When it comes to iconic ski resorts, Aspen and Park City are two of the most legendary names in skiing.
If you’re trying to decide between the two for your next trip, then this article is for you!
I’ve spent tons of days at each mountain, getting to know the ins and outs of both places. And now, I’m writing up the most detailed comparison between the two spots.
I’ll go beyond the numbers to analyze all those intangibles that only first-hand experience can bring.
Let’s get the showdown started!
- Ski Resort Stats Comparison: Park City vs. Aspen Snowmass
- Ease of Access
- Ski Towns: Park City, UT vs. Aspen, CO
- Mountain Vibe / Atmosphere
- Snow at Aspen vs. Park City
- Terrain Comparison
- Final Thoughts
Ski Resort Stats Comparison: Park City vs. Aspen Snowmass
|1||Size||5,500 acres||7,300 acres|
|2||Vertical||4,406 ft.||3,226 ft.|
|4||Average Snowfall||295 inches||290 inches|
|5||Summit Elevation||12,510 ft.||10,026 ft.|
|6||Base Elevation||8,000 ft.||6,800 ft.|
As you can see, it’s pretty neck and neck between the two.
Both resorts are among the largest in the world, but Park City has more acreage.
On the other hand, Aspen (and specifically, the Snowmass Mountain) has noticeably more vertical that can be skied in one shot.
One item right off the bat that isn’t highlighted in the numbers is the different layouts of the mountains. At Park City, all those acres are accessed via one large, interconnected mountain. (Technically, it’s two mountains, but there’s an easy gondola that runs between the two sides.) This means an ambitious skier could explore the whole area in one continuous loop.
By contrast, Aspen is spread out across four different mountains, each a mile or two apart, and only connected via shuttle bus. While these buses are more convenient than they sound (I’ve successfully skied multiple hours at three different Aspen Mountains in one day) it’s a notable difference in the experience.
Ease of Access
Assuming you’re not private-jetting directly into the Aspen airport, Park City is the definite winner here.
Park City sits only 40 minutes from Salt Lake City, which makes it one of the closest ski resorts to a major airport in the entire country. And getting from the airport to the mountain couldn’t be any more convenient. You’ll have your choice of easy rental car drive, multiple shuttles, or even an affordable Lyft or Uber!
For pros and cons of all these options, you can check out my full guide for How to Get to Park City, Utah.
Aspen, on the other hand, is much more difficult to reach. While Aspen’s airport (ASE) is incredibly close to the resort (only 10 minutes away) there’s some notable cons. During winter, ASE has one of the highest cancellation rates of any airport near skiing, (see SlopeLab’s analysis of the best and worst skiing airports) and getting there usually requires a connection and/or is rather expensive.
Perhaps this is why in reality, the airport is lined mostly with the private jets of Aspen’s wealthiest visitors.
If that’s out of your budget, you’ll probably have to fly into Denver and make a long 4+ hour drive through I-70.
Ski Towns: Park City, UT vs. Aspen, CO
Make no mistake, both Aspen and Park City are two of the best ski towns in the world.
Both towns are some of the only places in the United States where the ski runs (and chairlifts!) literally run right into the middle of town. And both places are packed with more options for dining, shopping, and entertainment than just about any other vacation town in the country.
Which one you will like better probably depends on what you’re looking for.
Aspen is, well, Aspen. It’s the place to see and be seen by the world’s richest and most famous people. The town is filled with world-class hotels, high-end shopping, and fine dining.
Park City, on the other hand, is an old mining town. It’s still registered as a historic area and still retains much of its western saloon feel.
While Park City is no slouch on the glamour (it hosts Hollywood each year for the Sundance Film Festival) I find Park City to be a much more down to earth spot. You can find more casual dining and drinking at Park City, whereas I recall one night where I had trouble finding anything in Aspen that wasn’t higher-end, fine dining.
*It’s worth noting that Aspen’s four different mountains leads to different vibes at different places. Snowmass Village, for example, is about 15 minutes from downtown Aspen, and it’s a definitely a more laid back development of condos, restaurants, and shopping.
Mountain Vibe / Atmosphere
As far as the mountains themselves, they all give very different vibes.
Park City, with its massive marketing efforts from Vail Resorts, brings a family friendly on-mountain vibe. The resort caters well to beginning skiers, and you’ll see a decent number of them enjoying the frontside’s easier green and blue terrian. (Jupiter Bowl, on the other hand, is a totally different experience and feels like an expert resort all on its own!)
Meanwhile, Aspen is a tale of its four different mountains.
- Snowmass is heaven on earth for intermediate to advanced skiers. At times, it can feel like skiing your own private mountain, since it sits a few miles removed from the already difficult to reach town of Aspen (and features crazy high lift ticket prices!)
- Buttermilk is the “beginner’s mountain”
- Aspen Highlands, with all its advanced and expert terrain, feels like a “local’s mountain.”
- Aspen AJAX is the mountain that spills right into town. It’s the busiest of the four and feels the most like Park City, in my opinion.
I can’t say either is better or worse; it just depends on what you’re looking for.
I have to give Aspen the win here.
Located in the more remote southwestern Colorado landscape, Aspen’s four mountains shoot out from the earth like a knife’s edge. Once you’re to the top, you can look out and see nothing but stunning mountain ranges for miles.
Park City, on the other hand, overlooks a relatively more modest valley area. While still beautiful (what mountains aren’t!?) you won’t get quite the same dramatic mountain vistas as Aspen.
Aspen’s crazy expensive lift tickets and remote location keeps the crowds at bay, and once there, the four different mountains spreads the crowds out so much that, in my experience, you can ski directly up to most lifts without waiting at all.
By contrast, Park City is usually the other extreme. As Vail sells its Epic Pass at a discounted price point to anyone and everyone possible, the crowds have begun stacking up at their flagship and most convenient resorts, like Park City. The result is lift line times that range from 1-5 minutes during less busy weekdays all the way up to 20+ minutes on crowded weekends.
Snow at Aspen vs. Park City
This one is literally a game of inches, with Aspen reporting 295 inches of snow per year and Park City reporting 290 inches per year.
However, numbers only tell half the story.
Both resorts are huge, and their snowfall varies across their thousands of acres.
For the overall champ of deep powder, that would be Jupiter Bowl at Park City. This top section of the mountain receives over over 350 inches of snow per year. On sheer snowfall volume, nothing at Aspen really competes with that total.
However, Aspen may be a little more consistent. While Park City’s snow totals vary wildly, from 150 inches at the base to 350 inches at the Jupiter summit, Aspen averages a steadier 250-295 inches across its multiple mountains.
Additionally, Aspen’s elevation is consistently about 2,000 feet higher than Park City, which helps the mountains retain their snow a little better. And due to lower overall crowds, Aspen’s snow usually doesn’t get skied out as quickly as the busier Park City.
These are two of the largest ski resorts in the world, so you can rest assured that both places will have plenty of whatever type of terrain you’re looking for.
Aspen vs. Park City for Beginners
Aspen is actually relatively lacking in its beginner terrain. Really, the only green runs across the four different mountains are on the Buttermilk mountain. If beginners don’t have their hearts set on exploring all four mountains, then this isn’t all bad – they can actually learn to ski without more advanced skiers whizzing by them all the time.
Park City, on the other hand, caters a little better to adventurous beginners. Park City’s green runs go all over the mountain, so it’s possible for even a beginner skier to head pretty high up the mountain and experience many different views and areas.
Aspen vs. Park City for Intermediates
Both mountains are great for intermediates, but Aspen might be the best intermediate playground in North America, so that’s a tough act to follow.
Aspen’s Snowmass Mountain is an intermediate heaven, and the main reason for the resort’s perfect 10/10 score on SlopeLab’s official rankings. At Snowmass, blue skiers will find tons of long, wide open groomers that seem to run forever and ever, all while maintaining the prefect consistent steepness along the way. Add in uncrowded slopes, and it’s the perfect recipe for fast, fun groomers!
Even Aspen Highlands is an underrated intermediate spot, since the mountain’s massive vertical can be skied top to bottom in one unforgettable experience.
Park City, of course, is no slouch either when it comes to the blues. Intermediates will find plenty of blue gems, but in general, Park City’s blue runs tend to be shorter in length. Many are also plagued with longer run outs back to the lift or otherwise aren’t quite as exciting as the enormous trail map would lead you to believe.
Advanced Terrain at Aspen vs. Park City
This is another very close category, and the exact winner will probably depend on how advanced you consider to be “advanced.”
For skiers making the transition from blue to black diamonds, Park City seems to have more options. Many runs at Park City have short sections of black terrain or ungroomed sections, before returning again to easier blue or groomed terrain.
On the other hand, Aspen / Snowmass’s advanced terrain is more of the double black variety, mostly on the steeper Highlands Mountain. However, Park City puts up a valiant fight against this as well, since certain portions of the legendary Jupiter Bowl and Ninety-Nine 90 chairlift may be suitable for true advanced skiers.
Aspen vs. Park City Expert Terrain
Again, subtle differences here, depending on what you’re looking for.
Both mountains have plenty of double blacks to keep things interesting, so we’ll focus on each mountain’s most iconic expert terrain.
At Aspen Highlands, the Highland Bowl is some of the steepest bowl skiing in the country. When it comes to long, sustained steepness, Park City (or nearly any other mountain) doesn’t have much that compares.
However, Park City does have the iconic Jupiter Bowl. And while Aspen’s Highland Bowl requires a long hike, powder hounds at Park City can lap the Jupiter chairlift over and over to easily score tons of back to back powder runs.
It’s no secret that SlopeLab loves Aspen Snowmass. It’s currently the #1 ranked ski resort on this website, and the only recipient of a 99 overall score.
However, that doesn’t mean Aspen is for everyone.
Park City is definitely more convenient, both because of its nearby airport location and the fact that it’s vast terrain is all located in one continuous resort.
And if you’re on any kind of a budget, Aspen is probably not the place to go. Instead, you and your wallet will probably be happier Park City, complete with its more down-to-earth ski town.
But no matter which option you choose, you’re sure to find some of the best skiing in the country!