Meet Simon Chen – Managing Director of The Little Nell in Aspen
About Simon Chen
Born and raised in Australia on Sydney’s North Shore, Simon’s hospitality career began at the InterContinental Sydney, first as a Bellman and then a Concierge, before he joined the opening team at The Ritz‐Carlton, Sydney as a Front Desk Agent. In 1995, he was transferred to The Ritz‐Carlton, Buckhead, in Atlanta, Georgia as Front Office Manager.
“When I arrived in the U.S., I had two suitcases and a pair of skis with me, wide-eyed and hoping to fulfil my dream of running the finest ski hotel in the world,” Chen said.
The following year, he continued his ski hotel pursuits in joining The Little Nell – Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond hotel as Front Office Manager, where he developed an affinity for Aspen. After the winter season, he was called back to The Ritz‐Carlton where he spent the following six years crisscrossing the U.S. and the Caribbean in various management roles.
In 2004, he left The Ritz‐Carlton to run a restaurant business in Denver with a close friend, learning the finer details of the industry from ground‐up construction to daily operations.
In 2006, he was appointed Regional Manager of two ski hotels – overseeing The Beaver Creek Lodge in Beaver Creek, Colorado, as well as El Monte Sagrado Resort and Spa in Taos, New Mexico. In 2009, Chen moved to Telluride in Colorado, another ski town, to run The Peaks Resort.
In 2011, his former General Manager at The Little Nell, Eric Calderon, hired him to run Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, California, where he oversaw a total renovation and repositioning of this widely acclaimed Relais & Châteaux, five-star resort.
Chen was then hired as General Manager of The Little Nell, returning to Aspen in 2013, well poised and prepared to run his second five-star hotel. He was named Managing Director of the property in November, 2014.
“As a hotelier, it’s a dream come true to oversee one of the world’s most iconic ski hotels,” he noted.
Simon, his wife, Susan, their two young children and dogs are thrilled to call Colorado home. He particularly loves cycling and the “Clip in With Christian Vande Velde” camp The Little Nell hosts over the USA Pro Challenge’s stages in Aspen is among the highlights. In winter, he enjoys skiing and can be found on The Little Nell’s private Powdercat, exclusively available to hotel guests, every Friday. A traveller through and through, Simon also treasures the opportunity to discover new hotels, countries and cuisines.
How long have you been in the travel industry?
I have been in the industry for 28 years.
When did you get the travel bug?
I think it was in my blood but I didn’t really know it. My extended family; including grandparents, aunts and uncles and my parents and siblings used to camp a lot when we were kids. It was always an adventure! As soon as I was old enough to travel I always dreamed about going overseas to see the world providing I could ski at the same time and I didn’t have to camp ever again.
What inspired you to go into the hotel business?
It was by accident to be honest. I was originally going to study to become a Chef. When I wasn’t accepted to culinary school, I ended up getting a job at The InterContinental in Sydney and never looked back.
What are the top five activities that you recommend people do when they stay at The Little Nell?
My top 5 favourite activities at the Nell are:
• Our Little Nell Powder Tour. My office on Friday is the backcountry of Aspen skiing untracked powder with our guests.
• A tour through our wine cellar with our Master Sommelier Carlton McCoy. On my last visit I was holding a bottle of Madeira from the 1870s. When I was holding the bottle, the thought came to me that this bottle is from the same period as the silver boom in Aspen.
• Oasis in the Snow – our portable Champagne bar that is towed around Aspen Mountain. Nothing better than a nice glass of La Grande Dame while enjoying the sun and snow.
• Cycling around Aspen on our new fleet of Scott snow bikes. These bikes are amazing and so much fun. These bikes have made cycling a year-round sport now in Aspen.
• A jeep tour on Aspen Mountain with a picnic prepared by our world-class culinary team.
What other things do you recommend people do in Aspen?
• One of the least known attractions is the Aspen Historical Society Tours. Learning about what life was like in Aspen during the silver boom is amazing.
• A snowmobile tour up to the Maroon Bells in the winter. It is stunning and there are no crowds.
What are your favourite restaurants in Aspen?
My three go to restaurants are element 47, 316 Steak House and Matsuhisa.
Best place for coffee in Aspen?
If I am in a hurry then it is a quad shot latte, made by our amazing breakfast manager, Blair in element 47. If I am out and about then I go and see John and Victoria at Victoria’s coffee for a flat white and a sausage roll.
What are your favourite destinations outside of Colorado?
My favourite destinations right now are anywhere in Europe and Morocco. Old World Wines are a big interest of mine since coming back to The Nell and I would love to explore more of Morocco.
Is there anywhere in the world you haven’t been, but would love to?
Heli Skiing in Alaska and Canada, seeing the polar bears in Canada and visiting Antarctica.
What do you think is the ‘finest thing’ about The Little Nell?
Without a doubt it is the people. The team here are such professionals and career hoteliers, which is rare in a mountain town. They inspire me every day with their caring and the way that they continually blow away our guests expectations.
The Little Nell