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Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding
Snowmass. This sprawling ski area is the biggest of the four Aspen–area mountains. Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, and Snowmass can all be skied with the same ticket. A free shuttle system connects all four. Snowmass includes 64,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, the Elk Camp Gondola, and Elk Camp Meadows Activity Center. There are six distinct sectors: Elk Camp, High Alpine–Alpine Springs, Big Burn, Sam's Knob, Two Creeks, and Campground. Except for the last two, all these sectors funnel into the pedestrian mall at the base. Snowmass is probably best known for Big Burn, itself a great sprawl of wide-open, intermediate skiing. Experts head to such areas as Hanging Valley Wall and the Cirque for the best turns. For powder stashes among the trees, head to the glades on Burnt Mountain (to the east of Longshot), Hanging Valley, Sneaky's, Hanging Valley, and Powerline.
At Snowmass nearly 50% of the 3,332 skiable acres are designated for intermediate-level skiers. The route variations down Big Burn are essentially inexhaustible, and there are many other places on the mountain for intermediates to find entertainment. The novice and beginning-intermediate terrain on the lower part of the mountain makes Snowmass a terrific place for younger children.
Don't overlook the fact that Snowmass is four times the size of Aspen Mountain, and has triple the black- and double-black-diamond terrain of its famed sister, including several fearsomely precipitous gullies at Hanging Valley. Although only 30% of the terrain is rated expert, this huge mountain has enough difficult runs, including the consistently challenging Powderhorn and the more-relaxed Sneaky's Run, to satisfy skilled skiers.
This mountain has one of the most comprehensive snowboarding programs in the country, with the heart of the action in the Headwall Cirque. The terrain map points out the numerous snowboard-friendly trails and terrain parks while steering riders away from flat spots. You'll want to visit Snowmass Park in the Coney Glade area, with its 22-foot superpipe. West of Aspen via Brush Creek Rd. or Owl Creek Rd., Snowmass Village, CO. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200. www.aspensnowmass.com. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 9–4.
4,406-foot vertical drop; 3,100 skiable acres; 88 trails; 6% beginner, 50% intermediate, 12% advanced, 32% expert; 24 lifts, 1 8-passenger gondola, 1 high-speed 6-passenger chair, 1 6-passenger gondola, 6 high-speed quad chairs, 2 quads, 4 double lifts, 5 magic carpets, 2 school lifts, 2 platter pulls.
Lessons and Programs
Aspen Skiing Company. This company runs a top-notch Ski & Snowboard School at Snowmass and Aspen's other mountains. Lower Snowmass Village Mall, Snowmass Village, CO, 81615. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200.
Lift tickets are $87, but almost nobody pays full price, thanks to multiday savings, early- and late-season specials, and other discounts.
Snowmass has numerous ski shops offering rental packages (skis, boots, and poles).
Aspen Sports. This sporting-goods store is one of the best-known ski outfitters in Snowmass. 70 Snowmass Village Mall, Snowmass Village, CO, 81615. 970/923-6111. www.aspensports.com.
Incline Ski & Board Shop. Locally owned and operated, Incline Ski & Board Shop is steps from the shuttle-bus stop. 1 Snowmass Village Mall, Snowmass Village, CO, 81615. 970/923-4726. www.inclineski.com.
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