Aspen, Colorado

Would you dare take on a steep, snow-covered slope with wooden floorboard planks as skis?

We don’t think so either and agree it’s a potential disaster.

But that’s what the early skiing pioneers had to suffer through in pursuit of the perfect winter thrill in Aspen, Colorado. 

They fashioned curved ski tips by dipping the wooden planks in hot pig slop to soften them. Then, they used rubber strips to fasten the skis onto their boots before hitting the slopes.

That makes you appreciate your beloved fiberglass or carbon fiber snowblades, doesn’t it?

Skiing in Aspen was birthed in the 1940s renaissance, after a period of massive decline. Daring men and women braved the Colorado winters and conquered the mountains to make Aspen the winter sports behemoth it is today.

And Aspen is a great and fun resort town. Director Peter Farrelly even chose it as his location for the Hollywood comedy, Dumb and Dumber. The film was a massive hit and went on to top holiday box office records for that year.

Explore Aspen with this handy guide that we’ve prepared. You’ll also learn the following:

So whether you’re visiting Aspen to carve a name for yourself or need to learn skiing or snowboarding, there’s something for everyone.  

Discover Aspen.

Skiing in Aspen – Almost a Century of The Aspen Idea

Ski In Ski Out Aspen

Skiing in Aspen has come a long way. 

Before it became a recreational sport, skiing was used for transportation, warfare, hunting, or mail delivery.

Over 100 years ago, prospectors discovered silver in the Roaring Fork Valley. The valley was a favorite hunting site for Ute Indians. Coming from Leadville, thirteen hardy prospectors crossed the continental divide and endured the harsh winter of 1879 to protect their find. They named their camp Ute City during their stay but later changed it to Aspen.

By 1890, word of silver’s discovery spread, and the town grew to 12,000 residents in three years. However, mining activities declined after the Sherman Act was repealed in 1893, deregulating silver. 

By 1930 Aspen’s population shrunk to about 700 people, and the town entered the quiet years. A new crop of prospectors seeking the perfect location for a skiing ground during this period discovered Aspen.

A General Timeline of Skiing in Aspen

How to Get to Aspen, Colorado

Aspen Mountain lies to the South of Aspen City. It is located on the upper end of the Roaring Fork Valley in Pitkin County. It is along State Highway 82, about 318 kilometers southwest of Denver, Colorado.

First Fly into the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport

This airport offers many direct flights to and from major cities in the US, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, and dozens of connecting flights. The airport is about five kilometers from Aspen. Visitors can participate in the airport’s new carbon offset program, which allows them to lower their carbon footprint.

A drawback is that the airport is prone to closure due to bad weather. However, visitors can opt for the Eagle County airport (Vail/Eagle), which is further from Aspen but less plagued by foul weather and has more route options.

Then Take a Shuttle or Take a Taxi to Aspen

To get to Aspen from the airport, you can take the free RFTA busses between 6 Am and 1 AM. They leave every half hour from 6 Am to 5 PM and then every quarter hour from 5 PM to 1 AM.

You may also take a taxi from the airport to the city. Alternatively, many Aspen lodgings provide airport transfers through taxis for their guests from the airport to their premises. 

Explore More of Colorado

You can explore more of Colorado by flying into Denver International Airport. Then rent a car that meets the Colorado Traction Law standards. Finally, take a four-hour drive past the Denver city skyline on Highway I-70.

Top Skiing and Snowboarding Destinations in Aspen

There are several winter sports destinations in Aspen. However, the best ski resorts are found in the Aspen Snowmass.

The Aspen Snowmass is a massive snow resort complex in western Colorado’s Pitkin County. The Aspen Skiing Company owns and operates the snow area. 

The winter complex occupies over 5,527 acres of variable terrain, with 362 trails served by 41 lifts. The dynamic terrain features cruises, cliff bands, pipes, and three terrain parks.

In 2017, Ski Magazine recognized Snowmass as a top winter destination in the Western US. The ski domain has many on-mountain facilities such as restaurants, and hotels, with over 95% of the lodging being ski-in/ski-out. In addition, it has ski schools, on-mountain concerts, races, and snowcat dinner rides.

The Aspen Snowmass includes the following ski areas:

1 Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain (Ajax) is a ski area that spreads across Aspen Mountain and Bell Mountain. It is the oldest of the four ski areas and is located above Aspen Town. 

The ski area is on the northern flank of Aspen Mountain. It receives a decent seasonal average snowfall of 7.6 meters of light Colorado snow. 

The snow resort covers a narrow area of about 675 acres with 76 trails. Two gondolas – the Silver Queen Gondola and the Elk Camp Gondola – transport revelers up a 3,200-meter incline. Beautiful Aspen trees line the trails with the Rocky Peaks forming a picturesque backdrop.

The Aspen Mountain terrain is ideal for experts and intermediates and is classified as follows:

The ski resort has no green runs with the expert terrain featuring tree skiing, black diamond runs, and steep verticals.

Top places To Eat in Aspen Mountain

Where to Stay on Aspen Mountain

The snow area offers excellent on-mountain accommodation, with our favorite pick being the Little Nell Hotel.

2 Aspen Highlands

This is a locals’ favorite and popular with revelers who like to avoid crowds. It is located on the Loge and Highland peaks on the northern end of Aspen.

The snow area is famous for the Highland Bowl, with some of the most challenging but fun terrain in the US. It offers magnificent views of the Maroon Bells.

The snow resort has an average seasonal snowfall of about 7.7 meters, ensuring deep powdery slopes. It occupies 1,040 acres, with five high-speed lifts transporting thrill-seekers up the 3,635 vertical rise.

The Aspen Highlands terrain is expert only with a mix of chutes, steep verticals, and wide groomers. Its 118 trails fall under:

Top Places to Dine in Aspen Highlands

Where To Stay in Aspen Highlands

You may choose on-mountain accommodation or head to Aspen Town for more lodging options. The Ritz Carlton Club is a favorite pick for most revelers.

Aspen Highlands

3 Buttermilk

This is a perfect winter sports destination for families and beginners, located north of the Aspen Highlands. It is also known for its excellent terrain park and as a host of the ESPN X Games since 2002. Athletes from all over the world convene at Buttermilk every year in January to compete in activities such as snowmobile racing and alpine skiing.

Buttermilk receives a modest seasonal average snowfall of 5 meters. However, the glades near Tiehack get decent deep snow covers on powder days.

The resort sits on 470 acres of skiable terrain, with 44 trails served by three lifts. The lifts include the main chair lift that serves the entire hill and a magic carpet for beginners. The snow area has terrain with gentle tree-lined slopes and is classified as follows:

Top Places to Dine in Buttermilk

Where to stay in Buttermilk

The main base area at Aspen Town has excellent ski-in/ski-out accommodation and lodges. The buttermilk hotel is a popular choice with an onsite restaurant, pool and hotel rooms, and studios with kitchenettes and suites.

4 Snowmass

This is the largest of the four areas and is larger than the other three combined. It is located near Snowmass Village, where excellent accommodation and friendly amenities exist. You can access the other three ski fields with a single lift ticket.

Snowmass receives a decent average seasonal snowfall of 7.6 meters. This allows for a decent powder cover on the slopes, even though it does not last many days.

The snow area occupies an area of about 3,339 acres with 20 lifts transporting revelers up a 1,343-meter vertical. The terrain has 94 runs with endless bumps, steep glades, groomers, and jumps. It is further classified as follows:

Top Places to Dine in Snowmass

Where To Stay In Snowmass

Snowmass Village is located at the bottom of the mountain and has great accommodation options. 95% of its lodging is ski-in/ski-out. Accommodation in the village includes hotels and condominiums, although you can find more options in the nearby Aspen Town.

Get All the Information You Need to Plan Your Next Winter Holiday

The ski resorts in Aspen, Colorado, are an excellent destination for snow lovers of all abilities and levels. Enjoy the scenic views of Colorado’s mountains with excellent accommodation facilities to suit individuals, groups, and families.

With four mountains to choose from, Aspen has plenty to do. Its luxurious hotels and upscale restaurants signify the snow domain’s status as the go-to getaway destination for the super-rich. However, it also offers great holiday options and packages for families.

Planning a snow sports holiday does not have to be daunting. Discover Brealpa’s treasure trove of handy and practical information to help you choose and plan an unforgettable skiing and snowboarding holiday. You’ll find plenty of information on: