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.
- A run (or two, or three) of the Highland Bowl on a powder day is worth every bit of the 45-minute hike.
- Four mountains to choose from, each offering something slightly different.
- A mountain almost dedicated to beginners (Buttermilk). It also plays host to the ESPN Winter X Games
- Excellent dining options and a fun nightlife.
- Aspen isn’t cheap. Budget hotels are priced like mid-range hotels in other resorts. Snowmass is better value than staying in the town of Aspen.
- The mountains aren’t connected 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 only one true ski-in ski-out hotel. If this is important Snowmass has a ton of options and there is one at Aspen Highlands and one at Buttermilk.
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, it’s 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.
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).
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 Silver Queen Gondola takes you straight back up the 3267ft (996m) to do it all again. There are no beginner runs here. But beginners can’t be offended as they have Buttermilk - a mountain that’s almost dedicated to them. Its gentle slopes are perfect for beginners and intermediates. Meanwhile, Snowmass has some great ski school facilities, is an intermediate’s dream and has some awesome advanced terrain so it caters well to all standards. And 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 reward you with some spectacular views and incredible, un-crowded bowl skiing.
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. 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 LIFT PASS DEALS FOR THE 16-17 SEASON
Get 30 consecutive days of unlimited skiing and riding when purchasing 7+ nights of discounted lodging at participating Aspen Snowmass properties. Valid for dates between Jan 1- April 2 with no blackout dates. Conditions apply. Purchase via Scout (along with lodging) for:
- $680 USD ($365 USD for child/senior/teen) when booked by August 31, 2016 OR
- $780 USD ($415 USD for child/senior/teen) when booked by Oct 15, 2016 OR
- $849 USD ($450 USD for child/senior/teen) when booked 30 days prior to arrival
SKI30 is the best pass to get when skiing 11+ days. SKI30 also includes a 10% dining discount at on-mountain restaurants.
Get 10 consecutive days of unlimited skiing and riding when purchasing discounted lodging at participating Aspen Snowmass properties. Valid for dates between Jan 1- April 2 with no blackout dates. Conditions apply. Purchase via Scout (along with lodging) for USD$550 (adults 18-64 only). This represents a 66% discount on the window rate (based on 15-16 season pricing).
SKI10 is the best pass to get when skiing 6-10 days.
Kids Ski Free
Kids ages 7-12 receive a free lift ticket with the purchase of a comparable child equipment rental package via Scout from Four Mountain Sports, when staying in discounted lodging at participating Aspen Snowmass properties. No adult rental purchase necessary in order to qualify. 2-day rental package minimum purchase required. Other conditions apply. Children under 6 always ski free.
If the child needs to rent their own equipment, this is the best deal. If they have their own equipment and are skiing for long periods the SKI30 pass is a better deal however, even if they have their own equipment, this deal is better if skiing under 8 days (premium equipment) or 11 days (standard equipment).
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 then stay in town. 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. If you’re seeking true luxury and have a big budget you’re spoilt for choice at either location.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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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 wondeful cultural activies, including the new Aspen Art Museum, the Wheeler Opera House, the Aspen Historical Society, Belly Up Live Music venue and more.
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.
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. There are several pedestrian only streets.
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, January 14-16 (2017).
- President’s Day long weekend, February 18-20 (2017).
|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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