Aspen Resort Guide
Insider tips from our team
With four mountains to explore, an authentic ski town with pretty brick buildings, skiing for all abilities and a booming après scene, Aspen Snowmass is a special destination for couples, friends or families. Choosing the right location for your needs is a must and that’s where we can help!
Aspen Mountain rises quite spectacularly from the town centre. Although this particular mountain is actually quite small - only 675 acres - the incredibly efficient shuttle bus system makes it very easy to visit the three other mountains nearby. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are a few miles outside the town and Snowmass is an easy 20-minute free shuttle ride away.
Aspen Mountain and Highlands offer the most challenging skiing with some beautiful tree runs, gullies and chutes, while beginners and intermediates will revel in the huge variety of wide cruisers at Buttermilk and Snowmass. Snowmass has a huge range for all levels of skier and boarder as well as some great accommodation alternatives.
The Four Mountains
Aspen Highlands is the second largest mountain and is the real local’s hang out as it offers steeper terrain with some cracking groomers to warm up on. Definitely the place for advanced skiers on a powder day. Highlands Bowl offers some amazing skiing and is well worth the gruelling 30 to 45 minutes hike.
Buttermilk is where the majority of the green runs are for beginners and has some really nice groomers to find your ski legs again at the start of a trip. You can easily do a morning here and take a two-minute shuttle ride to the base of Highlands in the afternoon. The resort has also spent time cleaning up the gladed terrain on the Tiehack side of the mountain as it offers wonderful rolling, gladed and groomed terrain which is great for skiers and riders looking for single black trails off the beaten path. If you're an advanced skier or rider it's worth a visit in the afternoon as you'll have the top of the mountain to yourself!
Aspen Mountain (known as 'Ajax' to the locals) is a seriously steep mountain for advanced skiers and riders, with long runs from the top of the gondola to burn the thighs. Bear in mind there are no green runs on this mountain.
Snowmass is the largest of the areas and an intermediates paradise. As it offers truly ski-in ski-out accommodation, families often prefer to stay here. The area is so large it does offer something for everyone but the progression from groomed blues to single black diamonds is pretty easy meaning it will tend to be the main resort you will ski. 20 mins shuttle ride for the centre of Aspen.
Originally a mining town, Aspen has evolved into one of the most prestigious ski holiday destinations in North America while still maintaining its historical character and small-town atmosphere. Many of the Victorian buildings have been preserved creating a hugely picturesque town centre.
There are over 100 bars and restaurants to choose from and bundles of boutiques and galleries to saunter around when off the slopes. Most are within easy walking distance of each other. Aspen is also known for its nightlife. This is where the rich and famous come to party so if celeb spotting is your thing, you are in the right place! However, Aspen is also perfect for those looking for a more relaxed pace with plenty of local charm.
Getting there - The easiest way to get to resort is to fly into Aspen Airport, via Chicago. This saves the four-hour transfer from Denver Airport that will get you to resort quite late in the evening. Alternatively, why not fly direct into Denver, take a night in an airport hotel and then hire a car for the one day to take a leisurely drive to resort. You can always stop at the factory outlets in Silverthorne or even ski at Vail or Copper which are en-route. You won’t need the car in resort so you can drop it off at Aspen Airport and pick it up for the drive home.
Budget - Aspen is an exclusive resort with a relatively small number of hotels. Early season, January and Easter are great times to go as the snow is good, the rates are lower and there are lots of special offers. Alternatively, Snowmass offers some excellent value accommodation and you are just 15 minutes on the bus from everything that Aspen town has to offer.
Ski-in ski-out - As Aspen Mountain itself is relatively small you will find that you ski the majority of your days on Snowmass or Highlands. Aspen is all about the town. If you truly want ski-in ski-out why not look at Snowmass? It's a better option if you are travelling with a young family and will be using the ski school and childcare facilities a lot. Base yourself here to minimise hassle and make use of the shuttles to visit Aspen in the evenings.
For more info on Snowmass Village, read our Snowmass Resort Guide.
Did you know? - In October 2010, a bulldozer operator working in Snowmass Village uncovered the bones of a 43,500-year-old Columbian mammoth.
Facilities and Services
Childcare - The main daycare facility is the industry-leading Treehouse Kids Adventure Centre in Snowmass which takes children from 8 weeks to 4 years. They are open daily and also offer evening activities on certain days. Babysitting services during the day or evening are provided by A Mom’s Day Off.
Max the Moose Express - For families staying in Aspen town, children aged five and above booked into ski school can take the bus with a ski/snowboard Pro from the gondola building in Aspen to Buttermilk every morning between 8:30 and 8:45am.
Transportation - The resort buses run every 10 - 20 minutes to all four mountains and are free. Last bus between Aspen and Snowmass is at 2:15 am. Many of the hotels also offer their own shuttles around town and some will also go to the different mountains.
Four Mountain Sports - If renting equipment, Four Mountain Sports offers free ski valet service. Drop your skis off at one mountain at the end of the day and they'll have them ready for you in the morning at the mountain of your choice! It saves carrying equipment on and off the resort bus.
Supermarkets - There are two in Aspen and one in the Village of Snowmass. All three are open 7am - 10pm.
Bars and Restaurants
We've not quite managed to try all 100+ bars and restaurants in Aspen, but here are a few of our favourites:
- 520 Grill - serving diner-style top notch burgers, tacos, soups, fries and salads. Cheap, tasty and very popular.
- Jimmy’s - an Aspen institution, now in their 21st year making America great again, not through politics but in providing superb American cuisine, fine wines and delicious cocktails. Top tip, look for dishes that feature Home Run Ranch Beef, cattle raised sustainably on Kurt Russell’s range near old Snowmass. Wow.
- Paradise Bakery - a true Ski Safari favourite, been making cookies for 37 years and a pit-stop here is essential to any Aspen visit.
- The Popcorn Wagon, Aspen - re-opened for winter 18-19, now making "healthy junk food" and twists on past favourites.
- New York Pizza - the best pizza joint in Aspen. Open late.
- L’Hostaria - great for fish or pasta.
- FUEL - the newest coffee bar and gourmet sandwich shop in Snowmass.
For a complete list of dining options please see eatAspen.
Reservations - The concierge desk at the base of Two Creeks will make the evening’s dinner reservations in Aspen or Snowmass while you’re on the mountain. If you’re travelling over peak dates we highly recommend pre-booking restaurants.
Aspen is home to possibly the best apres in North America! We recommend:
- Ajax Tavern - lively, fun and perfectly located at the base of Aspen Mountain. Enjoy the fizz, cocktails and good-looking crowd. Top tip - truffle fries are mandatory.
- The J-Bar - located in the incredible historic Hotel Jerome, be sure to try out the Aspen Crud, an ice-cream milkshake infused with Jack Daniels, a recipe which dates back decades to the prohibition era
- Belly Up - for late night drinks, this is the town's premier live bar and club showcasing up to 300 concerts a year. Expect to see world-renowned artists from Ben Harper to ZZ Top.