The beauty of buying a lift ticket – or multi-day lift tickets – at Aspen/Snowmass is that you can choose to ski or ride at four distinctly different mountains, all linked by free transportation. Each mountain has its own personality – experience them all on a week’s vacation to determine your family’s favorite! Here’s a down-and-dirty guide to help you decide where to go first:
Buttermilk: My family loves this mountain. It’s certainly the most accessible and easiest to navigate. We let our kids (intermediate skiers ages 9 and 11) ski by themselves and meet us for lunch at Bumps at the main base area. They love whipping through the trees on runs labeled “Mr. Toad’s Road” and “Moose Alley” – no parents allowed unless accompanied by a kid! The gentle terrain here is ideal for beginning skiers; children can sample the short, mellow Panda Peak two-seat chairlift before graduating to the bigger high-speed lifts. Little rippers can conquer the boxes in the small terrain park; the larger one has more difficult features. Even if no one in your group wants to tackle the 22-foot superpipe, it’s fun to watch experts rock it. New this season is a high-speed quad chairlift on the eastern side of the ski area dubbed Tiehack; to the top in 7 minutes!
Snowmass: The largest of Aspen/Snowmass’ four mountains, Snowmass has terrain to please all skill levels – really! While Mom skis with one kid on Elk Camp’s gloriously wide blue runs, Dad can take the short hike up to intermediate Long Shot in search of fresh powder on this wonderfully long trail. Meet up to check out the new 12-foot beginner halfpipe in Lowdown Park (one of three terrain parks) and relax over lunch at any of the awesome on-mountain restaurants; I’m partial to Sam’s Smokehouse, Gwyn’s High Alpine or Café Suzanne. On this vast mountain, your family could spend the entire day here, not hitting the same trail twice!
Aspen Highlands: I love to ski Highlands namely because of its breathtaking views from the top of the mountain; be sure to bring your camera to capture gorgeous images of rugged Pyramid Peak and the famous Maroon Bells from the slopes. Scenery aside, I’m as happy as a clam on Highlands’ blue trails, but my husband and daughter enjoy tackling some of the steeper black diamonds. For the most energetic and experienced of your group, check out the challenging in-bound double-black terrain Highland Bowl which involves a hike to the top. It’s like skiing chutes in backcountry only with ski-patrol protection. Preview the scene at Highland Bowl by checking out the live video feed at newly renovated Merry Go Round restaurant, with lots of seating, a spacious bar and cool historic photos on the walls.
Aspen Mountain: Aspen’s in-town mountain looms above downtown shops and restaurants. It’s certainly the most convenient place to ski if you’re staying right in town – walk to the gondola or take a two-minute shuttle from your hotel or condo. However, it’s important for skiing families to know that Aspen Mountain has no green runs – zero. So these are not the slopes to attempt if you have a novice skier in your midst. However, if you’re a fan of steep trails, bumps and nice long blue runs, you’ll love Aspen Mountain. I’m partial to skiing Ajax on warm, sunny days with lunch outdoors at Bonnie’s or the Sundeck. Another mid-day option: ski on down to the base and park yourselves at The Little Nell’s Ajax Tavern for the best truffle fries ever.