Snowmass — Mountain Layout
Snowmass is an enormous mountain and many visitors spend their entire vacation here. However, you can use your lift ticket at Aspens other mountains as well.
Aspen’s four mountains are close to each other, but not interconnected. A free shuttle runs from base to base. 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.
Heres a larger, more detailed trail map.
The most extreme terrain is in the Hanging Valley Glades, which for years management was not comfortable opening. Accessed by the High Alpine lift, an ancient double chair, the options are countless, including steep chutes Possible and Baby Ruth into Hanging Valley Glades, or straight over the headwall to at least a dozen drops into the Hanging Valley.
Another extreme playground is the Cirque, a scooped-out place between Sheer Bliss and High Alpine lifts. This is served by a wind-powered surface lift that gets very popular on powder days, at the top of which you’ll find the “Rocky Mountain High” run, named in memory of the late singer John Denver. Don’t try this area unless you’re comfortable on Hanging Valley Wall. The right side holds almost as many chutes as the Wall, and you’ll need to make tight, jump turns at the top of Rock Island and KT Gully. Even more challenging is AMF at the top. A local says it stands for “Adios, My Friend,” but we think he gave us the “this-is-a-family-guidebook” version.
Advanced skiers should look skier’s left for chutes and drops and to the lower right side of the Sheer Bliss run to get the feel of the famous Cirque terrain without the heart-gripping fear of knowing you are not ready for that stuff. Skiers ready to burn up steep-pitched cruising will think they’ve found nirvana when they make the first descent into the Campground area.
Here is a wonderful long run: To come off the top of Big Burn on Sneaky’s, tuck to avoid the uphill stretch at Sam’s Knob, cut south around the Knob and head into the blacks of Bear Claw, Slot, Wildcat or Zugspitze to the base of the Campground lift. The Campground runs on a deep powder day can make you thankful the chair at the bottom is not high-speed.
Intermediate terrain is literally everywhere, including from the summit (Cirque) and even the never-ending Green Mile, an upper intermediate run from High Alpine.
Theres a half-day’s worth of intermediate options on each of Sam’s Knob, Elk Camp, Two Creeks and Alpine Springs.
The Big Burn is legendary cruiser fun. It’s an entire side of a mountain that was allegedly set aflame by Ute Indians in the 1880s as a warning to advancing white settlers. The pioneers settled anyway, but the trees never grew back thickly, so the run, dotted by a few spruces, is a mile wide and a mile-and-a-half long.
The new Fanny Hill six-pack whisks you from the Mall area directly to the Burn summit in less than 10 minutes. For an intermediate uncomfortable around trees, the Powerline Glades are a great primer.
Two Creeks is largely a lodging access area, so it can be slow, but views of pricey real estate make it worth the ride.
Alpine Springs feels like a separate, hidden ski area and also is home to the best on-mountain food at Gwyn’s.
Beginners have a wide gentle area parallel to the village. Fanny Hill eases down by the mall, Wood Run lift opens another easy glide around the Wood Road side of the village, and further to the left a long straightaway, Funnel, will give beginners the feeling they’re really covering terrain.
Beginners who want to see more of the mountain can head up to Sam’s Knob and try the Top of the Knob, with its spectacular views and great menu, and head down a meandering trail bearing the names Max Park, Lunchline and Dawdler, which turns back to Fanny Hill. (Avoid the blue runs on the face of Sam’s Knob because they are not for beginners.) The next step up would be Elk Camp, labeled blue but very gentle.
We would give the beginner terrain here a higher rating but for one important fact: Many of the ski-in/ski-out condos are along the green runs, so at the beginning and end of the day, they often are used by skilled skiers and snowboarders in a hurry to get to either the lifts or the hot tub. If you