From the 2021 SKI Resort Guide: No, 5 in the West, Aspen Snowmass, Colo.
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.”
Aspen Snowmass Stats
- Skiable acres: 675
- Miles of Trails: 64
- Summit Elevation (feet): 8,000
- Lifts: 8
- Vertical Drop (feet): 3,267
- Skiable acres: 3,339
- Miles of Trails: 150
- Summit Elevation (feet): 8,209
- Lifts: 17
- Vertical Drop (feet): 4,406
Where to Stay in Aspen
Downtown Aspen’s historic gem was built in the 1880s and updated a handful of times throughout the years. These days Hotel Jerome is a 94-room Auberge resort with a great restaurant, a hoppin’ bar (in non-Covid times), spa, and fitness center.
The ski-in/ski-out Viceroy on the slopes of Snowmass opened in 2009 and offers hotel rooms through sprawling residences, plus a 7,000-square-foot spa, multiple bars and restaurants, and a ski valet to get you seamlessly onto the slopes.
There are two welcoming yet quirky properties at Aspen Snowmass. The first, which opened in downtown Aspen in 2012, is within walking distance to Ajax’s slopes. Another Limelight opened at Snowmass’s new village in 2018 with a climbing wall, kid’s game room, and skating rink right in front. Both properties are pet-friendly and offer complimentary breakfast daily.
St. Regis Aspen
Tucked right into the base at Ajax, the luxe St. Regis has guest rooms up to residences, all within walking distance to the slopes.
Where to Eat in Aspen
• Element 47: Treat yourself at the restaurant inside the Little Nell Hotel. Element 47 is known for its amazing Wagyu beef and a 24,000-bottle wine collection.
• Matsuhisa: Sushi, in a ski town? In the case of Matushisa, yes. It’s the original outpost of L.A.-based sushi joint Nobu and still going strong a couple of decades later.
• The Crepe Shack: Right next to the ice rink in Snowmass Village, the Crepe Shack serves up sweet and savory options to satisfy any palate at any time of the day.
Where to Après in Aspen
• Eric’s Bar: Eric’s is a downtown favorite for late-night revelry, with a cigar lounge, pool, shuffleboard, and a respectable cocktail menu.
• Meat & Cheese Restaurant and Farm Shop: It doesn’t sound like much of a bar, but the 12 specially curated taps at the Meat & Cheese Shop all serve local-favorite craft beers, including Soulcraft Brewing and Left Hand Brewing Company. There’s also a tasty menu of eats to accompany the suds.
• Aspen Tap: This is the downtown Aspen location of the Aspen Brewing Company, where you can take any of the brewery’s beers for a test run, plus order a snack from the full gastropub menu.
Must Do Activities in Aspen
• Elk Camp Snow Tubing: Ride the Elk Camp Gondola to the swift, well-manicured, and Magic Carpet-served lanes at the Meadows at Elk Camp.
• Breathtaker Alpine Coaster: Climb aboard for a fast-as-you-like-it, mile-long mountain coaster ride through the forests of Snowmass Mountain, at speeds of almost 30 mph.