Aspen, Highlands, Buttmermilk — Layout
Aspens four mountains are close to each other, but not interconnected. A free shuttle runs from base to base. Here we cover Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Snowmass is covered separately. ASC runs a very efficient equipment transfer program between its four mountains. For $5, you hand over your skis, poles or snowboard to an attendant in the base area at the end of the day, tell him/her where you
e skiing the next day, and your gear will be waiting for you at that base area the next morning. It works very well.
Beginners will have the most fun at Buttermilk. Intermediates probably will have a more varied day at Highlands, but the longest runs sweep down Aspen Mountain, and its hard to beat the exhilarating cruising on Buttermilk. Experts have a tossup between Highlands and Aspen Mountain. Our advice to snowboarders: Carvers, riders learning trees and terrain park tricksters should head to Buttermilk, seekers of the pow and steeps will want to beeline it to Aspen Mountain or Highlands.
|Expert, Advanced: Highlands is the best-balanced mountain of the three with slopes for every level, and it’s the locals’ favorite. The vertical rise is one of the highest in Colorado. Three high-speed quads whisk you to the summit so you
e not wasting time on lifts.From the top of Loge Peak, the run back to the base is an uneven series of steeps, cat tracks and gentle runouts. This mountain has some fantastic long cruises. The ridge, knifing directly to the summit, has thrilling pitches down both sides. Other than a few short blacks, such as Suzy Q and Limelight, the terrain makes a pronounced jump from intermediate to expert.Experts should head for the steeps at the top of Loge Peak in the Steeplechase (sunny in the morning) and Olympic Bowl (sunny in the afternoon) areas. These are very steep with no bail-out areas, so be sure you want to be here. Both areas have long cat tracks back to lifts.Some of Colorado’s steepest slopes stand above Loge Peak in Highland Bowl. You can reach the tops of the 40- to 45-degree slopes by hiking up the ridge for 20–60 minutes; or, if you happen to be at Loge Meadow between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., hop on a free snowcat for a ride to the first access gate. The gladed runs here will keep you on your toes. The new Temerity triple means you can ski another 1,000 vertical feet down Highland Bowl and not hike out. This lift also accesses 180 new acres of chutes and trees. The tree chutes off Loge Peak are now double in length.
Also check out the lower mountain. The Thunderbowl chair will take you from the base to the top of Bob’s Glades or Upper Stein, or you can drop into double-black territory at several points along blue-square Golden Horn.
The basic guideline for Aspen Mountain is that the intermediate terrain is on the top knob around the summit and in the gullies between the ridges. The expert stuff drops from the ridges into the gullies. Of the blacks, take your pick and be sure you’re up to it. These runs are very black. For bumps and trees, Bell Mountain right under the gondola is a good choice. Watch for the ski patrol to open Walsh’s after a storm. It can be powder heaven, a run you can brag about all week. Guided “Powder Tours” are offered on the back side of Aspen Mountain; call (800) 525-6200 for information.
If you consider yourself a very confident advanced skier, read the expert section. If you feel you have recently reached advanced status, read the intermediate section. In our experience, there’s a big jump from intermediate to expert terrain at Highlands and Aspen Mountain. Buttermilk’s marked advanced terrain is really more advanced-intermediate.
|Intermediate: If you’d like to say you skied a black run on Aspen Mountain, Upper Little Percy or Red’s Run are occasionally groomed. The ticket office or the on-mountain Concierge Center at the summit has a grooming report (you can check this at all the mountains, by the way).
Unsure if you can handle the terrain? If you can ski blues at other areas, do this: Ride the gondola to the top and ski the gentlest terrain, at the summit—runs such as Dipsy Doodle, Pussyfoot and Silver Bell. Keep riding the Ajax Express and Gentlemen’s Ridge lifts. If any of those blue runs presents a challenge, ride back down in the gondola. The alternative to riding down is Copper Bowl or Spar Gulch, two narrow gullies that get packed late in the day as skiers funnel into them toward the base. Both runs join at Kleenex Corner—a sharp, narrow turn—then dump into Little Nell, a steep blue just above the gondola base. It’s known as “Little Hell” because at day’s end, it’s crowded, usually a little slick and/or moguled.
The blue cruisers—led by North American—in sight of Bonnies outdoor deck are a delight. If you
At Buttermilk, intermediates with confident turns will have fun on Jacob’s Ladder and Bear, which drop from the Cliff House to the main area, but the real playground is under the Tiehack chair. Much of this area is colored black on the trail map, but don’t get too excited—it’s just the toughest stuff on this mountain. You’ll discover good upper-intermediate trails that make inspiring cruisers. In one day you can ride the Upper Tiehack chair a dozen times, taking a different cruise on each 1,500 vertical-foot run. Javelin is the best of the lot—a couple of tree islands to keep you awake and a lot of good dips and rolls. Smile in the evening when you overhear others scoffing about what a waste Buttermilk is for real skiers, and savor memories of 15,000 feet of vertical in just one afternoon.
At Highlands, intermediates will want to take these lifts: Cloud Nine, Olympic and Loge Peak. (The easiest of the intermediates are off Cloud Nine.) Don’t miss Golden Horn and Thunderbowl on the lower mountain, very wide cruisers.
|Beginner, First-timer: Aspen Mountain may be the only ski mountain in America that has no designated green-circle runs. Don try it if you
e at this level.Buttermilkis all that Aspen Mountain isn’t. Beginners can experience top-to-bottom runs as soon as they master snowplows. The beginner terrain concentrates under the Buttermilk West chair. Tom’s Thumb, Red’s Rover, Larkspur, Westward Ho and Blue Grouse will keep beginners improving. The Homestead Road turns back to the Savio chair and lazily winds its way to the Main Buttermilk area.At Highlands,beginners are best served by trails from the Exhibition chair—Prospector, Nugget, Exhibition, Red Onion and Apple Strudel.First-timers should take their first few lessons at Buttermilk. Of Aspens four mountains, this is by far the best for a first day on skis.