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The four mountains of Aspen Snowmass are kind of like a rock band. You have a charismatic lead singer (Aspen Mountain, clearly); a virtuoso guitarist who can really shred (Aspen Highlands); the versatile drummer who can keep any beat going (Snowmass); and you have the quiet bassist (Buttermilk) who every now and then throws down a rager (like Winter X Games).
Truth is, while many mountain resorts have a couple of mountains to choose from, few have as much personality as the four mountains of Aspen Snowmass. And since a single lift ticket gives you access to them all, you may as well take a few days and get to know each mountain.
1. Aspen Mountain
The personality: Spontaneous and social
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Aspen Mountain rises 3,267 vertical feet above downtown Aspen. Known locally as the social mountain, Aspen Mountain is the kind of place where friends bump into each other, share a few runs, then meet up with more friends for truffle fries and craft brews at Ajax Tavern.
Navigating its slopes is an exercise in improvisation. Do you challenge every fiber of your being on the Face of Bell, or make like a World Cup skier and descend Ruthie’s Run, Strawpile and Norway? (By the way, Aspen Mountain will be hosting the 2017 Audi FIS World Cup Finals in March — the first time a non-European ski resort has hosted the finals in 19 years). No matter how you improvise, Aspen Mountain will win you over with its many charms.
2. Aspen Highlands
The personality: Local and in-the-know
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Without question, Aspen Highlands is the locals’ mountain. Each year, there is a fever-pitch fanaticism with the opening of Highland Bowl — a goliath swath of in-bounds terrain that feels more like the backcountry. For the valley’s best skiers and riders, hiking the Bowl on a powder day isn’t a rite of passage … it is a way of life.
While you might not call Highland Bowl a “secret,” the rest of Aspen Highlands could certainly qualify. The Deep Temerity section off the top boasts some genuine double-black steeps and trees, while intermediate glades and bowls toward the lower portion of the mountain have been known to hold onto powder stashes for days — partly because they’re undiscovered.
Top it all off with the jovial fun of Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro’s afternoon après ski scene, and you have a mountain that invites you to ski and party like a local.
The personality: Gregarious and highly adaptable
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We all have that friend who can hang out with anybody and is up for anything. Snowmass is that kind of mountain.
Want to hike-in for a powder run through exquisite glades? OK, head to Burnt Mountain. Want a few mellow cruisers with your kids? OK, ride up the Alpine Springs Lift and take your pick. Want to throw down in a terrain park? OK, visit the Snowmass Terrain Park & Superpipe.
No matter what you are up for, Snowmass will satisfy any kind of terrain-based desire you might have, even upper-echelon extreme terrain (the Cirque and High Alpine areas of the mountain are legendary). You could spend an entire season discovering Snowmass’ 3,332 skiable acres, and still feel like you have unfinished business. New this season, Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant has been completely remodeled with increased seating and a “market” style flow within the restaurant.
The personality: Unhurried and easy-going
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Buttermilk has been the host mountain for the ESPN Winter X Games going on 16 years straight. Each January, the base is transformed into the biggest stage in the world for skiers and snowboarders, who push the limits of gravity on Buttermilk’s freeride course and halfpipe.
But all of those years of X Games glory hasn’t changed the vibe at Buttermilk.
The surprisingly expansive mountain is still ideal for families and beginners who can earn their ski legs on Buttermilk’s easy groomers, before graduating to its stellar blues. Even those seeking more of an adrenaline rush find Buttermilk to be an excellent match, with two terrain parks and the near-perfect glades and mogul runs of the Tiehack section.
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