SlopeLab’s Review of Aspen Snowmass

SlopeLab Ratings:


Detailed Scores:

Beginner Terrain
Intermediate Terrain
Advanced Terrain
Expert Terrain
Tree Skiing
Bowl Skiing
Snow Rating
Ski Town

Aspen / Snowmass Mountain Stats

Photo Gallery

Aspen / Snowmass Overview

For years, “Aspen” has been synonymous with the quintessential ski town. Aspen is where the rich and famous prefer to ski, and there’s one very clear reason for that – the skiing is world class!

But the focus on “Aspen” sells the area a bit short. That’s because Aspen as a destination actually comprises four different ski resorts, including:

  • Aspen Mountain – the locals refer to this one as AJAX mountain. This is Aspen’s “original” mountain that funnels straight into the town of Aspen.
  • Aspen Highlands – located three miles from the town of Aspen, this relatively small hill packs a serious punch! It’s filled with long blue cruisers with tons of continuous vertical drop, not to mention the world-famous Highlands Bowl, a massive hike-to bowl with some of the most legit expert terrain in all of Colorado.
  • Buttermilk – located 10 minutes from the town of Aspen and right next door to Aspen Highlands. This is the smallest mountain, featuring the most beginner green terrain in the area.
  • Snowmass – Located 20 minutes from the town of Aspen, Snowmass is the largest of the four Aspen areas. Alone, it’s as big as most of Colorado’s other major resorts. The terrain is best known for its long, never ending blue groomers, hidden trees shots, and sneaky advanced/expert terrain.
spen Layout - 4 Mountains

One lift tickets buys access to all four mountains. Which means Aspen visitors get to experience one of the great joys of the skiing world – waking up and deciding which Aspen mountain to ski!

Of course, for those who just can’t decide, there’s an easy (and free!) local bus system which runs between the four areas.

Aspen / Snowmass Trail Maps:

Aspen Mountain Trail Map
Aspen Ajax Trail Map (Click for full size)
Aspen Highlands Trail Map (click for full size)
Snowmass Trail Map (click for full size)
Buttermilk trail map (click for full size)

Aspen Mountain Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Silver Queen Gondola
Bell Mountain
Shadow Mountain
Ajax Express
Gent's Ridge
Little Neil

Aspen Highlands Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Deep Temerity
Loge Peak
Thunder Bowl
Cloud Nine

Snowmass Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Sheer Bliss
Village Express
Big Burn
Two Creeks
High Alpine
Elk Camp
Alpine Springs
Elk Camp Gondola
Coney Glade
Sam's Knob
The Cirque
Assay Hill
Magic Carpet

Buttermilk Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Summit Express
Tiehack Express
West Buttermilk
Panda Peak
Ski School Lift
Magic Carpet

Aspen / Snowmass Terrain Overview

As you can probably tell from those four trail maps and loads of lifts, Aspen has tons of terrain! Let’s take a closer look.

Aspen / Snowmass for Beginners:

Arguably, Aspen’s only lacking terrain is its beginner terrain. Aspen AJAX and Aspen Highlands no longer have any green runs, and even Snowmass only has a small handful of shorter greens on the lower mountain.

Because of this, green runs are mostly relegated to Buttermilk Mountain. Buttermilk is the smallest of the four mountains, and beginners will spend the most of their time on the West Buttermilk express lift. However, this apparent negative may actually prove a benefit for beginners – they’ll be free to learn the sport around skiers of a similar skill level.

We’ll also give Aspen bonus points in the beginner category for its world class ski school.

Aspen / Snowmass for Intermediates:

Simply put, the Aspen Mountains are an intermediate skier’s paradise, and a rare recipient of our 10 out of 10 rating.

While all four mountains have gobs of fantastic blue terrain, Snowmass shines the brightest here. Off almost every Snowmass lift lies groomer after groomer, each spanning for miles.

Intermediates will especially love Snowmass’s Big Burn Chairlift. The name hints at what to expect – the area fell victim to a large wildfire several years ago. The extinguished fire left perfectly pitched, highway wide groomers with appropriate names like “Dallas Freeway.” Now, the burn might instead reference your legs, as you fly down some of the longest and widest groomers you’ve ever seen!

The fun doesn’t stop at Snowmass though. A 20-minute shuttle to Aspen Highlands opens up another maze of blue groomers, each rising upwards from the base village to the top of Loge Peak. Getting to the top requires multiple lifts and over 3,000 vertical feet of rise, but once there, intermediates will have a blast cruising all the way down.

Even AJAX mountain offers a unique experience for intermediate skiers. Ruthie’s chairlift, although a small corner of the mountain, is statistically one of the fastest chairlift, covering more vertical rise at a quicker pace than nearly anywhere else in North America. All over wonderful blue groomers, of course!

Advanced Terrain at Aspen / Snowmass:

Not to be left out, Advanced skiers will have enough to keep themselves entertained for a lifetime.

Snowmass has plenty of interesting black terrain, including the entire Campground and Sam’s Knob lifts. However, some of Snowmass’s best advanced terrain is slightly subtler, usually tucked away in the trees. We’re particular fans of the Powerline Glades, Sneaky’s Glades, Sheer Bliss, and even the modest hike-to terrain you can find near Longshot – an epic 4 mile experience that gives advanced skiers a safe taste of the backcountry.

That said, confident advanced skiers may find themselves more at home on Aspen Highlands. The mountain rises from the earth like a violent knife’s edge. Skiing across the mountain’s upper ridge, you’ll see steep drop offs to either side, which of course makes for fantastic advanced terrain!

To skier’s right, you’ll have the steep woods and mogul fields underneath the Deep Temerity lift. To skier’s left, you have the double black terrain of Olympic Bowl. Take your pick and enjoy the stunning views!

Expert Terrain at Aspen / Snowmass:

Aspen’s mountains offer plenty of shots for the expert skier. At Snowmass, there’s the headwalls and hanging valleys at the mountain’s peak, accessed through the Cirque T-Bar or the High Alpine Lift.

Aspen Mountain also features several options for double blacks and chutes, the most challenging being the collection off Traynor’s ridge.

And of course, at Aspen Highlands there’s the iconic namesake, Highland Bowl. No expert’s trip to Aspen would be complete without the lung burning experience of hiking over 700 vertical feet to the bowl’s upper gates. (For the less intense, there’s a snow-cat which runs on certain days.)

From there, the bowl greets skiers with plenty of options down, none easy and each with pitches ranging from 35-48 degrees. Make no mistake, this is elite level steepness, and world-class terrain for confident skiers.

How is the snow at Aspen / Snowmass?

Averages Inches of Annual Snowfall

For a destination ski resort, Aspen / Snowmass receives a relatively average amount of snowfall, with a little less than 300 inches annually. Big dumps are also on the rarer side; just one in ten days see over 6 inches of snow.

That said, the quality of the snow that does fall is top-notch Colorado dryness. Aspen’s snowmaking capabilities and expansive groomer terrain also offset the modest snowfall concerns. And most importantly, the mountain benefits from lower skier density than similar Colorado resorts, which helps preserve the snow.

Of course, with 5,000+ acres of combined terrain, there’s almost always stashes to be found. Although one common source of good snow is no secret – the Highland Bowl keeps powder for days, thanks its high elevation and its challenging hike weeding out those less dedicated powder seekers.

Where is Aspen / Snowmass?

where is aspen

Aspen sits in classic Western Colorado. To get there, travelers can either drive the 4 hours from Denver International Airport, or fly directly into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport. The latter is intentionally positioned smack dab in the middle of the four mountains, and travelers can deplane and find themselves in the middle of downtown Aspen in less than 15 minutes.

If making the drive from Denver, you may feel like you’re traveling to the Mecca of ski vacations. That’s because as you continue down Interstate 70, you’ll notice car after car both ahead and behind you peeling off towards the heavier trafficked, and easier to visit, big names of Colorado skiing. First comes an exit for Winter Park, then Keystone / Arapahoe Basin, another turn-off to Steamboat, followed by Vail and Beaver Creek.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself rather alone, continuing along I-70 when so many others dropped off. By the time you make it to Aspen, you’ll be glad you stuck with it. That’s because Aspen’s location, mixed with its high-priced lift tickets, oozes a vibe of exclusivity unlike any other major destination.

Even if you’re not into Aspen’s “see and be seen” culture, you’ll still appreciate the effect of this phenomenon on the four mountains’ vastly reduced lift lines.

Aspen / Snowmass as ski town

As a ski town, Aspen needs no introduction. The word itself conjures up images of the ultimate ski vacation, and that’s not far from the truth.

There’s the airport practically constructed on the mountain. It’s most often lined with private jets and occasionally visited by commercial airliners for the rest of us. Then there’s the mountain itself, which spills right into downtown Aspen. Here, fine dining and luxury shopping sits on every corner, although nobody will think twice if you walk right from the lift to bar, ski boots and all!

Aspen has plenty of nightlight, although nothing summarizes the Aspen party scene like the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro. You can find this tiny European-style hut 2,000 vertical feet up Highlands Mountain, at a cool 10,825 feet above sea level. The hut is known for its absolutely wild parties, complete with thumping bass drops, impromptu table top dances, and bottle after bottle of popped champagne bottles resembling fire hoses. Hope that ski jacket is water proof!

For those craving a more laid-back vibe, Snowmass Village holds just the ticket. A 20 minute drive from downtown Aspen, Snowmass Village features plenty of cafes, diners, restaurants, and brewpubs. Aspen’s done a great job with their long-term planning here, and the result is tons of ski in/ski out accommodations near the base, plus a pleasantly walkable village. In recent years, Aspen has pumped even more investment into the village, expanding Snowmass’s eating and drinking options even further.

When is the best time to visit Aspen / Snowmass?


Aspen / Snowmass ages nicely over the ski season – the mountains usually ski better and better as the season goes on.

Total snowfall peaks in mid-March. And because nearly all of the terrain across all four mountains sits high in elevation and faces directly North, the snow here stays high quality all the way through the season’s finish.

How are the crowds at Aspen / Snowmass?

For one of the biggest destination resorts in the world, not bad!

Aspen’s crowds (or lack thereof) benefit from two things:

  1. Aspen’s location 4 hours from the Denver-metro areas means most locals choose one of the other eight mountains closer to the city for day trips.
  2. Aspen’s lift ticket prices, which are astronomically expensive, naturally keeps the slopes somewhat exclusive. 
Mid-week, you’re unlikely to encounter a line here. On weekends, the slopes still stay relatively quiet, although like anywhere, the locals can come out in droves on powder days.