Aspen/Snowmass Ski Area
The Aspen/Snowmass ski area is made up of four distinct mountains: flagship Aspen Mountain, challenging Aspen Highlands, diverse Snowmass, and beginner-friendly Buttermilk.
At Aspen, one ticket allows you to experience four
mountains-Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and
Buttermilk-each with its own personality. That's 5,206 acres (2,107
ha) of terrain, 44 lifts, 339 trails, thousands of feet of vertical
drop, hundreds of inches of fresh snow and endless blue skies-all
within a 12-mile (20 km) radius and accessible by free shuttle. And
the sky really is blue: if you ski powder you really need brilliant
sunshine and this resort has plenty of both: temperatures average
30°F (-1°C) during the day and around 18°F (-7°C) at night, while
spring temperatures can reach an enjoyable 50°F (10°C) and higher
during the day.
The slopes are graded-easiest to hardest-green, blue, black
diamond and double black diamond. Around 10 percent are graded
beginner, 48 percent intermediate, 21 percent advanced, and 21
percent "strictly for the experts." Buttermilk is the best place to
learn, indeed there is no expert terrain there. Conversely, Aspen
Mountain has no beginner terrain. Know your limits and take your
Aspen's attention to detail is world class. They do the little
things right From trail maps on the chairlifts to suntan lotion,
hot cider and water on top of Ajax, you'll be sure to notice the
Getting from mountain to mountain is simple, free and easy.
Aspen offers bus service connecting the four mountains with each
other and downtown Aspen. The buses run regularly and stop at a
number of convenient locations. Consult the trail maps or the map
in Ruby Park for more information about schedules and stops.
Suing and being sued in the U.S. is an occupational hazard so it
is not surprising that safety is paramount in the area, with a ski
patrol on each mountain, and a surfeit of ropes, signs, poles,
avalanche safety measures and speed controls.
The flagship Aspen Mountain rises imposingly out of the heart of
downtown Aspen to 11,212 feet (3,147 m) and covers 673 acres (272
ha). Now open to snowboarding, the mountain is known for steeps and
bumps and is a favorite among many upper-intermediate and advanced
skiers and snowboarders. Intermediate cruising is a delight on the
wide open Ruthie's Run, accessing the world's only high-speed
double chair. The Silver Queen Gondola transports skiers to the
summit in only 14 minutes, providing access to a number of
activities, including world-class skiing, guided snowshoe tours and
paragliding. Aspen Mountain offers great steeps and long blue
cruisers, but beginners beware! Aspen Mountain has no green trails,
so if you're looking for a mountain for a mixed ability group,
Snowmass is a better choice.
Buttermilk is located just three miles (5 km) outside Aspen, and
is the tamest of the four mountains. Most of the mountain is
groomed each night and the terrain generally quite gentle. It is
virtually impossible to define to Buttermilk. On one hand, it's the
quintessential beginner's mountain known for smooth, rolling
trails. But if that's Buttermilk, then why do all the locals pound
down "Tiehack Parkway" when there's a foot (30 cm) of fresh snow?
Well, the Tiehack trail has steep left-handed funnels and glades
that make it anything but beginner's country, even if the main fall
lines are easy (and what is wrong with that?) And how about the
freeriders' Buttermilk? It's home to a superpipe and one of the
world's longest terrain parks from the top of the mountain to the
base, Crazy T'rain, nearly two miles (3 km) long and features
dozens of hits and over 30 rails. The Crazy T'rain Park has also
been home to ESPN Winter X Games since 2002. A sound system has
been installed near the superpipe and the X Games Slopestyle Course
constructed for all to ride. There is also a new beginner terrain
park S3 on Larkspur.
Located just three miles (5 km) from downtown Aspen and
accessible by free shuttle, Aspen Highlands' 970 acres (393 ha)
feature stunning views of the world-famous Maroon Bells, and the
new Highlands Village offers affordable lodgings, dining and
Undeniably funky and old school, Aspen Highlands is where the
locals go to get humbled. At Highlands, there are wide-open trails
and killer views-enough to keep an intermediate happy for a month,
even greens you could send your mother down. But experience its
hike-accessible terrain just once, and you'll be amazed. Beyond the
lift network and a short hike from the top of the Loge Peak lift,
Highland Bowl features some of the steepest terrain in the United
States. Even without hiking, Aspen Highlands will be sure to
challenge even the most advanced expert. Check out the unrelenting
steeps and bumps of Steeplechase - over 1500 vertical feet of
heart-pounding and leg-burning expert bliss.
The Highland Bowl
For years Highland Bowl stood grand and empty, an enticing,
snowy siren, inviting, but off limits. The bowl is divided into
four zones; the south-facing R(ed) zone which receives the greatest
amount of sun exposure, with Y(ellow) zone following, then B(lue)
zone and finally, the coolest north-facing G(reen) zone.
The bowl has a rich history. In 1981 the Aspen Highlands Ski
Patrol was allowed to open the bowl for guided hiking tours and for
the next three years backcountry skiers gained access to the bowl,
but this all ended when three ski patrollers were killed in 1984.
For the next 13 years the bowl remained closed except for the
gladed trails in the Temerity area off the lower ridge.
The R-zone remains closed but the lower Y-zone was reopened in
1997 and gradually since then the patrol has opened the B-zone
(allowing descents from the 12,392 foot/3,777 m peak) and a small
part of the G-zone in 2001. From the peak the fall line has pitches
of up to 48 degrees and is prime avalanche terrain. To safely open
the area the ski patrol and local volunteers descend into the bowl
(sometimes clipped into a belay!) and compress the snow step by
step as they walk down and back up the mountain. The patrol does
this with each new snowfall for the first few months of the winter
to ensure that the weak Colorado snowpack forms a firm base. In the
absence of these safety measures the bowl would be far too
Snowmass has had its problems in the past, not least of which
were having a mess of a base area, and a slightly soulless feel.
Now Snowmass is getting back on top and offering the whole gamut of
downhill experiences from gentle cruisers to scary steeps. In fact
you'll find the greatest diversity of terrain among the four
mountains here on Snowmass, the biggest of the four Aspen
mountains. With hundreds of acres of beginner trails, steep expert
runs,, wide open cruisers, endless moguls, terrain parks, and
half-pipes Snowmass has a little bit of something for everyone.
Snowmass is the second largest mountain resort in Colorado and
with 3,128 acres (1,266 ha), including glades, cruisers and bumps
as well as three terrain parks and a halfpipe. It would be hard not
find a perfect trail no matter your ability level. And as for
getting up the slopes Snowmass has the longest lift-served vertical
rise in the United States.
Snowmass recently broke ground on a new village located at the
bottom of the Elk Camp gondola. The new "Disney-esque" mixed-use
pedestrian village features shops, restaurant and lodging. In an
era when so many new planned base village developments feel cookie
cutter, Snowmass village stands out. As one local put it, "it's the
happiest place on snow!" The shops and restaurants are unique,
different and creative. Kids (and kids at heart) shouldn't miss The
Sweet Life. During the day, the downstairs offers an unparalleled
selection of candy and ice cream, while at night, the upstairs
transforms into a nightspot serving up sweet adult libations. Also
be sure to check out Junk, a casual restaurant where the ambiance
is provided by various forms of "junk" such as bent silverware
chandeliers and bar stools which face cases of discarded legos and
toy cars. Slated to be completed within the next few years, the
village will be the centerpiece of Snowmass and offer an experience
to rival even downtown Aspen itself.
Snowmass is family-friendly skiing and more improvements are
being made to the Family Zone on Snowmass. New interactive kids'
trails have been added to the current kids' facilities that include
a picnic shelter, training gates and sculpted moguls. Additionally,
Snowmass has kids tree runs complete with humorous signs, a fake
gold mine, and life size cutouts of rangers, miners, and animals!
The Trenchtown terrain park at Snowmass will also double in size,
running from top to bottom of the Coney Glade lift. The gem of
Snowmass' childrens' programs, however is is the recently completed
Treehouse Kid's Adventure Center. Located in the new base village
Treehouse Tube Town at Snowmass offers tubing seven days a week,
and tubing on Snowmass is open until 8:00 pm.
Accessible by free shuttle from anywhere in the Aspen/Snowmass
area, Snowmass is located just nine miles (15 km) from downtown
Aspen and 95 percent of Snowmass's accommodations are ski-in,
The whole ski area and the award-winning Ski & Snowboard
Schools of Aspen are operated by the Aspen Skiing Company. Contact
800-525-6200 or 970-925-1220, or you can visit the websites at
www.skiaspen.com and www.aspensnowmass.com.
Aspen/Snowmass Lift System
Lines are not a problem in Aspen/Snowmass: even if every single guest were on the slopes at the same time, the mountains would still average just three people per acre.
If you're keen you can catch the first lift at 8:30 am and hop
on the last lift at 3:45 pm. Lines are not a problem: even if
lodgings were at full capacity, and every single guest were to be
on the slopes at the same time-an unlikely scenario-the mountains
would still average only three people per acre. The results for
visitors are no long lift lines to wait in, and lots of open space
in which to experience the wonderful exhilaration of skiing and
riding. Aspen has eight lifts (including a gondola), Buttermilk has
nine; Highlands five, and Snowmass 22.
The Deep Temerity triple chairlift opened for 2007/2008 with
access to the new terrain around Canopy Cruiser opening for the
2008/2009 season. Deep Temerity rises 1,700 feet vertically
in just over 7 minutes from the bottom of the Steeplechase area and
represents a significant improvement to the skiing. If your
legs will allow, it's now much eassier to lap Steeplechae and
Also new is the high-speed quad Sheer Bliss. Accessing 700
acres in the Snowmass Big Burn area, Sheer Bliss rise 2,212
vertical feet in around 9 minutes.
Aspen/Snowmass's lift pass covers all four mountain areas and
guests may have their equipment transferred at the end of the day
to any of the four mountains in Aspen/Snowmass for only US$5 (or
for free if you rent from some Aspen ski shops) . The equipment
will be waiting at the base of the mountain the next morning.
Guests may also store their equipment overnight at any
There are no reduced price schemes, so everyone must buy a
regular lift ticket (which requires an ID photo), but there is free
skiing and boarding for children six years and under. Lift
tickets are available at some lodges, at the base of each mountain,
or through the offical website at www.aspensnowmass.com.
To rent or buy ski equipment, D&E Snowboard Shop & Ski
Rental and Pro Mountain Sports have a complete selection of adult
and children's ski and snowboard packages available at convenient
locations at the base of each mountain, plus free inter-mountain
equipment transfers. For a complete listing of equipment and
pricing go to www.aspensnowmass.com.
Aspen/Snowmass Beginner Skiing
The smooth, rolling terrain make Buttermilk the quintessential beginner's mountain. Kids love Max the Moose, Fort Frog, and Panda Peak.
Those new to Aspen/Snowmass might be surprised to learn that
Aspen Mountain offers no beginner terrain whatsoever, while Aspen
Highlands serves up only a limited selection of green runs. That's
ok, though, because Snowmass and Buttermilk are a beginner's
Buttermilk is the best place for beginners: it's located three
miles (5 km) from the center of Aspen and is the quintessential
learner's mountain known for smooth, rolling terrain. The mountain
consists of three sections: Main Buttermilk, Tiehack, and West
Main Buttermilk is its central part and has a selection of green
and blue trails. Tiehack is located off the east ridge and is
considered an advanced area where intermediates head to master
steeper slopes, bumps and powder. Be forewarned, however, the
Tiehack chair is VERY slow and long - we'd recommend avoiding it on
cold days. West Buttermilk's rolling terrain comprises mostly easy
green trails and is a favorite among first-timers. It's also a
favorite among hikers, snowshoers and other uphillers for a great
workout at any time of day or night. Spectacular views of Pyramid
Peak, Highlands, Snowmass, Capitol Peak, Mt. Daly and Mt. Sopris
await guests at its summit.
Kids love Max the Moose, Buttermilk's friendly purple mascot,
and Fort Frog, an adventure center that features a Western-style
fort and Native American Village where they can explore specially
designated trails. Panda Peak, the learning hill at the base of
Buttermilk, is another kid magnet because it's where beginners make
their first turns in the children's ski school. Beginners are
encouraged to enjoy a complete ski experience. Often they start in
specific beginner-friendly areas and as their confidence and
ability increase, they move to more challenging areas of the
Aspen/Snowmass Intermediate Skiing
Almost half the terrain over all four mountain ski areas is suitable for intermediates, with excellent cruising on Aspen Mountain, at Aspen Highlands and in Snowmass.
The best area for intermediate skiers at Aspen Highlands is near
the top of the mountain, where the Cloud Nine lift accesses trails
such as Scarlett's, Grand Prix and Gunbarrel. Golden Horn and
Thunderbowl offer enjoyable cruising.
The longest intermediate trail is just over five miles (8.5 km)
and is located in Snowmass, which is also the location for one
other unique offering: the 10-minute hike to Burnt Mountain, with
its backcountry style experience for intermediates on Long Shot, a
trail that winds three miles (5 km) through forests. Long groomed
intermediate trails such as the "mile-wide" Big Burn offer
Aspen/Snowmass Expert Skiing
Expert skiing in Aspen can be boiled down to moguls and steeps on Aspen Mountain, steep off-piste at Highlands Bowl and Snowmass's Hanging Valley and Cirque. Aspen/Snowmass' expert skiing is world class.
Aspen Mountain Expert Skiing
For those in search of moguls and steep, deep couloirs, Aspen Mountain has short, sharp and quite steep double black diamond (and very difficult) chutes, including the famous "dump trails" such as Bear Paw, Short Snort and Zaugg Dump, which were created by miners throwing out spoil as they tunneled their way into the mountain. The dump trails are tight, technical and steep - sure to challenge even the best. Walsh's is considered to be the most challenging trail on Aspen Mountain. Bell Mountain, part of Aspen Mountain, provides first-rate opportunities for mogul skiers with its variety of individual faces, including Face of Bell, Shoulder of Bell, and Back of Bell. Skiers also relish the breathtaking views of downtown Aspen as they descend Ajax.
Aspen Highlands Expert Skiing
Highlands has exhilarating steeps, trees, and powder bowls that challenge and delight advanced skiers and riders. Temerity, between Steeplechase and the Y-Zones, is the ultimate in tree riding. Mushroom Chutes, Thermals, and South Castle Chute in Temerity are not for the faint of heart and are sure to produce glory stories for even the most hardcore skiers and riders. The Olympic Bowl side of the mountain (Oly to the locals) has the aptly named Deception and the No Name Chutes for challenging gladed skiing and riding. Highlands is the spot for big mountain freeskiing and freeriding.
Highlands Bowl is the steepest off-piste experience of any U.S. ski resort. Skiers and snowboarders have been flocking to Highlands to try out the new terrain. With the opening of Ozone, White Kitchen, and Be One in the early 2000's it finaly became possible to ski from the 12,392-foot (3,782 m) summit of the bowl on 40 to 45 degree slopes. The bowl offers deep-powder skiing after a snowstorm and is accessible via a 20 to 60 minute hike from the top of the Loge Peak chair. The hike can be shortened by 15 to 20 minutes by catching the free snowcat from Loge Meadow to the first access gate. The snowcat runs from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, conditions permitting. Check the board at the top accessed by both the Loge Peak and the new Deep Temerity lifts for more information.
Dropping in from the summit is just one of the choices. One thousand vertical feet (300 m) lower, some of the steepest terrain can be found in the Lower Y Zones. Between the Y Zones and the summit there are dozens of other choices. You can drop in anywhere along the ridge to the left via four access gates but you MUST observe closures at these gates. Be aware that the steep and narrow chutes of Maroon Bowl-to the right of the ridge-are uncontrolled, and that avalanches in this area have claimed many lives over the years.
Snowmass: Hanging Valley and Cirque
Snowmass's Hanging Valley has been called the closest thing to the backcountry without actually going out of bounds. Steeps, glades, cornices, cliffs, and deep snow all await those seeking thrills and spills. On a powder day, skiers and riders wait anxiously for ski patrol to drop the ropes and open the area. Because Snowmass is so big, powder stashes can be found on the mountain days after a major snowstorm. The off-piste experiences in the Hanging Valley, Burnt Mountain, and the Cirque are also ideal for advanced skiers and boarders.
The Cirque at Snowmass-a world of steeps, cornices, chutes and cliffs-is legendary among advanced skiers and boarders. Some say Snowmass is the most underestimated adventure mountain in the world. At 12,510 feet (3,815 m) above sea level, the Cirque provides a breathtaking experience. Skiers can explore the huge Cirque Headwall or come all the way around and take the steep shots down the East Wall. When the snow is deep, hop into Rock Island where you can link turns on or between the giant snow-covered boulders that look like huge marshmallows.
Cliff jumpers can get hang time on Hanging Valley Wall, Baby Ruth-and Gowdy's: with a huge cornice, narrow choke in the center and a wide open powder field at the bottom, this trail has it all. Don't forget AMF (some say it stands for "adios, my friend"), Garrett Gulch, and Bearclaw, and the locals' secret powder stash-Reidars' trees.
Aspen/Snowmass Boarding & Freestyle
Aspen/Snowmass was late to snowboarding, but is now set up well for it with terrain parks and pipes.
Aspen/Snowmass, one of the last U.S. resorts to open to
snowboarders, is now extremely boarder-friendly and makes every
effort to welcome snowboarders and make their experience
hassle-free. Benches and repair tools can be found on all of the
mountains. The gondola and all the buses are equipped to handle
snowboards. In total there are five terrain parks, two superpipes
and one minipipe.
In particular, Snowmass' terrain park stands out as being of
notably high quality. Buttermilk hosts the X-Games and even if the
thought of hurling yourself off a jump the size of a three story
house is enough to give you a panic attack, watching the pros do it
is quite impressive.
Aspen/Snowmass Mountain Restaurants
Aspen/Snowmass has 13 mountain restaurants, many with large outdoor decks and great views.
The mountain restaurants in Aspen/Snowmass include some of the best in North America serving international, traditional, self-service and fast food. The Sundeck, at the top of Aspen Mountain, offers a good self-service menu, but the neighboring Aspen Mountain Club-one of the world's most exclusive clubs-is open only to members. At upper mid-mountain Bonnie's restaurant, with its famous two-tiered outdoor deck, is a popular hangout, and the newly-remodeled Ajax Tavern, at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola, is a favorite après-ski venue.
Buttermilk's Cliffhouse does an excellent stir-fry and the outdoor deck has renowned views of the Maroon Creek Valley.
On Aspen Highlands, the Cloud Nine Café, at the top of the high-speed quad, is a quaint Alpine-style chalet featuring excellent European food with table service and magnificent views. Mid-mountain the Merry-Go-Round has the largest outdoor deck in the valley. The village also offers a few restaurant options.
Over at Snowmass, Gwyn's High Alpine includes an elegant European-style restaurant and cafeteria-style self-service for guests on the move while Sam's Smokehouse has a new dining area with table service for 175 and beautiful views down the Brush Creek Valley. New for 2008-2009, Sneaky's Tavern in the new Snowmass Village offers up a wide variety of cuisine - we recommend soup and a sandwich with some of Sneaky's world-class French fries.
Aspen/Snowmass is one of the most upscale ski resorts on the planet, but staying in Snowmass or Highlands shouldn't cost the earth.
Aspen/Snowmass is chic and cozy with lodges and condominiums
nestled right on the slopes. With the average home costing over
four million U.S. dollars, Aspen/Snowmass is one of the most
upscale ski resorts on the planet and a playground for the wealthy.
Aspen/Snowmass is certainly not your run-of-the-mill destination
and if you want it ritzy you can have it-rubbing shoulders with
showbiz and sport celebrities, many of whom have homes here-but it
is also a great ski area. Some come to Aspen/Snowmass just to see
and be seen, but skiers and ski-bums in the know are coming here in
increasing numbers to test themselves on Highlands, which boasts
some incredibly challenging terrain, including spectacular
Skiing in Aspen/Snowmass can be very expensive (if you go
five-star) but it can also be affordable. If you're on a tight
budget it is cheaper to stay in Snowmass or Highlands or commute
from one of three more modest towns up to half an hour away. And
there are the occasional freebies such as complimentary mountain
tours, free shuttles between the four mountains, and free coffee
and cookies at the base of the mountains.
Aspen itself is a historic Victorian-era town and has
restaurants, art galleries, stores and boutiques, along with an
opera house, two movie theaters, an ice rink, and a skateboard
Aspen/Snowmass Restaurants & Bars
In Aspen/Snowmass, restaurants range from upscale and elegant through to casual with lots of local flavor.
Aspen enjoys an international reputation for both its
restaurants and its chefs, and many of the restaurants are also
bars. In Aspen, options range from upscale and elegant (The Little
Nell, Piñons, Renaissance, Olives in The St. Regis, and Syzygy)
through to casual spots with lots of local flavor (the J-Bar, La
Cocina, Boogie's and Su Casa). In between, Ajax Tavern, L'Hostaria,
Mezzaluna, Jimmy's, and Blue Maize will satisfy culinary cravings
with ease. Also if you're looking to stray a little from the beaten
path, be sure to check out Zocalito's for excellent Latin/fusion
cuisine in a fun and intimate atmosphere. Most of the dining in the
downtown is within an easy walk of most lodging properties.
In Snowmass, top spots include Krabloonik, Sage, Village
Steakhouse and La Boheme. Restaurants that add a little adventure
to the dining experience include the ever-popular Pine Creek
Cookhouse up Castle Creek Road.
Whatever kind of nightlife, Aspen/Snowmass's got it-from laid
back to high glam-and heaps of it.
In Aspen/Snowmass, apres-ski has been around since the
beginning. Skiers came off the mountain, skied right through town
and parked on a barstool at the 100-year old Red Onion. Today the
tradition continues with over 100 bars and restaurants offering
après ski across town, in every price category and for every
Rated tops for après-ski by Ski magazine, Powder magazine and
Playboy, whatever kind of nightlife, Aspen's got it; from wings and
a pitcher of beer, or fondue with a mulled wine, through to a
bottle of champagne and caviar, at Aspen/Snowmass there's an après
for everyone. The place is chock full of restaurants, bars and
nightlife from romantic dinners to social get-togethers, quiet
tête-à-têtes or non-stop partying. Put on blue jeans, or designer
gear-it doesn't matter as "wear whatever, anywhere" is what
Popular apres-ski hotspots include Ajax Tavern (both inside and
outside on the deck in nice weather) and poolside at the Sky Hotel
where you'll feel like you stepped into a little piece of the
Playboy mansion. While most of the action is in downtown Aspen, if
you find yourself in Snowmass, be sure to check out the chic and
new "Liquid Sky" located in the new Snowmass Village. Zane's Tavern
is also a popular choice with locals.
On the legal side, you must be 21 years old to drink alcohol,
and you cannot walk the street with an open container of alcohol.
Children can accompany their parents in restaurants but not in bars
or clubs which, by the way, shut at 2:00 am.
Aspen/Snowmass Other Activities
Aspen/Snowmass is great for walking: down the main street for window shopping or on snowshoes through the high-mountain terrain.
With such an enormous variety of galleries and shops-including
Chanel's highest-grossing store-there is something for every taste
and pocket. Long renowned as an world leader in art, a stroll
through the downtown will lead you past countless galleries. Even
if Loro Piana cashmere sweaters are a bit out of your price range,
the town is fun for window shopping or just walking around.
Celebrity-spotting is also a fun pastime and here's a hint…you
won't have to look to hard to spot one in Aspen/Snowmass!
Additionally, there are plenty of activities for non-skiers
including daily snowshoe tours-led by naturalist guides-on Aspen
Mountain, and in Snowmass at Two Creeks. Tours include easy walks
along 11,000-foot (3,353-m) Richmond Ridge on the backside of Aspen
Mountain, and follow a secluded, off-trail loop through the woods
at Two Creeks. Along the way, mountain ecology, flora and fauna are
explored and explained. Tours depart twice daily at 10:00 am and