For many skiers, Aspen is an intimidating place with an extreme reputation. But in truth, Aspen is a world-class town, with world-class skiing. Downtown Aspen, plus it’s four distinct resorts, offers something for everyone, whether you are a beginner, intermediate, advanced or extreme skier, or simply want to enjoy an authentic mountain town.
Nestled within The White River National Forest in the Rocky Mountain region of Colorado, the U.S. ski resort of Aspen Snowmass is rightly one of the premier destinations in the world.
Depending on the context, “Aspen” could refer to a variety of things. First, it’s the name of the most-populous city in Pitkin County, with 7,000 year-round residents living at 8,000 feet above sea-level. Second, it could refer to any, or all, of the four Aspen Snowmass ski resorts that are owned and operated by Aspen Skiing Company, which is locally known as “Ski Co.” When someone says they skied “Aspen” they could be talking about Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk or Snowmass. Not to add further confusion, but Aspen Mountain is also sometimes referred to as “Ajax” as, back in the 1800s, when the mountain was a silver mine, the area that sits directly under the now-popular Sundeck Restaurant was known as Ajax Hill. “Ajax” is also the name of the high-speed quad that sits mid-mountain, as well as the name of the tavern that’s at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola.
Aspen Mountain itself is not for the faint-hearted nor the absolute beginner, who would be better off aiming for Snowmass, which is nine miles (15 km) away from downtown Aspen and more tuned-in for families. Just three miles (5kn) from town, Buttermilk is home to the X-games and is best suited to beginners and intermediates. Nearby, Aspen Highlands caters to advanced and expert skiers looking to test their mettle on some of the steepest, most extreme ski runs in North America.
The village of Aspen has long been regarded as one of America’s premier ski towns. The town predated the skiing and is noted for its Victorian architecture, posh hotels, world-class restaurants and sky-high prices. A favorite destination for the American (and European) elite, movie stars (and reality TV stars) are a frequent sight in town as are members of royal families. Aspen’s downtown area is the hub of its nightlight and home to its best restaurants. Just a few miles from the village of Aspen itself is Snowmass, the largest of Aspen’s four largest ski mountains. While lodging prices are almost as high in Snowmass as in Aspen itself, there are far more options. In the evenings, Snowmass is a sleepier alternative, as most of the better restaurants and rambunctious ski partying is in Aspen itself. Many people who prefer to stay in an authentic Colorado town choose to stay in Aspen, while families and those who are looking for roomier accommodations tend to prefer Snowmass.