Skiing In Aspen: A MapQuest Guide
Skiing in Aspen can be a life-changing experience. From the pristine tranquility of Buttermilk to adrenaline-pumping bowl descents at Aspen Highlands, there are few finer places to ski in Colorado -- or anywhere else. The Aspen/Snowmass resort complex is four mountains in one: one pass grants access to all four areas, although it's entirely plausible that different kinds of skiers will prefer different mountains. Since quality can come at a premium, it's smart to take advantage of travel packages that offer discounts on lodging, lift tickets and transportation.
ButtermilkWhile it's often regarded as the little brother among the Aspen family of peaks, Buttermilk Mountain is a dream destination for greenhorn skiers and snowboarders, as well as anyone who's looking for a stress-free day of alpine fun. The mountain's mild terrain and idyllic conditions -- sunny weather and a yearly average of 200 inches of fresh powder -- combine for a laid-back Aspen experience that's tough to come by on the high-octane runs of Buttermilk's neighbors.
But that's not to say that Buttermilk doesn't offer any thrills. Turn up the heat by dropping into the black-diamond runs off Tiehack Parkway, or go big in one of the mountain's two terrain parks. The Panda Park, located within bounds of Buttermilk's renowned ski school, is a great place for beginners to practice tricks; Buttermilk Park, with its 22-foot super pipe and X Games-sanctioned slopestyle course, is a playground for expert jibbers and aspiring pros. Buttermilk has hosted the Winter X Games since 2002, so visitors can drop in and catch all the action as top winter sports athletes compete. In the immortal words of Coffee Talk host Linda Richman, "They're like buttah."
Aspen Ski & Snowboard Resorts Map
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Aspen HighlandsAspen Highlands is billed as a local favorite, and the trek up to its majestic Highland Bowl -- whether on foot or by snowcat -- is irrefutably worth the effort. The bowl-skiing scenes of Aspen Extreme were filmed in Aspen Highlands. While much of that movie feels comically out of date, the skiing in Aspen Highlands has only gotten better with time. The Huffington Post reports several high-profile races that take on the mountain every year, drawing top competitors from around the globe. In 2006, the Deep Temerity lift opened up an additional 270 acres of challenging in-bounds terrain to adventurous skiers and snowboarders.
Aspen MountainKnown to locals as Ajax, Aspen Mountain is arguably the most difficult peak in the region. Its easiest trails cater to intermediate skiers, and there are no green zones for beginners. If skiers find the mountain's layout intimidating, it's probably meant to be that way; Aspen's exclusiveness -- on and off the slopes -- is the stuff of legend. But politics aside, it is first and foremost an alpine skier's mountain. With 76 runs over 675 acres of steeps, bumps and glades, not to mention an extensive off-trail area (guided tours are available), it's no wonder why patrons from locals to celebrities have frequented the mountain since 1947.
WATCH: Dizzying Aspen Mountain POV Highlight Reel
SnowmassWith 3,121 skiable acres, Snowmass is the largest resort in the Aspen by area. It is also the tallest mountain, and home to the greatest lift-served vertical rise in the region -- although that fact is disputable. It's 91 trails skew towards advanced and expert skiers, but more moderate terrain is accessible from Elk Camp and Sam's Knob. One guide cautions beginners not to attempt the blue trails off of Sam's Knob, but the best way to enjoy the mountain is to explore as your skills and comfort level develop.
With so much ground to cover, it's a good idea to spread a trip to Snowmass -- or anywhere in Aspen, for that matter -- over several days. Besides, the apres ski at Snowmass Village is not to be missed, with shops, restaurants, bars and other attractions. With any luck, visitors can catch a Warren Miller film for a little inspiration.
What's your favorite Aspen ski resort and why? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
Plan your next winter getaway with MapQuest's ski resort guides for winter travel destinations in the U.S. and Canada.