she looks for in town, “but mainly I go to shop for the house.” A favorite haunt is this eclectic home furniture and accessories store that carries everything from alligator-leather foot-stools to Italian pottery. Her last purchase there: “chargers for the table, candles and a huge mirror that we shipped to our home in Mexico.”
The largest supermarket in Aspen proper is on a street named Puppy Smith. It’s also where McEntire goes “to stock up on all our grocery needs,” including fresh fruits, vegetables and, of course, hot chocolate.