Although Aspen was first discovered back in 1892 as a Silver mining town, the skiing only really happened ... Read more
Although Aspen was first discovered back in 1892 as a Silver mining town, the skiing only really happened here with the demise of the Silver prices by the late 1930s. The main town of Aspen was renovated and the largely clapperboard Victorian buildings were brought back to life and when the first ski lift was opened just after the second world war this characterful resort started to take off.
The centre of Aspen is filled with shops, bars, restaurants and galleries and many of the central roads are now pedestrianised. As you would expect, there are some super hotels in the centre, but as you reach the outskirts of the main town you’ll find more reasonably priced lodgings and, of course, the homes owned by the rich and famous!
The Silver Queen gondola rises from the centre of town and whisks you up to the main ski area of Aspen Mountain (also known as Ajax by the locals). There are 3 other ski areas nearby all of which are covered on the local lift pass. Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands are only 3km from the centre of Aspen with Snowmass a little further. All are served by the free local bus system which runs frequently all through the day and into the late evening. Don’t be put off by the fact that you will be travelling by bus to different mountains – all are well worth the ride and locals and celebrities alike will all be doing the same thing!
Ski Line has a huge mix of Hotels, Chalets and condos in Aspen, and the Jerome and St Regis Hotels both come highly recommended amongst many others.
We’ll cover the 3 smaller resorts in this description; however, Snowmass being a much larger ski area and resort in its own right is covered on our separate resort page.
When we were last in Aspen one of the best bars to head to was the Ajax Tavern right at the base of Aspen mountain and the gondola – it’s the place to people watch and celebrity spot all afternoon. It is part of Aspen’s #1 hotel - The Little Nell which also offers a superb fine dining restaurant, Element 47 - in fact we spotted Jack Nicholson and Goldie Hawn in there one evening! There are many other restaurants and bars to choose from in Aspen and you will find something to suit most pockets whether they are short or deep!
We visited Hickory House BBQ pit which had a great atmosphere and didn't break the bank. At the other end of the scale hit Nobu’s Matsuhisa for exquisite sushi and sake.
Shop, shop shop! There is a wide array of shopping opportunities here from Prada and Gucci to souvenirs stores, thrift shops, art galleries and boutiques - you will find something for everyone as you stroll along Aspen’s heated pavements.
There’s a sports complex at Aspen Highlands which includes a pool and ice skating. And a nature reserve just off Main Street which is great if you are travelling with children.
Hot air ballooning, fly-fishing, fat-biking and dog-sledging are alternative options and many of the mountain restaurants can be reached by pedestrians if you want to meet your more active friends for lunch.
The best place to learn to ski is the Buttermilk ski area which has some great quiet gentle runs for building confidence. Snowmass also has a whole host of easy green runs and is home to the Treehouse Kids centre. The Ski Schools in Aspen have a great reputation with group lessons available on both.
If you like your pistes well-groomed then Aspen is the place to be. The tourist office here does an excellent job with friendly ‘mountain ambassadors’ all over the mountain who will happily guide you around the slopes or offer you a complimentary hot cider on a cold day. The intermediate slopes on Aspen Mountains are steeper than its neighbours, so head here if you are a more confident intermediate.
For those of you that prefer more gentle intermediate runs head over to Golden Horn on Aspen Highlands which has some excellent quieter groomed slopes. Buttermilk also as a good share of intermediate runs and even the blacks here are relatively easy so can be tackled by most intermediate skiers to build up confidence for the more tricky advanced runs which are to be found all over the rest of the vast Aspen ski area.
All of the mountains in Aspen offer blacks and double black diamond runs. Most skiing is through the glades and there are challenging runs to be had everywhere.
Hit the Highland Bowl for North America’s steepest in-bound skiing accessed via a free Snowcat ride and a 45-minute hike. There’s also the steep moguled terrain serviced by the ‘Deep Temerity’ lift with a vertical of 520m which is great fun for experts or the steep glades in the Olympic Bowl area which bring you through powder stashes on the quieter back side of the mountain.
For hot laps try Aspen Mountain where you can link 4 runs to make the longest advanced run in the valley from the Sundeck restaurant at the top down to the town at the bottom.
Buttermilk is the Home of Winter X Games and boasts 5 terrain parks including the longest in the world and a world-class superpipe which is over 150m long and has 7m high walls.
Buttermilk is the place to be if you are new to boarding as the runs are more gentle and groomed. Boarders, in general, will find a vast amount of terrain to enjoy overall 4 mountains, especially in Snowmass and with only one drag lifts in the whole valley getting around is quick and easy.