The four ski areas that make up Aspen Snowmass fell in the reader rankings this year, but they are still, undoubtedly, four of the most amazing places skiers can visit in the USA. Sure, the glamorous town of Aspen and its surrounds will always rank high in Après (No. 2) and Nightlife (No. 2), but no matter what you’ve heard about the afternoon seating at Cloud 9 on Highlands or the intimate concerts that stretch into the night at the Belly Up, there is no denying that the quality of skiing is really what puts Aspen Snowmass at another level. From the steep, continuous fall-line skiing of Highland Bowl to the kid-friendly, first-timer slopes of Buttermilk’s Panda Peak, there truly is something for everyone. Advanced and intermediate skiers looking for something off the beaten path will be happy to lap the quiet glades on Buttermilk’s Tiehack area, or take a short hike up to Snowmass’ Long Shot to an incredibly long blue run chock full of powdery nooks and crannies.
For 2020-’21, Snowmass continues to see the majority of improvements, including an upgraded Big Burn chairlift and a redesigned Gwynn’s restaurant at the top of Alpine Springs. There will also be improved snowmaking in the Alpine Springs area, but the bigger news is that Aspen Mountain will see top-to-bottom, high-efficiency snowmaking. The result? No more downloading on the Silver Queen Gondola during lean early seasons. “Been there many times and never been disappointed,” says one reader, summing it up nicely. “The standard that I always measure other resorts against.” — Jon Jay
2021 Reader Resort Ranking of Aspen Snowmass: No. 5 in the West
- BEST VALUE: Utilize the towns down valley to cut costs. Basalt, Carbondale, and Glenwood Springs offer a number of reasonably priced but excellent accommodations and restaurants, plus they are all connected to Aspen via the efficient and fast VelociRFTA-BRT lines.
- ON-HILL RESTAURANT: The newly opened Sam’s, at the top of Snowmass’ Village Express, offers upscale Italian cuisine that’s so good, you might think you’re skiing in Cortina. We recommend the Chicken Under a Brick and the Cavatelli, but it’s impossible to go wrong with the locally sourced menu.
Read about No. 6 in the West: Telluride, Colo.
Ready for No. 4 in the West? Taos Ski Valley, N.M.
Aspen Snowmass’ 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 1st in the West
If there is one superlative that stands out from reader comments about Aspen Snowmass, it’s “The Best.” Whether it’s the diverse terrain options, the quality on-hill dining, the professional ski instructors, the extensive hotel options, and the No. 1 après scene that artfully rolls right into the No. 1 nightlife scene, Aspen Snowmass is, according to a whole bunch of readers, “The Best.” Last season, after joining the Ikon Pass, a number of first-time visitors noted that Aspen Snowmass is truly worth the hype, and that the people of Aspen and Snowmass are friendly and welcoming to everyone.
For those who want to check out something new, Snowmass is the place. Hungry skiers will want to stop by Sam’s, a new Italian restaurant at the top of the Village Express and Sam’s Knob lifts. While on that side of the ski area, take a few scenic laps on Bonzai Ridge or test your bumps skills off Wildcat before heading over to the longer intermediate-through-expert runs off of the Sheer Bliss chairlift. End the day checking out The Collective’s new Moxie’s Grill & Bar for a cocktail and dinner at Mix6 in the base village.
In the town of Aspen, a quick walk from Gondola Square leads to the all-new W Hotel. The place is sure to stun visitors and residents alike with its unique room layouts—e.g. quad-queen bunk beds, a suite with a private DJ booth—and the only year-round rooftop après venue that stares directly at the mountain. Meanwhile, the skiing on Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands is as stellar as ever, and there’s always something to discover while exploring the nooks and crannies of the steep glades off Bell Mountain or Deep Temerity. If you really want to get away from everyone or spend some time with family, head over to Buttermilk and linger at the top to take in views of the Elk Mountains before poking around in the perfectly spaced aspen groves and manicured groomers.
Though perhaps what really makes Aspen Snowmass the best is that it has mastered the basics of what make a ski town great. Free transportation between all four mountains and the airport means less cars on the road (No. 1 for Accessibility). Perfectly groomed trails combined with one of the best ski schools in North America can help anyone become a better skier (No. 1 for Grooming). And well-placed lifts mean there’s hardly ever a line (No. 3 for Lifts). Considering the mountains are on the Ikon Pass and Mountain Collective, it’s only a matter of time until more skiers realize Aspen Snowmass truly is the best. — Jon Jay
- LOCAL TIP: On a powder day, skip hiking the entire Highlands Bowl and drop in on Flip’s Leap or Hyde Park. Snow will be freshest on cold mornings and is commonly overlooked by summit-hungry skiers.
- FAMILY EXPERIENCE: Buttermilk holds its own with kids and parents looking to improve, plus the summit has the best lift-served views of the jagged Pyramid Peak.
- DOWN DAY ACTIVITY: WinterSköl (Jan. 9-12) features ice sculptures around Aspen, fireworks, and a canine fashion show with dogs who could compete at Westminster.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Aspen Snowmass
The four mountains that make up Aspen Snowmass are the gold standard for American skiing. Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass each have their own character, which is why most skiers visit a different mountain each day of their visit. The Dumps on Aspen Mountain or the glades beneath Snowmass’s High Alpine Lift are a must when it’s snowing, while the breathtaking descent of Highlands Bowl or the empty, perfect groomers of Tiehack beg for attention when the sky is blue. If the renown nightlife stretches on too long, at least one mountain will have a daily noon groomer on the weekends, keeping the corduroy fresh for those who hit the snooze button too many times. The world-class ski school can get the kids carving at Buttermilk or Snowmass while Mom and Dad can enjoy the decadent pleasures of top-to-bottom gondola laps or the infamous 2:30 p.m. seating at Cloud 9 Bistro, all before a perfect family rendezvous for dinner in town.
Aspen is just far enough from the ever-growing Colorado Front Range that it remains noticeably quieter than every ski resort on I-70, even during peak holidays. First-time visitors who expect a snobby culture are always delighted to find welcoming, nearly European hospitality throughout the upper Roaring Fork Valley, and while not cheap, the skiing and lodging prices are at (and even below) some of its rival Colorado resorts. Add in Ikon and Mountain Collective options, unbeatable events including Wintersköl and the Winter X Games, plus an ever-expanding list of premier dining, lodging, and culture outlets, and there’s no place in the U.S. that can come close to SKI’s Resort of the Year. Put it on the top of your list for places to visit this season, and we bet it’ll stay there for every season to come. – Jon Jay
Come to Aspen Snowmass for the…
- APRÈS Snowmass’s New Belgium Ranger Station offers brew and food pairings around a warming fire pit.
- ON-MOUNTAIN FOOD Up 4 Pizza, at the top of Snowmass’s Big Burn lift, fires up the best pies around. Stay for a fresh-baked cookie.
The Limelight Hotel at Snowmass opened in November 2018, taking on the charm and down-to-earth luxury of the beloved Limelight Aspen and further diversifying the lodging options of Snowmass. You’ll see the hotel’s climbing wall from the Elk Camp Gondola.