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Snowmass March 11-18

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Since I was all over these forums for a few weeks prior to our family trip to Snowmass, I figured I might as well post the results!  

 

First off, we flew Newark/Chicago/Aspen.  Didn't want to fly into Vail since I didn't wan to pay $$$$ for a 4-wheel drive vehicle and didn't want to chance it with a bald tire rental car through the less-tame-than-Denver-Vail-but-still-mountaneous hour and a half drive to Snowmass.  Well, bad idea.  It was 40* and sunny in both Newark and Colorado, but stormy in Chicago.  After a 3 hour delay in Newark and a separate 2.5 hour delay in Chicago, we rolled into Snowmass a little after 10 pm local time.  Of everything that happened during our trip, I was most proud of our two boys (12 and 10) not complaining once during the ordeal.  Then again, they were so pumped to ski out west again that maybe I'm giving them too much credit!!  

 

We stayed in Woodrun V.  I can't say enough about how amazing the lodgings were.  My wife has an appetite for luxury, so when we do go west we generally stay 4 star plus.  While I've stayed swankier and slightly more convenient, the combination of Woodrun V in Snowmass is hard to beat.  We literally did not hear another soul all week while in the condo, and the adjacent condos were all occupied.  We had a ton of space to move about on two levels, walked about 100 feet to the lockable ski racks on the slope, and skied down 30 seconds to either the gondola or the base chairlift.  My wife and I stopped here several times for lunch, and it was probably quicker than going to one of the on-mountain lodges (though the Elk camp salad bar and Ullrhof burgers were excellent).  

 

What can I say about the skiing?  We're a mostly groomer family.  I'll venture off piste from time to time, and will take the boys into the trees and bumps while the wife skies parallel on groomers.  I've skied most Colorado resorts over the past 20 years, a few CA and Canada.  I'm in complete love with Snowmass, and not sure anything else fits our family sweetspot as well.  The boys did ski school for two days.  Older one is level 8, younger level 7, and they challenged them within those levels the whole day.  Such great instruction, and we can always judge within five minutes whether they enjoyed the experience.  They each were torn as to whether they wanted to go back for more or ski with their parents, and spent the next four days happily acting as our guides on the mountain.  

 

They received a nice foot dump two days before arrival, so the first few days saw bluebird skies and excellent conditions top to bottom.  The snow softened up considerably by the 3rd and 4th days, and the 5th and 6th were a bit choppy.  But we stayed on Big Burn and top of Elk most of the time, which had good to excellent snow the whole time.  Speaking of which, I know we're not the first to say this but I think I could happily ski Big Burn all day for a whole season.  It's just fun.  The wife can ski confidently while I can look like the expert I once was carving those big GS turns in good form.  The boys can jut in and out of the trees, find a few bumps underneath the chair, and cut across to one of the race courses if we go all the way down to the bottom.  Ditto the top of Elk, which is just enough of a difference to be a change but which has enough similarities to keep everyone happy.  

 

I'll be honest- I had my new Kastle MX88's and was ready to test them a little, but never got the pull to do so.  It's the first time I didn't get bored on the blues.  We all loaded our Navionics on our phones, and the boys got a kick out of trying to top the prior day's totals.  I do wish I could block the speed limit from that app, but they didn't get too crazy!!  

 

Anyway, sorry about the above hodge podgey post.  We had some great meals in Aspen, a pretty good meal with a wonderful magician at Artisan in Snowmass, and thank goodness for end of year sales at some of the stores prior to our Aspen meals!  

 

We didn't get to try any of the other mountains.  Not sure that's a bad thing, since when you fall in absolute head-over-heels love there's often little reason to leave that love.  

 

Oh, and we flew back out on a direct from Vail.  Wonderful little drive.  

post #2 of 18

Nice write-up.  I just got from Aspen/Snowmass last night and I'll summarize my thoughts here rather than writing a full scale review.  It is my first visit to the area for skiing and has been a bucket list item for many, many years so I was anxious to go (thanks Mountain Collective pass).  However, the trip was tailored to the two friends from DC I met there and most of the skiing centered around their intermediate level skills.  I only got a few runs per day at Snowmass and an afternoon at Aspen to hit some of the more adventurous terrain.  Overall, we had a great time and I think Aspen has tons going for it (so please consider this bottom line in any negativity expressed below).  I think ranking areas on fine distinctions as kind of stupid since skiing anywhere can be great but I would put it as #1 in Colorado. 

 

As has been mentioned by others, the difficulty ranking at Snowmass are definitely skewed relative to many other areas.  Many of the blues at Snowmass would be greens at other mountains.  In fact, there are some blacks at Snowmass that would probably be green at Sun Valley (i.e. the Campground area at Snowmass is less steep than Seattle Ridge or College).  This is not true at Aspen proper which is more in line to what I am accustomed.  That is not a problem and it was right in the wheelhouse for my friends.  Additionally, many of the runs, while not very steep, had a lot of personality with terrain variations, rolls, drop offs etc. so they were still a lot of fun to ski.  I enjoyed the couple of runs I had in the Cirque area and the Hanging Valley area looked great.  My friends liked Elk Camp the best (probably because the skiing there is so effortless it made them feel like heros).  I preferred the runs of Sheer Bliss to those off of its neighbor, Big Burn.  We had a surprise 6 inch storm the first day that allowed for some good (if not deep) soft snow skiing.  This provided a good surface for the following two days.  It was more like mid-winter skiing than the springtime conditions I was expecting based on the weather reports earlier in the week.

 

I really like the afternoon I spent at Aspen Mountain alone.  It is the sort of mountain that you string together segments to create a run.  My favorite was any of the short runs off the top to Bell Mt. and then down Spar Gulch or back up the quad.  I recognize this is probably due to luck of the draw but I rode the lifts with a disproportionately high percentage of snobby people.  Aspen itself and the people wandering the streets has more conspicuous displays of wealth than any other ski destination I have visited.   

 

 We stayed slopeside at Snowmass and I would rank the convenience as an "A" and the value at a "C-".  Sam's Knob Smokehouse got our nod as the best on slope lunch and a pretty good value for the money when compared to other options.  The price of on-slope food was significantly higher than other ski destinations with good reputations for food (i.e. Deer Valley, Sun Valley, Snowbasin, etc.).  My friend paid $45 for a bowl of soup, relatively small salad ($14.95/pound), and Bloody Mary.  Our best meal of the trip was at Mezzaluna in Aspen. 

post #3 of 18

Thanks @golden23 and @SB77 for the trip reports.  Tagged so it's easier for others to find later on.

 

Got the MCP for next season with the extra day at Snowmass/Aspen.  Tagging along on my husband's business trip to Denver during ski season.  Will stick around to ski after he (non-skier) goes home.

post #4 of 18

@SB77, glad you had a good time at Aspen.  Yes, there are some blacks that are less challenging than at some other areas at Snowmass, but Snowmass also has real terrain.  Too bad you didn't find it.  Things like AMF (Adios, Mother ....) and Goudeys, the Hidden Valley, the Headwall, Cirque, etc.

 

There's challenging terrain off of High Alpine as well.

 

Plan to return and explore some of the more intimidating terrain!

 

<ole

post #5 of 18
I did not mean to imply that there was no challenging terrain at Snowmass, just that a lot of the runs designated with a single black are not very steep. I was primarily skiing with two occasional skiers so I was limited in what I could ski. I snuck in a few runs in the Cirque on AMF and KT Gully. I was particularly disappointed to miss the Hanging Valley wall area because that looked great from Elk Camp. The main point of the trip was to spend time with good friends that I only see once a year (or less).

Anything with a double black designation appears to be pretty serious and there is a ton of it in the Cirque and Hanging Valley areas-did not mean to communicate otherwise. I suspect that there is more double black acreage at Snowmass than the total acreage of Aspen Mountain. Many of the single blacks are not very steep or, in a few cases, not really steep at all. The main exception i found were a few of the short drops in the Sheer Bliss area.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 

We also ate at Mezzaluna and were actually a bit surprised by the value.  Considering the quality and location, we paid less for a meal there than we do at home (granted, NY Metro area, but still).  

 

With respect to value on the mountain, I will echo that the dining options are much steeper than other resorts.  We were routinely over $80 for a party of 4 for lunch, with two of those children eating burgers/chicken tenders/pizza.  I always find that staying in a condo offsets that, however, as you can journey in for lunch, eat all of your breakfasts in, and have the occasional dinner when the troops are too tired to venture out.  

 

We had a little altitude sickness with one of our boys, but after he downed about 20 bottles of water and got a good night's sleep we were all good.  

 

A little disappointed in ULLR nights.  It was a neat experience, but lines for tubing were long, there were no tables free to eat, and it seemed a bit  jumbled.  Kids liked the snow biking, and since it was all free I can't really complain, but we were expecting a bit more for some reason.  

 

One last thing- I can't say enough about the employees.  We were impressed by Beaver Creek a few years ago, but the difference was that they seemed to be doing their jobs.  At Snowmass, every young employee was dancing to music, over the top engaging, and helpful without being intrusive.  We shared a gondola on multiple occasions with random instructors, and they were chatty and informative the whole time.  Yes, it's easy to be happy when it's 40* and sunny in March, but I got the sense everyone there really loved what they were doing.  

post #7 of 18
Quote:
 ~~We also ate at Mezzaluna and were actually a bit surprised by the value.

Agreed--it was a good value even by SLC Metro standards.  Another fun place we hit was Woody Creek Tavern.

 

Quote:
 ~~ At Snowmass, every young employee was dancing to music, over the top engaging, and helpful without being intrusive. We shared a gondola on multiple occasions with random instructors, and they were chatty and informative the whole time. Yes, it's easy to be happy when it's 40* and sunny in March, but I got the sense everyone there really loved what they were doing.

Also agreed--the lifties were friendly and fun as were all other ski area employees I encountered.  We all had a really great time and would love to go back.  I need to hit the Hanging Valley area and Highlands next time.  The Highlands Bowl and Deep Temerity area look really impressive from Aspen Mountain.  I thought I was going to have a full day for myself and was going to try to hit both Aspen and Highlands but my friend was having such a good time he decided to ski before his early afternoon flight.  Too bad for him he didn't ski all day because his flight got cancelled (due to tail winds apparently) on a clear (and not seemingly very windy day).

post #8 of 18

What surprises me about both of the above trip reports was that you both perhaps missed the real jewel of Aspen...i.e., Aspen Highlands.  In my opinion, every trip to Aspen should include at least one day at Highlands.  Even when staying in Snowmass, the bus ride over to Highlands is so easy and painless that it breaks my heart that you missed out on an incredible ski mountain.

post #9 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

What surprises me about both of the above trip reports was that you both perhaps missed the real jewel of Aspen...i.e., Aspen Highlands.  In my opinion, every trip to Aspen should include at least one day at Highlands.  Even when staying in Snowmass, the bus ride over to Highlands is so easy and painless that it breaks my heart that you missed out on an incredible ski mountain.

For a family who mainly ski groomers, what areas of Aspen Highlands are not to be missed?  Is it worth the bus ride if there are young kids who are in Snowmass ski school?  That wasn't the case for the OP, but I'm curious for future reference.  I have several friends with elementary school age kids who are just starting on the slopes. Sooner or later they will ask for recommendations for a trip out west.  I took my daughter to Alta at that stage.

post #10 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

For a family who mainly ski groomers, what areas of Aspen Highlands are not to be missed?

Golden Horn/Thunder Bowl area has the best groomers.
Highland's doesn't have nearly the amount of real easy terrain as Snowmass.
I wouldn't take a beginner to Highlands, Snowmass or Buttermilk are much better.
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by marznc View Post

For a family who mainly ski groomers, what areas of Aspen Highlands are not to be missed?

Golden Horn/Thunder Bowl area has the best groomers.
Highland's doesn't have nearly the amount of real easy terrain as Snowmass.
I wouldn't take a beginner to Highlands, Snowmass or Buttermilk are much better.

That's helpful.  For a few of the families I know in NC/VA, I can imagine the fathers wanting to go explore for a day.  They aren't that much better than their wives, but are less fearful of falling.  If they are at Snowmass, they might as well go get a sense of another mountain that is considered more for advanced/experts.  I'm planning on using the MCP to check out Snowmass/Aspen/Aspen Highlands next March but if the snow is good, I won't be spending much time on blue groomers.

post #12 of 18

As SHREADHEAD said, Golden Horn/Thunder Bowl is great.  Even for a family who sticks to nothing more than grommers, there is plenty of great terrain at Highlands with Broadway/Hayden all the way at the top with the Face of Oly/Cloud Nine area at mid-mountain.  I think the OP's family would have had a blast at Highlands.  Of course, Snowmass has a ton more groomers, but Highlands is not to be missed in my opinion.

post #13 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lofcaudio View Post
 

As SHREADHEAD said, Golden Horn/Thunder Bowl is great.  Even for a family who sticks to nothing more than grommers, there is plenty of great terrain at Highlands with Broadway/Hayden all the way at the top with the Face of Oly/Cloud Nine area at mid-mountain.  I think the OP's family would have had a blast at Highlands.  Of course, Snowmass has a ton more groomers, but Highlands is not to be missed in my opinion.

It's worth it for the view from Cloud 9 restaurant if nothing else.

 

Mike

post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by habacomike View Post
 

It's worth it for the view from Cloud 9 restaurant if nothing else.

 

Mike

 

Which view?  The one from IN the restaurant or the one outside?  :D

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by golden23 View Post
We stayed in Woodrun V.  I can't say enough about how amazing the lodgings were.  My wife has an appetite for luxury, so when we do go west we generally stay 4 star plus.  While I've stayed swankier and slightly more convenient, the combination of Woodrun V in Snowmass is hard to beat.  We literally did not hear another soul all week while in the condo, and the adjacent condos were all occupied.  We had a ton of space to move about on two levels, walked about 100 feet to the lockable ski racks on the slope, and skied down 30 seconds to either the gondola or the base chairlift.  My wife and I stopped here several times for lunch, and it was probably quicker than going to one of the on-mountain lodges (though the Elk camp salad bar and Ullrhof burgers were excellent).  

Thank you for the report. How did you book Woodrun? Through Snowmass? I am trying to decide between Westin and the slopeside condos.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SB77 View Post
We stayed slopeside at Snowmass and I would rank the convenience as an "A" and the value at a "C-". 

 

Thanks for chiming in. DO you remeber where you guys stayed at? How did you book it?

post #16 of 18
Quote:
Thanks for chiming in. DO you remeber where you guys stayed at? How did you book it?

We stayed at Interlude. My friend booked it with his plane ticket through Expedia.
post #17 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by lerops View Post

Thank you for the report. How did you book Woodrun? Through Snowmass? I am trying to decide between Westin and the slopeside condos.



Thanks for chiming in. DO you remeber where you guys stayed at? How did you book it?

I worked in properly management when I first moved to Snowmass, some thirty years ago, so some of my info is dated.

I would look at the Crestwood condos. It's an older complex that's well maintained, has good management and a high level of service, ie. they'll pick you up at the airport.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 

I COMPLETELY missed this post in the spring.  Many apologies!  

 

If it's not too late (or for future reference), I booked Woodrun V through their website.  Found a property I liked, inquired about it, and received the most amazingly detailed responses for my dozen or so queries over the next few days.  The women in the main office were over-the-top helpful.  

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