When organized skiing began on Colorado’s Snowmass Mountain in 1963, it’s unlikely those early skiers, dreamers and developers could imagine how large and comprehensive the resort would become. In 1963, the mountain didn’t even have chairlifts. Those wouldn’t be installed until 1967, when the resort officially opened.
For those first few seasons, skiers accessed the powder via snowcat, or hiking. These days, the options are seemingly endless. Here’s a brief rundown on what’s new at Snowmass.
Hike Up To Burnt Mountain
This season Snowmass expanded their modern-day hike-to terrain with three new runs on Burnt Mountain. We found the new runs fun and full of powder. Even with great snow, crowds are light on these new runs, probably because of the hike and the slightly technical rocky exit at the bottom.
First, let’s talk about the hike. It’s short, not more than 10 minutes, but it is uphill. At the top, skiers have a choice of taking the solidly blue Long Shot, which is a perennial Snowmass favorite, or skiing through the gate to the new runs: Split Tree, Rio and A-Line. We skied Burnt Mountain after a big snow, and when we skied through the gate, stunning views of the Roaring Fork Valley opened up before us. The snow was deep and fluffy and while the runs are gladed, they’re relatively open, making them perfect for fast, rewarding tree-skiing.
Now let’s talk about the bottom of the run. Signs clearly warn skiers that the runs will funnel into a short steep cliff band, with tight trees. While you won’t have to jump any cliffs, you do need to be able to make 4-5 quick, tight turns. At the bottom of this short face is a run-out leading back to Long Shot and the Two Creeks base. The traverse is fast and a bit bumpy.
Our verdict: For the first two thirds, the new runs are a blast with fun powder skiing on low angle, gladed slopes. The bottom section is clearly marked, so you shouldn’t be surprised when you get there. You just may want to take your skis in for a tune when you’re done.
Fire on the Mountain
On Friday nights, when the sun goes down, Snowmass lights up with the weekly Ullr Nights celebration at the new Elk Camp Lodge.
Inspired by the Norse god of snow, Ullr Nights has a Scandinavian edge. Inside the beautifully austere Elk Camp lodge, there is a smorgasbord-like feast, live music and plenty of action for the adult crowd in the adjacent fireside bar. But, while adults will have a great time, Ullr Nights is really for the kids.
Vikings (yes, Vikings) roam through the crowd, taking photos and providing a backdrop of flame to the evening fire show (yes, fire show). Out on the snow, there’s a giant snow and ice Viking ship to explore, old-fashioned ice skating to enjoy and a fun, fast, and free tubing and sledding hill.
It costs $5 for kids ages 4-12, and $10 for adults to ride the gondola up to Elk Camp for the evening. But once you’re on top, the only charges are for food and drinks, or alternate activities such as snowshoe and snowbiking tours.
New Places to Lay Your Head
In addition to new runs, new fun and a gorgeous new mid-Mountain lodge, you’ll find two newly renovated hotels this season at Snowmass.
The Westin Snowmass Resort (formerly the Silver Tree) is slopeside and has 254 rooms, including 18 suites with direct access to the snow. There’s a spa, a Kids’ Club and two new restaurants, The Snowmass Kitchen and the Vue Lounge. The pool and hot tub area has been redeveloped, as has the exercise room, offering guests a complete range of full-service comfort.
Next door to the Westin is the funkier Wildwood Snowmass. Don’t confuse this Wildwood with the old Wildwood, which had seen better days. The new Wildwood Snowmass is artsy, small and fun. Rooms are themed, with an emphasis on pop art. A new outdoor pool lies at the center of the complex.
Best of all is the 60’s-inspired Bar at Wildwood. The Bar serves every imaginable drink, as well as affordable pizzas and gourmet hot dogs, making it a fun place for adults and families to hang out. Watch ski movies on the big screen TV or play a board game at your table. And if board games seem too tame, upstairs is the Arcade, where you’ll find foosball, ping pong and pinball machines.
Which changes are you most excited to check out at Snowmass?