Aspen Snowmass: The Prestige and the Powder

Aspen Snowmass, Colorado, nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, is world-famous with its four distinct mountains that offer some of the best skiing in the world. Despite its humble beginnings as a silver mining campground in the late 1800s, it has matured into two towns, providing unforgettable experiences at the confluence of nature, culture, and recreation. Want to know how good the skiing is, what else there is to do and how much it’s going to cost you? Here’s your full guide.

Aspen Snowmass on a Budget

While Aspen is known for its luxury and celebrity status, it is possible to enjoy a winter trip to this famous destination on a budget.

Planning ahead is always a good idea; buy lift tickets online in advance to take advantage of discounts – the earlier you buy, the cheaper they tend to be. Multi-day passes and SKI10, SKI30 passes are the best way to get the most out of your ski holiday, and the free RFTA buses that run between Aspen and Snowmass Village are a great way to save on transportation costs.

Get that powder underfoot by snowshoeing, either with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) guided snowshoe tours (and rentals) or, if you’re confident and kitted up explore Richmond Ridge at Aspen Mountain or along a babbling creek at Snowmass. Snowshoeing offers a peaceful way to explore the stunning winter landscape, with trails that wind through serene forests and offer spectacular mountain views.

Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System offers almost 100 kilometres of free groomed trails for cross-country skiing, and the famed Maroon Bells area is as stunning in the winter as in the summer. Cross-country skiing is a great way to enjoy the beauty of the area at a slower pace, with trails suitable for all levels of experience.

Indoors, Aspen is home to numerous cultural institutions, including the Aspen Art Museum. A contemporary art space that showcases rotating exhibitions of international and local artists, the Aspen Art Museum is a cultural hub in the town. Take a respite from the cold with thought-provoking art and programs – admission is free, but so are various events and workshops.

This year Aspen Snowmass will be celebrating 20 years of contemporary art situated around town and their mountains in collaboration with the Aspen Art Museum.

Inspired by the long history of Aspen’s vibrant arts and culture community, Aspen Snowmass created the Art in Unexpected Places program to activate artistic expression both on our four mountains and around town. Through on-mountain art installations, artwork on lift tickets and passes, works situated throughout the resort, and a series of books documenting the program’s history, Art in Unexpected Places sparks conversations and moments of unanticipated discovery. Read more.

The Wheeler Opera House also regularly updates its schedule, advertising free or low-cost community events and film screenings. This historic venue hosts a variety of performances, from concerts and comedy shows to film festivals, making it a central part of Aspen’s vibrant cultural scene.

As a final note, download the free Aspen Snowmass app for access to everything you need to enjoy your on-mountain experience. Think real-time information on lift status, powder alerts, and mountain updates, as well as trail maps, event listings, lesson purchases, rentals, and even exclusive deals and discounts.

The Ski Experience

Aspen offers some of the best skiing in North America, with four distinct mountains: Aspen Mountain (or Ajax), Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Each offers a unique skiing experience suitable for all skill levels – just don’t ask us to choose a favourite.

Aspen Mountain caters primarily to intermediate and advanced skiers, featuring steep terrains and moguls with no beginner slopes. This makes it perfect for those looking to challenge themselves on the mountain’s formidable runs. The mountain is also a favourite among those seeking a more traditional and nostalgic skiing experience, with its rich history and classic ski culture vibe. The new Hero’s terrain on Aspen Mountain will add over 60 hectares of skiing and riding, accessed by a high speed quad.

Snowboarders flock to Aspen Highlands, famous for Highland Bowl’s extreme terrain and breathtaking views with a less crowded experience compared to Aspen Mountain. This mountain is a paradise for adrenaline junkies, offering some of the most challenging in-bounds skiing in North America. The hike-to terrain of Highland Bowl is legendary, and those who make the effort are rewarded with deep powder and expansive vistas.

Buttermilk is an easy-going mountain beloved by kids and kids at heart. Here, anyone can learn the snow-sliding basics, master tricks in the terrain parks, perfect their form on rolling groomers, or elevate their fitness by skinning up the hill.

With it’s gentle slopes and excellent ski schools, it’s also home to the X Games and a newly fitted out 9,000+ square foot Guest Services building, acting as a one-stop shop for lift tickets, gear rentals, retail, a new day lounge, and the updated Buttermilk Mountain Lodge. Buttermilk is ideal for beginners and families, offering wide, forgiving slopes that are perfect for learning. The mountain’s terrain park is also a hit with snowboarders, featuring a variety of jumps, rails, and halfpipes.

The largest of the four, Snowmass has something for everyone, from wide groomed trails for beginners to challenging glades for advanced skiers. Its extensive terrain park is a major draw for snowboarders. Snowmass is the quintessential family-friendly mountain, with an incredible variety of runs and activities. The Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center is a standout, offering a range of programs and childcare services, ensuring that the youngest members of the family are well taken care of.

The Aspen Snowmass Après-Ski Experience

Should the weather turn, or the thighs feel the burn, there’s much to do beyond the slopes. The dining scene in Aspen is vibrant and diverse. From cozy après-ski bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s something to suit every palate – and budget. Matsuhisa Aspen, owned by sushi-Czar Nobu Matsuhisa, serves high-end Japanese cuisine with a Peruvian twist synonymous with his name. The restaurant is a must-visit for foodies, offering an exquisite dining experience with dishes like black cod miso and yellowtail jalapeño that will leave a lasting impression. Mezzaluna is another great option and budget friendly.

Beloved Aspen institution Cache Cache, on the other hand, offers French-American cuisine in an elegant setting with an equally elegant (and extensive) wine list. At the more casual end of the dining experience, White House Tavern’s elevated pub fare is just the ticket after a day on the slopes – try the French dip sandwich – while the Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop farm-to-table restaurant offers a variety of artisanal meats, cheeses, and farm-fresh dishes. 

Other more budget friendly options include The Hickory House, famous for its baby-back ribs, and Woody Creek Tavern, the famous hangout of Hunter S. Thompson. This recently renovated tavern is a restaurant and bar, serving a selection of American dishes, killer margaritas in a fun setting with eclectic décor. Zane’s Tavern is a favourite local hangout serving classic bar food. Zane’s has plenty of indoor and outdoor patio seating and serves up wings, burgers, tacos, and other sports bar favourites

For those looking to unwind after a day on the slopes, Aspen’s après-ski scene is second to none. Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain has a particularly vibrant scene, especially during happy hour. Its large outdoor deck, right at the base of the gondola, is excellent people watching. Ajax Tavern is at its prime before sunset, but it works well for families and groups looking for a convenient dinner option, too – the truffle fries are a must-order.

Ready to Book?

Travelplan can help craft an extraordinary winter experience in Aspen, whatever your budget. Whether you see yourself gliding down the beginner-friendly slopes of Buttermilk or tackling the demanding trails of Aspen Highlands, start planning your trip to Aspen with Travelplan today and immerse yourself in the premier skiing and snowboarding haven of the magnificent Rocky Mountains. From luxury accommodations to budget-friendly options, Travelplan can tailor your trip to ensure a memorable experience.