Aspen is a charming mountain town that gives every visitor an experience that you simply cannot get anywhere else. Vacationing in Aspen Snowmass during winter is truly unmatched. A world-class ski resort in a town that lives and breathes through culture and community. Our wonderful hometown is an outdoor playground for all ages, with excitement and inspiration around every corner. The phrase, which has become a motto of sorts for the town, “defy ordinary” sums up the exact mood among locals and visitors alike. This place has a unique atmosphere that leaves every visitor with a lasting love for Aspen. It’s almost unexplainable. Through this guide, we’ll talk about what makes Aspen Snowmass so special, in addition to how to turn your trip into everlasting memories
This Winter in Aspen Snowmass
If you’re planning a trip an Aspen winter vacation, odds are you are looking to hit the slopes. It’s shaping up to be a truly special ski season as Aspen Snowmass celebrates in 75th anniversary since the slopes first opened. With that being said, we are sure this season will be full of celebration in addition to the remarkable atmosphere that fills our town during the winter. This guide will help you have the ultimate ski vacation in Aspen. We’ll also highlight some of our other favorite things to do in Aspen in winter.
Skiing this season started on Thanksgiving weekend as is usually tradition. Aspen and Snowmass Mountains opened first, with Highlands and Buttermilk set to open on December 11th. The ski season runs through to April. Buttermilk is planned to close on April 3rd with Aspen mountain being the last to close on the 17th. These dates sometimes get extended when the snow is particularly great and skiing is still viable through to May. Fingers crossed! With four amazing mountains to enjoy, and over 5,500 skiable acres the possibilities are endless for your dream ski vacation.
SKI GUIDE: What You Need to Know About Hitting the Slopes
Here is our guide to getting the most out of your ski strip. With proper planning and information, you can make sure you don’t miss a beat. Whether you want to experience every possible second of adventure, or are setting your sights on a weekend of Aprés, we’ll help make sure you get everything you want to be done, and more!
SKI PASSES AND LIFT TICKETS
To start you need a pass to access the slopes. Every pass you get gives you access to all 4 mountains in Aspen Snowmass. Each mountain is within a short drive to downtown Aspen, and are all very accessible. If your vacation time permits, we recommend trying to spend some time on each of our fantastic mountains. Our mountains each have a personality of their own and offer a different experience to the next.
Various types of ski passes or lift tickets are available, and prices can vary depending on the time of the season. As previously mentioned any pass will get you onto all four of the local mountains. Short-term passes can vary from 1-day to 7-day passes, and the price reduces per the number of days bought. If you are planning on a long vacation in Aspen or even visiting multiple times then it may be worth your while to grab a season-long lift ticket. Again, there are many different options from unlimited premier passes, student and senior passes, and even 2-day a week passes. There is something for almost any budget.
Public transport in our little mountain town is second to none. While most resorts and lodging options offer phenomenal concierge services and have great shuttle options, our local bus network provides an excellent service to all four mountains. From Rubey Park Station there are free bus options, direct to each mountain. All bus services from Aspen to Snowmass and everywhere in-between are completely free. Each bus has plenty of secure ski storage and there are departures from all stops every half hour!
On top of this, the Aspen Downtowner offers free shuttle rides for any visitor. This service is only available, as the name suggests, in downtown Aspen. Nevertheless, this is a reliable and quick option to go anywhere in town, including the base of Aspen Mountain.
You are probably thinking, what do I need to bring to Aspen for the Winter?Although many visitors bring along their own ski and snowboard gear, there are tons of options for those of you who need to rent ski/snowboard equipment. Four Mountain Sports offer rentals for skis and clothing and have a location at every mountain. So don’t panic if you don’t have enough space in your suitcase. There are plenty of further rental shops throughout town such as Incline, SureFoot, and Aspen Sports. To find some hidden gems, check out the Aspen Thrift shop for affordable second-hand options!
OUR FAVORITE AREAS AND RUNS FOR A PERFECT DAY ON EACH MOUNTAIN
So you’ve planned ahead, got all of the necessary gear, and are ready to explore. Here’s our perfect day on each respective Mountain, from a local perspective. The best runs and areas, on-mountain dining, aprés and other little tips to make the most of every day. Aspen and Snowmass have over 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, meaning you’ll be able to try something new every day. Full maps of the runs on each mountain can be found here.
ASPEN MOUNTAIN (Ajax): LEGENDARY SKIING IN THE HEART OF TOWN
Aspen Mountain overlooks downtown Aspen and offers world-class steep skiing right into the heart of Aspen. There are no beginner runs on Aspen Mountain but intermediate skiers can take blue runs all of the ways down. Start your day with some lines down Silver Bell to the Ajax Express, which is the quickest way to return to the top. For lunch, you should zip down Buckhorn, and grab a bite to eat at Bonnie’s, a long-term institution on Aspen Mountain, famous for its pancakes! Now that you’re warmed up, we recommend hitting The Aspen Glades in search of some fresh powder and intense tree lines. We love to finish the day with a top-to-bottom run, down Ruthies on the Western side of the mountain, which gives you exquisite views down the Roaring Fork Valley.
HIGHLANDS: BREATHTAKING, STEEP, AND WILD
Aspen Highlands offers, in our opinion something a little different to the other mountains in Aspen. Some of the higher runs offer “in-bounds” backcountry skiing with steep powdery slopes. You should start the day with a quick run to wake yourself up before making the trek up to the top of The Highlands Bowl. Probably the most renowned area to ski in Aspen, the bowl offers thrilling, steep skiing with incredible panoramic views, as good as anywhere in the world. We usually head earlier in the day, as the hike is a real leg-burner, and you also want to get there before any fresh snow has been skied. After you’ve worked up a sweat, stop in at Merry-Go-Round for a refreshing bite to eat. If you’re feeling a little more festive, join the party at Cloud 9 Bistro, known for spraying bottles of champagne.
BUTTERMILK: BEGINNERS PARADISE
Buttermilk is considered the easiest mountain in terms of terrain, with trails to suit every experience level. The West Buttermilk is a great area of the mountain for some quick blue and green runs. We love starting our day up there. The runs are spacious and quiet, with great options for different levels. Why not test your skills on the features in the terrain park. On the eastern side of Buttermilk, we love to descend on Racer’s Edge to the Tiehack Express, which gives you access to some more challenging runs. After a day on the slopes, unwind with a drink and some great food at Hometeam BBQ.
SNOWMASS: WIDE OPEN, WONDERFUL, AND INVITING
Snowmass is the largest of the four mountains, and hence it has everything from complete beginner slopes to off-piste style terrain. There is so much to explore but we’ll break down our ideal day as best we can. Start your day on the Village Express with some groomed runs on Banzai Ridge and Moonshine. Refuel with some food at Sam’s, which offers amazing Italian food. After you’ve re-energized, make your way across the mountain until you eventually make it to the Elk Camp side. It will take some time and a few different lifts, but it’s the best way to explore Snowmass Mountain in our opinion.
Make your way to the thrilling Long Shot Trail to finish off. A little hike up from the Elk Camp chairlift gives you access to one continuous blue run down to the Two Creeks lift. It’s filled with bump sections and technical tree trails. You’ll have earned a drink after this, so hit up Venga Venga for some aprés ski celebrations. Also, keep an eye out for the free s’more stations in the base village.
More Ski Tips for Aspen Snowmass: How to Have More Fun on the Hill
After a fresh snowfall, there’s really nothing like catching first tracks in the morning. Getting up early to try and beat the crowds is so rewarding and being the first to hit either the morning corduroy or untouched powder is truly a privilege. The first gondola leaves at 8 AM, so plan on getting up bright and early when you vacation here! You must book first tracks for Aspen and Snowmass 24 hours in advance, so try and plan ahead with the weather to guarantee you’re the first to pick a powdery line on the mountain.
Across all four mountains in Aspen, shrines have been set up for everything from dogs to celebrities and even countries. Shrines are little areas hidden on the mountains which are decorated with items related to whatever they are celebrating. Often amongst the trees, you will find a tucked away seat with the branches around them covered in pictures, ornaments, and personal belongings. Each mountain has its own respective shrines, with over 50 in total across our four mountains. A full list, with some maps, can be found here. Our favorites to visit are the Bob Marley and the dog shrines on Aspen Mountain, and the monkey lounge shrine at Highlands. Why not take a few lines through the trees on your next run and see if you can spot any!
OTHER SKIING ACTIVITIES: ADD SOME VARIETY TO YOUR OUTINGS
Are you looking for different things to do in Aspen and Snowmass this winter — something besides alpine skiing or snowboarding?
Maybe you’re a little bored with the slopes. Or perhaps you’re planning a mountain vacation but you’re not sure you want to deal with crowded lift lines and on-mountain restaurants. Try some of these other ski-based activities for something a little different this year.
Uphill Skiing or “Skinning”
Uphill skiing is quickly becoming one of Aspen’s favorite pastimes. Skinning, as it is often called, used to be a lesser-known activity amongst skiers, but has become much more accessible in recent times to all levels of skiing experience. Skinning involves using a specific set of skis that have a special binding and a set of skins on the bottom, which allow you to hike uphill with your skis on. This activity is a real workout and makes the run down even more rewarding. As they say, you’ve got to earn your turns. Uphill skiing on Aspen’s four mountains requires either a season pass or a specifically uphill ski pass, which costs $69 for the season. For full information on how to get started with skinning in Aspen visit our full guide to uphill skiing in Aspen.
Cross country skiing has always been present amongst the local community and experienced skiers, but its popularity explode due to the Covid-19 year. It was another great way to get your skiing fix while the lifts were closed. Cross-country skiing allows you to make the most of flat snow terrain. There are several distinct styles, all using the same basic setup of “skinny” skis and poles. We love cross-country skiing as not only is it a testing form of exercise but it also allows you to ski or tour scenic trails around Aspen that you wouldn’t be able to explore otherwise. Want to get into cross-country skiing this winter? Browse our detailed blog on cross-country skiing in Aspen.
Aspen, and Colorado in general, benefits from having an extensive hut system. These huts are scattered throughout the backcountry in remote areas. The fact that they are off the beaten track makes for a great excursion or backcountry adventure. Mountain huts offer a great escape. Almost every hut will require to you snowshoe or ski the backcountry Huts are bookable online and provide guests with an experience like no other. Imagine you, your family, and friends nestled up in a cozy cabin away from technology and noise. Just good company in a dreamy mountain escape. Every hut is armed with fireplaces, a kitchen, and comfortable living and sleeping areas. To plan your next adventure in the backcountry, visit 10th Mountain Division Huts, which provide bookable huts for different sized parties and experiences. With regards to Aspen winter activities, it doesn’t get much better than a hut trip!
Tours and guides
To explore our beautiful snow-covered mountains there are tons of options for tours and guides. Getting shown around by a local can show you the area in a different light. You’ll also receive great insights, stories, and tips. A local tour can give you experiences you wouldn’t even know possible on an otherwise quick vacation in Aspen. Whether you are searching for adrenalin by skiing the backcountry, looking to catch some amazing views, or snowmobiling the lesser know trails of Aspen and Snowmass, there is something for everyone. Our local experts can help you find the experience you are dreaming of. Explore Aspen’s options for various tours and guided trips.
OTHER ACTIVITIES: THINGS TO DO IN ASPEN IN WINTER BESIDES SKI
Aspen has an endless list of activities and things to visit. In addition to our famed social scene, there are also numerous ways to get out and discover some lesser-known gems for those visiting our snow globe. Here are some of our favorite ways to spend your day when you’re not on the slopes. Aspen winter activities come in many forms and Aspen Snowmass always provide something for everyone to enjoy.
Dining & Shopping
Aspen is famed for phenomenal dining experiences and world-renowned retail. There are endless options from downtown to on-mountain dining with worldwide cuisine available on every street. On our luxury blog, we talk about the options in town, from noteworthy gems to local favorites and everything in-between. Luxury brands and high-class boutique stores also love to call Aspen and Snowmass home.
Further down this blog, we explore what’s new in Aspen this year!
Go Gallery Hopping
Aspen has a bustling local art scene and community. There are numerous art galleries, ranging from local boutique displays to pop-ups from famous artists from all over the globe. The Aspen Art Museum offers exhibitions from around the world, in an amazing setup in the heart of downtown. Festivals and events are hosted year-round. Beautiful street art displays can be found on the sides of red brick buildings. To sum it up our little town shows off when it comes to art, and you can explore so much in a dense, vibrant area. Read through our full guide on Aspen’s art scene to plan your gallery-hopping days.
Explore Aspen on a different mode of transport
T-Lazy 7 Ranch offers winter Horseback rides guided by professionals, which meander through the trails around Maroon Creek. This is a unique and rare way to explore Aspen’s backcountry in the winter. “The trails, which have been packed down for safety, are peacefully quiet in the wintertime, and you’ll see some of the most breathtaking sights in the world. Not only does the snow create some amazing sculptures along the rocky terrain, but you’ll also see parts of the woods that are hidden during other seasons.”
A common sight during winter in Aspen is the horse-pulled carriage that makes its way through town. Visitors have been able to tour Aspen in an open horse-pulled sleigh for over 40 years. It’s a special way to take in Aspen at a slower pace. Aside from exploring downtown, guests can also take to the trails of Stillwater Ranch for a secluded, private experience. If you’re looking for an even more magical experience, Pine Creek Cookhouse offers amazing dinners, where you can be chauffeured to the restaurant by horse-drawn sleigh. Pine Creek Cookhouse is a staple of Aspen offering phenomenal cuisine for many years and is loved by the local community.
Book a trip to The Bells
The Maroon Bells, the most photographed mountain peaks in the US are sublime at any time of year. The road to Maroon bells becomes less accessible in the Winter but it’s still possible to visit. You can still cross-country ski, snow bike, snowshoe, hike, or take a snowmobile the 12.4 miles round-trip to access the bells. There is a cross-country ski track along the road as well as a groomed snowmobile track. We can attest that making that little extra effort to see the bells in winter is worth it. It really is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see.
Join the Party
As you may expect from a ski town, there has to be a party once the slopes close every day. Aspen hosts an aprés scene to match the renowned ski runs. There are bars & restaurants at the base of every mountain. Each with their own style and a celebration worth attending. Through the many clubs in town, you won’t have to venture far to find a DJ and a crowd, but our favorite spots are Venga Venga in Snowmass and Ajax Tavern at the base of Aspen Mountain. If you want to go wild, spend an afternoon at Cloud 9 Bistro on Highlands Mountain. It’s known for its big parties and champagne showers. Don’t worry, you won’t have to ski. You can get a snowcat down to the base once the shenanigans are over!
Take in The views
Even if you don’t enjoy skiing, the top of Aspen Mountain is still accessible to everyone. Get a gondola ticket and go explore around the top of Ajax. Walkable trails cover certain areas at the mountain top which give you some of the most amazing views you’ll ever be lucky enough to see. You can even grab a bite at The Sundeck after some exploring. If you are feeling active then you can also hike Smuggler Mountain. Smuggler is a relatively short hike, still open during the winter. It gives sprawling views over the beautiful downtown of Aspen, yet only takes 30 minutes to the lookout.
While on vacation you may still want to stay active without hitting the slopes. Aspen and Snowmass both have recreational centers with great facilities. You’ll be able to access full indoor courts, gyms, climbing walls, skating rinks, and even heated swimming pools. Day passes can be bought as well as family rates for weekly and monthly memberships.
Right in the center of town, across from Rubey park, there is a public ice-skating rink. A gorgeous location for some relaxed skating or a romantic date under the lights.
Why not catch a live show?
Aspen attracts some of the world’s best musicians, comedians, and performers year-round. Venues such as the Wheeler Opera House and BellyUp have housed various acts and shows for years here in Aspen and the line-ups they offer never disappoint. This winter why not see one of your favorite musicians while on holiday, or see a live show worthy of any theatre.
ASPEN WINTER ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS: ALWAYS ENTERTAINING
There is always a spectacular array of events that happen throughout the season here in Aspen. From ski competitions to bustling parties and family festivals, there’s a celebration to suit everyone during winter. Here are a few of our highlights!
The Winter X Games in Aspen is the highest level of extreme winter sports competition with skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers all competing for gold. Returning for its 21st consecutive year, Winter X Games will take place in Buttermilk, showcasing some of the world’s best winter athletes.
AUDI Power of 4
An endurance race like no other. Teams challenge themselves with over 24 miles and 10,000 vertical feet, in this exhausting competition. This race consists of hiking up and skiing each of Aspen’s four mountains, as quickly as possible.
The national ski racing championships take place every year in Aspen, with the quickest qualifiers from across America competing for gold. It’s a great weekend to get out and watch the fastest skiers in the country battle it out.
Gay Ski Week
In January, every year, Aspen runs host to the premier LGBTQ+ winter event with a full schedule of events on-and-off the Aspen Snowmass mountains. This is a week full of celebrations and events that make the social scene come alive.
“Aspen Shortsfest is an Oscar®-qualifying film festival recognized as one of the premier short film festivals in North America”. In April, you will be able to get early viewings of some of the best short films in North America. Shortsfest is always an electric and eclectic week to finish off the winter season.
Bud light Mountain Challenge
The Bud light mountain challenge is an opportunity for self proclaimed athletes to compete in some seriously fun winter events. This free week of events focuses on some friendly competition on the slopes with an emphasis on having a good time.
One of the oldest recurring events in Aspen, Wintersköl is a celebration of Aspen’s alpine lifestyle. Throughout the 4-day festival, the town features on-mountain activities, concerts, family events, fashion shows, and ice sculpture competitions. The weekend is rounded off with a fireworks display and bonfire.
As the Aspen winter comes to an end every year, the town uses the closing days of each mountain as an excuse to throw some extravagant parties. Usually held at the base of each mountain, wild parties are not to be missed as each mountain closes on their respective dates.
WHAT’S NEW: HOW TO SPICE UP YOUR ASPEN WINTER VACATION
Aspen, despite its condensed downtown area, attracts something or someone new every season. Pop-up boutiques, critically acclaimed restaurants, and world-class events love to call Aspen home, if even for just one season. Below we give you a taste of just some of the new happenings in Aspen & Snowmass this winter.
The latest establishment to open at The Little Nell Residences at the base of Aspen Mountain is Chica. Chica is a “celebration of Latin Flavors” by Celebrity Chef Lorena Garcia. The menu has a vibrant mix of Latin dishes and an inventive cocktail and drinks list.
The sister restaurant of famed NYC seafood restaurant Catch. Catch Steak is planning on opening a new rooftop steakhouse on the corner of Galena Street and Hopkins Avenue. This location offers panoramic views of Aspen Mountain and beyond from its phenomenal outdoor patio, which complements its vast indoor space.
ASPEN SPORTS BISTRO
Aspen’s newest sports bar opened this past summer on the Hyman Mall, in the heart of downtown Aspen. The bistro, which is in the former HOPS culture space, offers a vast beer selection and affordable food menu, with sports on TV all day, every day.
Aspen Skiing Company’s new premium retail and experimental concept brand. The brand will include the first clothing line developed by a ski resort, launching with custom collaborations and outerwear designed for the community who spends most of their time on the slopes. The store itself will open on Aspen’s Gondola Plaza.
Tecovas, the Austin, Texas-based cowboy boot, and leather goods store has opened its latest retail location on Aspen’s Cooper Ave Mall. It is the latest store in Aspen to offer custom leather detailing and personalization.
The world-famous luxury brand has opened its Aspen boutique store on S Galena Street. Balenciaga offer’s various lavish garments from jackets to shoes to bags and accessories
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT
It’s no surprise that the holidays are the busiest time of year in Aspen. Everyone wants to spend a Christmas or New Year’s vacation in a winter wonderland. Although that time of year does have a special feel to it, the magic of Aspen and Snowmass is present year-round. No matter what stage of the season you plan to visit, Aspen is nothing short of spectacular. The atmosphere that makes it so wonderful never ceases and there are always endless things to do. So don’t let timing throw you off a winter vacation like no other in Aspen. Take a peek at our run-downs on why January and February are so much fun. These serve as a small example of how different times of year will always provide a great experience.
STAYING IN ASPEN
There are tons of accommodation options for visitors to Aspen and Snowmass. As a popular tourist destination, we have numerous high-class resorts and hotels across both Aspen and Snowmass. In addition to this, Aspen is filled with fantastic homes available as luxury vacation retreats. Whether you need a downtown condo or a slope-side chalet, we can help cater to whatever your group needs. At Aspen Luxury Vacation Rentals we have the finest selection of rental homes throughout Pitkin County. Let us help you find that dream vacation home, and make your trip one to remember. Don’t hesitate to reach out and see the luxury accommodation options Aspen has to offer. Click to browse our complete collection.
UP-TO-DATE COVID RULES
As of late 2021, Pitkin County is in good shape regarding Covid-19 restrictions. All businesses are currently fully operational are no limits or restrictions are applying to our ski mountains. Pitkin County has a 78% fully vaccinated rate with 96% of people having their first dose. Currently, individuals must wear a mask when in a public indoor space. Masks are not required an individual’s private residence or in any outdoor setting unless required by the business. You can keep to date on all Covid-19 information for Pitkin County HERE.
People often fret about bringing their pets on vacation. In Aspen, there is no need to worry too much about the logistics of bringing a pet. A large selection of luxury vacation rentals are pet-friendly. There are options for every type of accommodation, so don’t be too quick to rule out bringing your family dog on your Aspen trip! The town itself has a plethora pet-friendly downtown parks and miles of walking trails. You can even hike your dog up some ski slopes after operating hours!
How do I Get to Aspen?
Aspen has its own small airport, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, which has several daily flights directly into the town of Aspen. Buses and shuttles are also available direct from Denver as well other nearby airports such as Eagle County. If you are traveling by car, the Roaring Fork Valley is connected to Denver via the I-70. Taking the I-70 from either direction will lead you to Glenwood Springs where you can turn off onto Highway 82. Highway 82 is a direct route to Aspen and is the only open road into Aspen during the Winter.
Which is the best mountain in Aspen For beginners?
Buttermilk and Snowmass mountains offer green (beginner) runs in addition to a large selection of easier blue runs. Both mountains have specific lift areas with trails specifically for those who are new to skiing/snowboarding. If you are relatively new but want to explore a little more, both of these mountains also have long runs higher on the mountain that let you test yourself a little more without getting too steep.
How has Covid-19 affected skiing in Aspen and Snowmass?
Fortunately, all four mountains are completely open in Aspen and Snowmass. There are no regulations or restrictions on skiing or any of the on-mountain lifts. In compliance with state guidelines, masks must be worn in all indoor settings to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
What should I bring to Aspen in Winter?
Obviously if you plan to hit the ski slopes you’ll need all of your ski/snowboard gear. If you can’t fit everything you need, the local sport and rental shops offer rental options for everyone. Other than that, pack warm! Bring your favorite thick jacket and a pair of winter boots and you’ll be ready to brace the Aspen snow.
How long is the Winter in Aspen?
Heavy snow starts to fall in Aspen in November. The mountains being opening to the public for skiing around Thanksgiving weekend. Our wonderful ski season then runs uninterrupted until April. Over the last couple of weeks of April each individual mountain will have its own closing days. Although, if Aspen gets good snow, some mountains have stayed open until June in recent years!
What is the off-season in Aspen?
Off-season in Aspen and Snowmass is the time between our summer and winter seasons. Usually lasting roughly a month either side of summer. The first off season is generally the month of May, and our second off-season is from mid-October until mid-November. It’s a time where the town quietens down, business reduce their hours and the residents of Aspen can relax. It’s still an amazing time to visit! Read our guide on why off-season is so amazing in Aspen.
Is it expensive to vacation in Aspen?
Although Aspen is one of the more expensive ski resorts in North America, you can still vacation in Aspen and Snowmass without breaking the bank. Great deals can be found on travel and luxury accommodations throughout the year in Aspen. Aspen is filled with fine dining restaurants and lavish retail stores, but it can be easy to avoid overspending on socializing too. There are great local bars and restaurants offering affordable options across our bustling mountain town.
What is there to do at night in Aspen?
Whether you’re looking to relax, or get your groove on, Aspen and Snowmass have an abundance of things to entertain you at night. There is bustling bar and club scene in Aspen as well as venues which host some of the world’s biggest stars. All kinds of restaurants line Aspen’s streets from quaint romantic eateries to spots for some casual dining. Many of our lovely art galleries are open at night and make the town a lovely area to relax in and explore after dark.
What is there to do in Aspen in Winter if you don’t ski?
Although Aspen is one of the most popular ski resorts in North America, the town still offers an abundance of activities to do besides ski. Check out our detailed guide on what to do in Aspen besides ski – The 7 Best Things to Do In Aspen in Winter Besides Ski