Nestled deep in the heart of the Rockies, Aspen is the jewel in the crown of Colorado skiing with four big mountains for skiers to choose from. The resort is best known for its glitz and glamour, and while that’s true, there’s certainly a part of the town’s personality that is down-to-earth and relaxed. This is probably the result of its mining heritage combined with a resort offering some of the country’s best ski terrain and fabulous powder. Whether you're a family looking for your next memorable ski vacation, and avid powderhound, or a hopeless romantic in search of a classic ski-to-après experience, Aspen ticks all the boxes for everyone - there's a reason Scout always goes back to Aspen to ski!
- A run (or two, or three) of the Highland Bowl on a powder day is worth every bit of the 45-minute hike (Just, wow!)
- Four mountains to choose from, each offering something slightly different, and catering to all ability levels and desires.
- The historic downtown buildings of Aspen (you feel like you've stepped back in time).
- Excellent variety of dining options, incredible shopping, and a world-famous après scene.
- A mountain almost dedicated to beginners (Buttermilk). It also plays host to the Winter X Games
- If you have an Ikon Pass you get 7 days in Aspen Snowmass (or 5 days on the Ikon Base Pass). It is also a part of the Mountain Collective.
- Aspen can be pricier than other resorts in Colorado (especially for Aspen town properties)
- Snowmass is better value than staying in the town of Aspen, plus has endless condo options for families, many of which ar.
- Victoria's has the town's best coffee and a perfect spot for people watching.
- The mountains aren’t interconnected via lifts however you can easily get to any of them via the free and efficient resort shuttles. Buses run every 15 minutes.
- The town of Aspen has minimal true ski-in ski-out hotels, but many are barely minutes from the gondola at Aspen Mountain.
- A cocktail and burger at the J Bar at Hotel Jerome is unmissable.
If North America had a mecca where all skiers had to make a pilgrimage at least once in their lives, then Aspen would have to be it. A truly beautiful setting among the spectacular Rocky Mountains, its slightly out-of-the-way location gives it an edge over many of the resorts closer to Denver, which get flooded with weekend skiers. Yet, it’s easily accessed via direct flights from most major cities (LA, SFO, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago & Minneapolis) to an airport that’s only minutes to town (talk about easy to get to!).
While the quality of the skiing would be reason enough to come, the town is equally as appealing with a charm that’s rooted in its turn of the century silver mining heritage. As much as this is a playground for the rich and famous, the locals are some of the most welcoming, authentic characters around (see article: Aspen Highlands Extreme), and you're sure to experience true Colorado mountain hospitality.
Skiers will love being able to choose which one of the four fantastic mountains they will ski each day. A lift ticket is good for any of the resorts and each is slightly different. Aspen Mountain (aka Ajax) soars high above the streets of downtown. It has long, steep, groomed thigh-burning runs as well as some great off-piste options. Your legs don’t get much relief as the fast Silver Queen Gondola takes you straight back up the 3267ft (996m) to do it all again. There are no beginner runs at this mountain, but beginners can’t be offended as they have Buttermilk - a whole mountain that’s almost dedicated entirely to them. Its gentle slopes are perfect for beginners and intermediates. Further down the valley, Snowmass is an intermediate’s dream, and has some awesome advanced terrain so it caters well to all standards. It is also home to great ski school facilities. Last but not least, Aspen Highlands has some of the country’s best extreme terrain. On powder days if you're up for earning some turns, the 45 minute hike to the top of Highlands Bowl will test your fitness (especially considering the summit of the hike is 12,392ft), but it reward you with some spectacular views and incredible, uncrowded bowl skiing (bucket-list worthy!).
But don’t let all that skiing exhaust you too much because there’s so much awesome apres activity in Aspen town – it really roars to life once the lifts stop turning. It has countless restaurants with some outstanding fine dining. Afterwards, the bars kick on with live music and martinis till all hours. See a live local band at the famous Belly-Up Aspen, or take a step back in time with a visit to the sultry underground 1920s speak-easy, Bad Harriet. And if Aspen had a town dish it would be truffle fries – they’re on the menu everywhere. But the best place to enjoy them is during an apres session at Ajax Tavern.
Aspen really does have it all.
Aspen Snowmass Skiing
Aspen Snowmass offers a mammoth ski area, over 5303 acres, with a wide spread of beginner, intermediate, and advanced trails across the 4 resort areas. Aspen itself boasts fantastic powder bowls, tree runs, and gated backcountry skiing, perfect for the advanced skier and snowboarder, as well as plenty of wide groomers for leg-burning top-to-bottom runs.
For less-crowded slope, Aspen Highlands is the spot to ski, with many locals heading to this resort on a powder day. A decent hike along the ridge to the Highland Bowl could possibly bring some of the best powder runs of your skiing career (it's one of our favourite runs!).
Buttermilk is perfectly developed for beginners and families, with uncrowded terrain, innovative learning centre and world-class facilities. Home to the Winter X Games, this resort area is best for freeskiers and those wanting to make a few park laps.
At Snowmass, you could spend a whole week explore the terrain and not ski the same run twice. It's a fantastic choice for expert skiers, with high alpine and gladed skiing. Long blue groomer runs and impressive beginner facilities for those new to skiing are also a major drawcard for Snowmass. The ski school at Aspen Snowmass is also fantastic, offering a wide range of programs for all ages and levels of skiers (Snowmass' Treehouse is home to some of the best childcare facilities in the US).
With one lift ticket and a great shuttle system provides easy access to all ski resorts, the only question you have to answer is "where first?".
Aspen Snowmass is part of the new IKON pass, allowing you to explore more of the resorts in both North America and Canada. It is also part of the Mountain Collective.
Aspen Snowmass For Families
Out of all four resorts in the area, our top pick for families would be Aspen Snowmass - well-known for its world-class facilities and unbeatable slopeside condos catering perfectly for families of all shapes and sizes. Its kids programs and childcare are a big reason why it has become the resort of choice for many local and international families. The Ski & Snowboard School is internationally acclaimed, and offers a fantastic mix of playtime with ski instruction, and childcare for kids from the age of eight weeks. The kids' programs at the Treehouse Kids Adventure Centre at Snowmass and The Hideout at Buttermilk, are specifically tailored to kids of all-ages and ability levels, and provide a great base for the young ones to meet other skiers and snowboarders and take the next step in their learning. Aspen's learning centres have definitely raised the bar for ski schools world-wide, and is highly recommended by Scout for first-timers and families with little ones.
Non-snow activities are also a highlight for families at Aspen Snowmass. The Elk Camp area has become a family hot-spot, with tubing, snowbiking, bonfires, live music, and even some s'mores roasting. The Alpine Coaster at Snowmass provides a thrilling downhill ride through the forest, especially memorable at night.
For accommodation, Snowmass is our go-to option for families, with a great range of options for all budgets, and some great ski-in/ski-out condos for those wanting to be closer to the slopes. It's the best option for families who have children that require the ski school and childcare facilities, and who seek a self-contained option with a kitchen and room to spread out. The free resort shuttle bus makes it incredibly easy for families to make their way around the resort area.
Staying in Aspen town is also a popular spot for families to make their home base, particularly for those with intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, as you have the choice of skiing Aspen (Ajax) or heading to one of the other resorts (barely a 10-15 minute bus ride). Best suited to families who are keen to explore all 4 mountains of Aspen. There is a great range of hotel and condo options in Aspen town, with something to suit every budget and all your families needs, and you're close to major resort facilities, supermarkets, and the endless number of restaurants.
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Most of the accommodation is focused in two areas – the town of Aspen and Snowmass. If you want a wide variety of restaurants, bars and shops at your feet, and the option to choose which mountain to ski each day, then stay in the heart of the town. There is a great range of hotel and condo options in Aspen, with something to suit every budget and all your needs.
If it’s more important to be right on the slopes, then Snowmass might be a better choice. It’s well suited to families and those on a tighter budget, and it's a fantastic (and easy) option for families that need ski school or childcare. Almost all condos in Snowmass are self-contained, and have a full kitchen, laundry, and plenty of room to spread out.
If you’re seeking true luxury and have a big budget you’re spoilt for choice at either location.Search Hotels and Deals
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Aspen has plenty of things to do outside of ski-related activities. The town itself would be the main attraction as there are hundreds of fantastic shops and galleries among meandering streets and pedestrian malls. At night the fairy lights and horse-drawn carriages make it quaint and magical. If you haven’t exhausted your credit card already there are other activities such as snowshoeing, ice-skating, hot air ballooning, day spas and hot springs that are worth a look. Aspen also has some wonderful cultural activities, including the new Aspen Art Museum, the Wheeler Opera House, the Aspen Historical Society, Belly Up Live Music venue and more.
Getting There and Around
Aspen has a fantastic airport that during peak season would seem to have more private jets than any other airport in the country. But it’s not just private jets that come here. It’s well serviced with direct flights from most major cities. Eagle County Regional airport is the next closest, 70 miles (113km) from Aspen while Denver International Airport is about a 4-hour drive. Several operators have regular shuttle services from both airports, and many hotels provide a complimentary airport transfer service from Aspen airport.
There is a free skier shuttle bus between each of the four mountains. It runs from 8am to 4.30pm so no matter where you are staying, you can choose to ski a different mountain each day. In addition to the skier shuttle, the Roaring Fork Transit Authority (RFTA) provides a free and extensive bus service within Aspen until 2am. Once in Aspen town it’s easy and safe to walk around with several pedestrian-only streets.
When To Go
Aspen Mountain and Snowmass usually open at the end of November until around late-April. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk open slightly later in mid-December and close in early April. February is usually the most reliable month for snow.
Holiday periods that are busy are:
- Christmas and New Year.
- Martin Luther King long weekend (Mid January).
- President’s Day long weekend (Mid February).
Facts & Figures
|Base Elevation||7945ft / 2422m||Gondolas||1||Beginner||0%|
|Summit Elevation||11,212ft / 3418m||Express Quads||1||Intermediates||48%|
|Vertical Drop||3267ft / 996m||Quad Chair||1||Advanced||26%|
|Skiable Area||675ac / 273ha||Double Chairs||2||Expert||26%|
|Annual Snowfall||300in / 7.6m||Secondary Lifts||2|
|Longest Run||3 miles / 4.3km|
|Operating Hours||9.00am –3.30pm|
|Base Elevation||8104ft / 247m||Gondolas||2||Beginner||6%|
|Summit Elevation||12,510ft / 3813m||High Speed Six Seater||1||Intermediates||47%|
|Vertical Drop||4406ft / 1343m||Express Quads||7||Advanced||17%|
|Skiable Area||3332ac / 1442ha||Quads||2||Expert||30%|
|Annual Snowfall||303in / 7.7m||Ski School Lifts||2|
|Longest Run||5.3 miles / 8.5km||Platter Pulls||1|
|Operating Hours||8.30am –4.00pm|
|Aspen Highlands||Mountain Information||Lifts||Terrain|
|Base Elevation||8040ft / 2451m||Express Quads||3||Beginner||18%|
|Summit Elevation||11,675ft / 3559m||Triple Chairs||2||Intermediates||30%|
|Summmit Highland Bowl||12,392ft / 3777m|
|Vertical Drop||3635ft / 1108m||Advanced||16%|
|Skiable Area||1040ac / 421ha||Expert||36%|
|Annual Snowfall||300in / 7.6m|
|Longest Run||3.5 miles / 5.6km|
|Operating Hours||9.00am –4.00pm|
|Base Elevation||7870ft / 2399m||Express Quads||3||Beginner||35%|
|Summit Elevation||9900ft / 3018m||Double Chairs||1||Intermediates||39%|
|Vertical Drop||2030ft / 619m||Ski School Lifts||4||Advanced||26%|
|Skiable Area||470ac / 190ha|
|Annual Snowfall||196in / 5m|
|Longest Run||3 miles / 4.83km|
|Operating Hours||9.00am –4.00pm|
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