Aspen: The Power of Four – Snowmass
The fourth mountain to visit in Aspen. The one most spoken about, the newly updated, the biggest by far.
Aspen Snowmass is the largest ski area in the Aspen quartet. In fact, after Vail down the road, it’s the biggest ski area in America. And that’s without what its Buttermilk, Highlands and Ajax sisters added.
It’s the mountain I’ve heard most about and the one American friends seem to rate highest. Why? It felt to me like Les Arcs in the Paradiski or one of the towns in Les3Vallees – a newly established (60’s) purpose built ski village.
It boasts sprawling pistes with huge skiing.
But after my Buttermilk revelation and the incredible atmosphere and new experience of Ajax and Highlands, Snowmass comes in 4th for me. Not that this is really an affront in the incredible standards of Aspen – it just had the least charm. Then again, most would disagree. The facilities are out of this world, the hospitality (no surprise here) was topnotch, and the activities and entertainment on offer, unparalleled.
It’s not dissimilar to the gliding, rolling blues and aspen tree gorgeous-ness at Buttermilk – if a little busier. There are probably less are pockets of powder to own following a snow day but the tree skiing and wide glades are super-satisfying.
It’s amazing to be this closed in nature, whilst still inbounds. Wide open blues with much bigger vert to Buttermilk. It’s nearly 1,350m, the biggest in the USA. This is why it’s revered.
And the skier’s left-right skiing is just enormous, too.
But whereas Buttermilk has a beginners and kids’ zone, Snowmass is more the intermediates hill for the skier-rider that wants to ski and ski and not worry about where they’ll end up; You’ll ski safe and more than likely end up at base. Plus, someone will help you if not.
It’s why it’s a family favourite.
I was remembering my first ever ski-scare, during an apres beer in Snowmass. I must have been 8 or 9, skiing with my sister just 3 years older than me. Somehow we crossed a border and weren’t in France anymore and the lifts suddenly shut. We didn’t have any local money – of course it being before the Euro – and no mobile phone – it being the 90s.
I suppose I’m lucky to have my biggest ski scare already past, as what’s a worse nightmare as a child than to be lost in a foreign country…
But of course, there’d be none of that worry here.
Snowmass is easy-as-pie to navigate and to reach home easily at the end of the day, without worry you’ll be stuck or lost come closing time.
On the other hand it is not really a “skier’s mountain” either.
It doesn’t have the variety of terrain like other big areas. You’d have to zip to Ajax or Highlands for this. Compared to the other North America ski resort ‘giants’, Snowmass measures quite low in annual snowfall. But if you’re an intermediate or with the entire family, then what does it matter?
It has a lot of sky, and the base restaurants are to boot: High-end fast food with American service and comfort. Heaven to enjoy, skipping some runs, on a sunny day with a Bloody Mary.
Snowmass was pioneered by Stein Eriksen, a Norwegian Olympian who had a hand in the development of several of America’s prestigious ski resorts.
Recently Snowmass has had a whopping $600 million invested. And I was right on time to enjoy it, the new development opening in November 2018.
The Limelight Hotel was the highlight of my Snowmass visit. It’s vibey, dynamic, luxurious and relaxed all at the same time. Two huge outdoor hot tubs steam the front view as you come off the hill into the new site circle.
The hotel overlooks the outdoor skating rink, enjoyed early-evening by little skaters. The Limelight has fire pits and deck chairs to keep warm next to and watch the world go by. Not to mention the best pizza I’ve had in the States, a wicked beer selection and even better (for me) wine list.
And it won’t break the bank, especially with it’s helpful 3-hour Happy Hour with half price food and drinks.
Out of the ski hills I’ve come away least wowed with Snowmass but this base station and hangout was probably the best. Especially if you don’t have the energy for the beautiful but scene-y life of Aspen town.
Aspen is certainly one of my favourite ski towns; it’s high-end, glamorous, cool and not quite like any other.
But after a few nights doing the high-life, relaxing and taking it easy in the comfortable luxury of the Limelight Snowmass really hits it.
Better still, stay at the Limelight, though book in early as the hotspot has been fully booked since opening at the start of this season. On Mondays and Thursdays the hotel has free guiding – It’s Ajax and Highlands on Monday, and Snowmass on Thursday. Aspen is an expensive ski area, and this is an excellent service saving big bucks and is hospitality at its peak.
If service and hospitality are America’s strong points, it’s here in Aspen where it’s at its ultimate best.
Intermediates and above can benefit from this guiding, whether you’re a cruiser or a charger.
Snowmass had the most skiers on the mountain than any area. But really by European standards, you’re all good. Even on the busiest weekend of the year, you won’t be fighting for your turning space. There was also the biggest range if ski ability, so it’s here you’ll find your lower intermediate back up if you’re intimidated on Highlands or Ajax.
Free Smores for all after skiing. And all are happy at apres time. Me especially with my feet up warmed by the flames, a Californian Chardonnay in hand and a prosciutto pizza on the way…