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A few Aspen questions for Presidents Week-end

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

My son and I will be skiing four days at Aspen on the Thursday-Sunday in February of Presidents week-end. I don't know if I would use the word "expert" to describe us but we like skiing the blacks and especially enjoy staying off the main slopes and staying in the trees.


I have three questions:

1) Since the pass works at all four resorts I thought we would do one day at each resort. I have never been to any of them. If that is the plan is there any order I should do these in the sense of : Are any of them going to be better to do on Thursday and Friday as opposed to the week-end? I hate lift lines.


2) Buttermilk looks small (relative to the others) and it seems to have no blacks. Is there still enough for a day and is there some tree skiing available.


3) Parking: I am driving in from Carbondale and renting skis from Incline Ski Shop. Can I park at the same place each day and take buses everywhere. I have no clue about the locations of the different resorts. I know that I am already paying a lot to ski and would rather not pay to park unless it will make my life that much easier.


Thanks a lot and any other suggestions would be great. I had great advice the past few years for our trips to Jackson Hole and Utah and I am looking for more.

post #2 of 11

My suggestion would be to skip Buttermilk, ski Snowmass on Thursday, Ajax  Friday, and Aspen Highlands on Saturday, then decide which one you liked the best for Sunday. Drive your car to each resort and if you have to pay for parking it won't be to expensive. Aspen Highlands usually has the least crowds.

post #3 of 11

1. Lift lines are pretty rare, but they can happen occasionally.  It's probably more conditional, ie. big powder day, there may be a line at the gondi in the am.


2. They put in a new HSQ at Tiehack, the expert side of Buttermilk, this year.  They are nice easy blacks with some good gladed skiing that doesn't see much traffic.  If it's a powder day, it might be your best bet.  Plus you can park right at the lift for free, so maybe you could just do a 1/2 day morning there and then hit Highlands in the afternoon.


I don't know if your kid is a jibber, but he Crazy Train Terrain Park is incredible and the pipe is gigantic.


3. Parking can be an issue and I don't know much about it, because I don't have to deal with it.  Snowmass has free parking at the rodeo lot and then you take a  bus up from there.  Highland's free parking is at Buttermilk or in the Highlands garage after noon. All parking is free with HOV, 4 or more, but that won't really help you.

In Aspen most of my friends that drive park on Ute Ave and go to the gondi or S. Aspen Street and go to Shadow Mountain lift.


post #4 of 11

The few times I've been, we stayed in SM and took the shuttle to each place, no need for a car.

I agree, skip BM and go to the other 3 then decide which one you liked best and go there again.


post #5 of 11

You can always take a RFTA Express bus from Carbondale.   Take an express bus or the ride will take forever.   Try to get Linda's bus - she's nice & friendly.  It's a cushy bus too.

post #6 of 11

Are you staying in Carbondale with friends?  You might consider staying in town at least one night just to enjoy the town and that might negate two days of parking?  

Just about every restaurant has a bar menu.  Same food, but 40-50% off.

post #7 of 11

When I skied there the first time 2 years ago, I also had 4 days. I did Ajax, Snowmass, Highlands, and Snowmass again. I skied Buttermilk for about an hour, it is not worth it. I really liked all three, Snowmass is so massive that I skied it the 4th day to explore the whole mountain.

post #8 of 11

Ski Aspen Ajax first.... then the Snowmass or Highlands on the weekend.

Tiehack at Buttermilk is Klaus's favorite place to cruise.




post #9 of 11

1. THERE IS NO PARKING AT AJAX, and you will be ticketed for parking on the Aspen streets. I don't think there is parking at Highlands either. Park at Buttermilk each day and take the shuttle to where you want to go.  You may want to drive and park at Snowmass, as that is the only mountain that is any real amount of distance away from the Buttermilk parking lots.


2. Its pretty hard to give you advice with just "like skiing blacks" to go off of.  What is your home mountain? What type of runs do you enjoy skiing? Bowls? Moguls? Powder? The three major Aspen mountains are at the top end of challenge for major resorts. A "Black" run can mean completely different things depending on the ski area rating it, so without knowing where you are skiing, we can't really give you any idea of where to guide you. In addition, the Aspen mountains have a LOT of vertical, so there is a good chance you will be skiing runs that are a lot longer than you are used to. There are plenty of advanced and expert runs at Aspen that drop for 2000+ vertical feet before you get a chance to bail out to an easier run.


Elevation is also a consideration. The recommendation is to spend a day acclimating at altitude before you go and exert yourself, or some people in your party can have a bad time. Its not feasible for a lot of people to do this, so if you can't I would start out at Buttermilk to get a feel for what you are skiing. Nothing keeps you from taking ten minutes to jump the shuttle someplace else if you want more challenge that first day. 


If not Buttermilk, I would start at Snowmass. There is a lot of terrain there, and Snowmass has a ton of good intermediate terrain, as well as a lot of really advanced stuff up top. Basically, Snowmass can be as wild or as tame as you are comfortable with, and it will help give you a feel for how they rate trails.


Ajax and Highlands have basically no true beginner terrain, and both mountains have a lot of vert and a lot of pitch. Ajax has more of a european feel, especially if it hasn't snowed- lots of moguls and stuff that appeals to hard-snow guys. Highlands has steeps, with a lot of very steep gladed runs, as well as obviously, Highland's bowl.


If you can hack it, hiking Highlands is an experience, but you really want to make sure you are physically capable of hiking 1,000 vertical feet on a knife ridge in ski boots, let alone capable of skiing 50*+ pitches for 1800 vertical feet down. If it has snow, it is epic. When skiing the bowl, stay off of the Y-zones unless you catch a day with 9+ inches that morning- it is south facing and gets pretty hard quickly. If there has been snow in the days before your trip, the rest of the bowl is usually good- they stagger out opening the bowl after storms to make sure the whole bowl gets uniformly ski packed for avalanche control, which means after a large storm, you can still get fresh tracks for days after as the ski patrol does staggered openings.


Highlands has a snow cat that they use to transport ski patrol out to Highlands bowl, and you can ride the cat out to the beginning of the knife ridge, which saves you about 1/3 of a mile on the hike. However, this only covers the flat part of the hike, and on busy days, it can be faster to walk it rather than wait in line for the cat.  

post #10 of 11

Don't mean to Hi Jack this thread and maybe I'm not as I am asking an Aspen related question.  Anachronism, we are making our second trip out to Aspen the first week of April.  I have three kids in tow and last year we did not get a chance to get over to Highlands.  I would like to try Highland bowl, but after much research I am not sure if my skiing is up to it.  I would rate my self as an advanced intermediate skier with not much powder experience.  Like you say above blacks are not blacks on the same mountain and I am not sure if I could ski the bowl.  My question is this.  Is there any part of the bowl that is easier than the other?  If someone was going up for the first time where would they start?  I have read that ski ambassadors will take you up.  Is this a good option?


Thanks for the info.



post #11 of 11

It depend on conditions, but generally if you can ski all the way down Steeplechase,  to the deep t chair, you can ski most of the bowl.  If it's sunny, warm and soft, drop right in after the cat drop off?

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