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Snowmass CO Area - Where to Ski

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
My wife and I are part of a large ski trip to Snowmass in late January. There are some scheculed activities (recreational races) at Snowmass. We also have the opportunity to visit Aspen Highlands, Ajax, or Buttermilk over the six ski days.

Where should we spend our time? What are some advantages and disadvantages of these areas? Do you specific recommendations for lifts/runs. (I know nothing of these areas except my wife was there many years ago and when she saw the trip to Snowmass she said she wanted to go. Being the good husband I did not argue.)

We ski primarily Tahoe and have skied Whistler. We love long fast groomers but also enjoy the off-piste and steeps. We are comfortable on single blacks and some double blacks. We shy away from the more extreme stuff at Alpine Meadows (such as Our Father) or at Whistler (like the couloir on the Blackcomb side). Whistler Bowl was fine.

I welcome your thoughts and recommendations.
post #2 of 11
Where are you staying? Will you have a car?
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
We're staying at the Top of the Village in Snowmass. We wil not have a car. Transportation will be available on most of the ski days to either Ajax, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands, or Snowmass. Tickets to these are included.
post #4 of 11
If I were staying in Snowmass for 6 days of skiing (which I did last year!) I'd ski Snowmass for 4 days, and do a day each at Aspen Highlands and Aspen Mountain. (Actually, if I were going back now, I might skip Aspen Mountain, but, if you've never done it before, you might want to give it a chance.)

Transportation between the mountains is free on the bus system (during the day) and convenient. Obviously, your lift ticket is interchangeable.

Snowmass is fabulous and huge and well-laid out. I think it may be my favorite mountain anywhere! You will definitely find enough terrain to explore and have fun on, even if you skied all 6 days there (which you easily could!)

However, I think you will want to try Aspen Mountain. Just to say you did. I didn't care for the layout myself, but some people love it; I thought most of the blacks/double blacks were too short & funneled you badly into blue groomers (which I hate) for a long run to the base. But, I'm glad I did it; who knows, you might like it.

Also try Aspen Highlands. I liked it better than Aspen Mtn, not as much as Snowmass. What I did like was the experience of hiking up to Highland Bowl and skiing it. Felt like a real accomplishment to do that, and then the run from the bowl all the way to the bottom of the resort goes on forever & ever. From the sounds of it, you have the skills to do this, so pick a sunny day after a good snowfall (if possible!) and you'll have a great experience.

Of course, if you try Aspen Highlands or Aspen Mountain early in the trip and really fall in love with either one, you can add another day at those. But, I guess I think that you'll like Snowmass best and want to spend the majority of time there.

As far as Buttermilk, it's their beginner mountain. I didn't bother to go there, and I can't see a compelling reason you would want to go there either.

Have fun!

post #5 of 11
You are going to love the area. As stated before, Snowmass is everything you hear about it and much more. The transit system is good enough to sample a couple of ski areas per day to see what you like. From what I have experienced there, I would reccommend a full day at Aspen Highlands to check it out, and do another day with Buttermilk(Buttermilk is tame, but does have some interesting terrain on the east side and a new high speed quad on the easy cruising on the west side) in the morning, lunch in Aspen, and skiing Ajax in the afternoon,,,, or vise versa. Both of those two areas have strengths and weaknesses, but I didn't find them to be in the same league as Aspen Highlands and Snowmass.

As with any large area with multiple choices, you need to plan each day with the weather and current conditions in mind. i.e., Buttermilk is low and better sheltered than the other three, so skiing it on a low visibility morning would be a good choice. The top of Ajax and the top of the Elk Camp chair have to be seen on a clear day. -Some of the best views at a ski resort in the US. Transportation should not be an issue around the area, so mix it up quite a bit and make the most of that lift ticket being good at all four ski areas on the same day!

Good Luck!
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
B40 and Feallen

Thanks for the input. Aspen Highlands was definitiely on the list.
post #7 of 11
I've skied Aspen for about 3-5 weeks per year for the past 15 years. My two favorites are Snowmass and Highlands with Snowmass having the edge (no pun) because it's so diverse, huge, and caters to everybody: kids to off piste double diamond die hards. Highlands maybe a bit less crowded but they have build up the base with condos a lot.

I'm not terribly fond of Ajax relative to the other two: parking in town is a pain.

Of all the places I've skied in my life Snowmass may be my favorite. The ONLY thing it lacks are a lot of bowls; Cirque Headwall is about it but when there's a big storm it's sweet.
post #8 of 11
"Snowmass is fabulous and huge and well-laid out. I think it may be my favorite mountain anywhere!"

Concur about Snowmass. I also agree that scenery atop Highlands is to die for.

Although the terrain at Ajax is something of an acquired taste, I think you'd regret going to the Aspen area for a full week and skipping Ajax. On a crowd-free day the Aspen gondola allows a skier/boarder to repeatedly tackle a big chunk of mountainside in one fell swoop. The set-up there gave me an unexpected feeling of intimacy and accessibility to a mountain with a vertical over 3000’. You could pretty much ski all the terrain, all day long, using just one big, fast lift.
post #9 of 11

Snowmass CO Area - Where to Ski

If you like long cruising runs you are going to the right place.
On Aspen Mt. try top to bottom runs using the gondola. Take any of the top runs to either Copper Bowl or Spar Gulch then down to Little Nells and back on the gondola. Repeat as often as your legs allow. I also suggest trying the old America's Downhill run. From the top of Ruthie's lift take Ruthie's Run to Aztec to Spring Pitch to Strawpile and finally to Fifth Avenue. The lower portion is what was used in last weeks women's giant slalom and slalom World Cup races.
At the Highlands, I am fond of running laps on Golden Horn and Thunderbowl.
Snowmass offers many great cruising runs. Try the runs serviced by the Elk Camp and Big Burn lifts. If conditions are good also try High Alpine and Campground lifts.
post #10 of 11
Watch channel 16 in the morning, its the top rated RSN ski affiliate in the country and they do a great job giving you the ski conditions. Get a grooming report at the bottom of most access lifts. Get up and out of the village early, lifts open at 8:30 but they almost always let you on 10-15 minutes early. I would head up to the burn and hit Sneaky's and Dallas Freeway a couple of times before I move on. If they have groomed Campground hit Slot. Don't ski Snowmass on a high wind day go to Aspen Mountain instead.

Aspen Mountain and Highland are both kind of quirky. They both are on ridges with the steeper runs off the sides and the mellower runs on the ridges or in the gullies. If you don't know were your going a lot of people get funneled into the gullies. There are a lot of small traverses through the trees that unless you’re looking you will never find. But if you like steep fall line skiing, they both have great lines.

On Aspen start on the Gondy and hit Copper, Spar and then Ruthies. About 10:00am you start to follow the sun, so hit the mine dumps first, S1, Perry's and Last Dollar. Then I would hit Walsh’s, Hyrups or Kristi’s down to the glades. Around 1:00 you start working the Face of Bell. Jackpot is always the last run of the day.

Highland’s has some good groomers like Meadows and Kandahar, but I almost always start on Steeplechase. Do a couple of laps on the chase and around 10:00 you have to do the Bowl. The Bowl is a hell of a hike, but you just have to do it.
After lunch I flip over the ridge and stay in the sun on Deception, No Name, Upper Stein, Golden Horn and Thunder Bowl.

I never went to Buttermilk until I had kids. Then I realized that it is one of the best beginner mountains ever. Lot of easy groomed greens and blues with just a couple of easy blacks that are perfect for the first timers.

For a nice dinner in Snowmass hit Krabloonik. In town I like the Steak Pit, La Cocina, Taka Sushi and Campo de Fiori. There are a ton more, but I could go on forever. Play a game of pool at Eric's.

I'll be at the X Games 1/29-2/3, if your in town then drop me a pm and I will give you a quick tour.
post #11 of 11


you may want to take a tour of the moutain, maybe on your first
day. the ski ambassadors know all the runs, and by watching you ski,
perhaps direct you toward runs you would like.
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