Gray Malin is bringing his photography to life, inviting guests to step into one of his pictures through an immersive, “one-of-a-kind” experience on the top of Aspen Mountain.
The renowned fine art photographer has teamed up with ASPENX, the new luxury retail and experiential brand conceptualized by Aspen Skiing Co. and Aspen-based artist Paula Crown, to create “Snow Beach.”
Launching Presidents Day weekend and available for a limited six-weekend run, the pop-up experience features beach-themed décor with bottle service, food pairings and private, reservable cabanas.
While Malin has cultivated other physical activations inspired by his art, like redesigning pool cabanas at The Beverly Hills Hotel and other upscale properties, the photographer explained that nothing in his career compares to the vision and execution level of “Snow Beach.”
“I’ve had the great privilege of collaborating with brands, hotels and iconic destinations in the span of my photography career, always working to expand my artistic vision through immersive experiences where I can,” Malin wrote in an email. “The scale of this endeavor, however, is a first. To be joining ASPENX in this unique project is very special.”
Recognized for his iconic aerial photographs of beach settings, Malin has brought his artistry to Aspen in recent years with projects such as his “Gray Malin in Aspen” vintage ski series in 2019 and his most-recent “Dogs of Aspen” shoot, which released last month. With the ongoing success of these alpine-themed photo series and the artist’s love for Aspen, Malin is now taking his artistry beyond the camera’s lens to create an engaging, glamorous experience of his work through an Aspen après scene.
Malin said that he first had the idea for “Snow Beach” when visiting Aspen in October 2020 on a personal trip. He took an off-road tour up Aspen Mountain through The Little Nell, and when scouting out the Sundeck, he inquired about the outside area that is an active space in the summers for weddings and yoga but is ungroomed, left alone and considered out of bounds in the winter, explained May Selby, corporate director of public relations for The Little Nell.
“He showed me an aerial photo he had taken of a snow polo field in St. Moritz that had a beach theme to it with lifeguard chairs,” Selby said. “He asked if we could explore this here in Aspen and here we are, just a short distance away from opening day of Snow Beach.”
Following his initial pitch, Malin said he needed a more concrete vision and plan. The photographer went to Miami last fall and walked the entire stretch of South Beach, studying the various beach clubs and how they were assembled and disassembled each day.
“Talking to the beach attendants for intel, the trip inspired me to begin sketching the layout, furnishings and even the construction for how my art and vision would be woven into a ‘Snow Beach’ club setting,” Malin said. “I then worked to create an immersive experience inspired by my work in Aspen, one that would pay homage to the chic après-ski culture mixed with the classic beach club setting.”
Executed by The Little Nell, the outdoor activation will be installed to the right of the ASPENX Mountain Club, adjacent to the Sundeck. Selby described the layout as a flat, groomed “beach” made of snow with a symmetrically arranged setup of beach chairs, cabanas, tables, a DJ booth, an arrival cabana and a lifeguard chair.
“The view is incredible looking out towards Mount Hayden and the Highland Bowl with the entire Elk Range surrounding you,” Selby said. “We want to bring an unexpected space to life with music, drinks, food, décor and a welcoming beach-inspired atmosphere.”
In order to physically build out Malin’s artistic vision and detailed designs, ASPENX and The Little Nell have hired local carpenter Lucas Franze — who built the outdoor bar at Kemo Sabe, as well as the chalet at French Alpine Bistro — to construct the wooden beach cabanas and lifeguard towers for “Snow Beach.”
Malin explained that he took an “even approach” when pulling elements from both the beach and mountain atmospheres in order to create this joint aesthetic. While the chaise lounges and cabanas were inspired by his aerial beach photography and classic beach club characteristics, the colors and vintage components tie back to his work atop the snowy mountains of Aspen. The artist added that his photography is incorporated into the experience in “unexpected ways.”
“Each cabana and chair have Gray Malin outdoor pillows featuring an embroidered print of my signature aerial beach prints, along with custom acrylic serving trays that have my photography printed in the bottom of the tray,” Malin said. “We have also created custom surfboards, lifeguard stands and games to inspire guests to take their own artistic ‘beach’ photographs.”
The “Snow Beach” club offers several reservation options, including single lounge chairs with the purchase of half a bottle of champagne or rosé, a cabana for two with a bottle of champagne or rosé or a cabana for six with three bottles of champagne or rosé. Guests can enjoy paired courses every 30 minutes during the two-hour reservation period, and packages and prices range from $300 to $4,800 depending on bottle selection and group size, according to a press release. Sessions start at 1 p.m. on weekend days.
“The whole idea of bringing a beach club to the snow is something that I have been inspired to create for a while in order to merge my aerial beach and snow photography,” Malin said. “ASPENX brought a necessary excellence in hospitality: the incredible location, elevated food and beverage pairings and a clear path to execution that made it all work.”
Over the course of the six-week pop-up, Selby said that there will be surprise themes, guests and DJs, and following the last official day of “Snow Beach” — which will be on Sunday, March 27 — ASPENX will present a closing celebration with a “weekend geared toward locals,” requiring no minimums nor reservations.
Malin arrives in Aspen on Feb. 13 and will spend the next three days photographing the activation, according to Selby. She also mentioned that the “Snow Beach” concept popping up this year serves as a pilot program for something that they “ideally” hope to run annually.
With the launch of “Snow Beach” around the corner, Malin said he hopes that people will get the opportunity to experience his photography in an exciting way, creating their own memories and capturing their own Gray Malin-inspired pictures.
“The purpose of my work is to immerse audiences into a destination, an era or a feeling — overall providing a sense of escapism and wonder that takes them on a journey. So to step into a Gray Malin photograph, I’d say it’s like traveling to your happy place, but with a whimsical lens that transports you wholly to a certain destination, whether that be a beach, the snow, a mountain vista… the sky’s the limit,” Malin said. “For this specific project, this manifests as guests being able to sit in striped cabanas, experience the vintage-esque glamour, revel in the beach-club aesthetic and enjoy the good life, all of which were inspired by my photographs and the themes of my artwork in general.”
By Jacqueline Reynolds I Aspen Daily News I Feb 7, 2022