Coming from Seattle, the real estate shouldn't be a total shock. Obviously, the closer you get to Aspen the higher prices rise. Cheapest single family in Aspen is something like 2.4, Basalt median home price is around $700,000 and on down the valley. Carbondale is a cool, quirky town located in an amazing spot. The Crystal and the Roaring Fork converge at the base of Mt. Sopris.
I am partial to Basalt. Tiny town, close community. A lot of the business owners in Aspen live in Basalt. 20 minutes to ski at 4 resorts convergence of Roaring Fork and Frying Pan.
If you're into nightlife, it's pretty lame except for Aspen.
Other than that, you can't really go wrong in this valley.