Though Snowmass lies only a dozen miles from Aspen–and its lift ticket gives you access to Aspen, Buttermilk, and Aspen Highlands–the sheer size and specific character of Snowmass requires that it gets a bit more up-and-close, personal attention.
Snowmass caters perfectly to the sweet spot for most skiers: easy access and affordability for families and intermediate skiers. The resort is the second-largest ski area in Colorado, and most of the terrain resides below tree line, so there’s always powder stashes to explore. The area gets 300+ inches of snow annually, and with 43 lifts–including the new High Alpine Chair, Snowmass boasts 4,406 vertical feet, but just less than half of the resorts are rated to intermediates, so it’s easy for the entire brood to explore the mountain for days. Beginners also benefit from the dedicated Elk Camp Meadows learning area, which delivers a high-alpine experience without the threat of accidentally turning onto a double-black run. And under their Kids Ski Free program, kids from ages seven to 12 get a free lift ticket when they rent their equipment from Four Mountain Sports from January 1 to April 15. Ski lessons are also broken out into refreshingly specific age groups, including a beginner's magic lesson for all ages, and kid-specific group lessons for kids ages two to four, five to six, seven to 12 and 13 to 17.
The resort also lays claim to the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center, with a kid’s ski school, child care, reasonably-priced cafeteria and equipment rental. The 2,300-square-foot facility is one of the biggest of its kind in the country. And when the lifts close, parents will appreciate a host of both indoor and outdoor entertainment options, including movie nights.
More adventurous skiers and snowboarders should plan on exploring Burnt Mountain. The area, formerly a favorite hangout for out-of-bounds skiers and riders, is accessible via a short hike from the top of the Elk Camp lift, and access everything from cirques to trees to rolly-polly ungroomed terrain through aspen groves. You can also find great steeps in KT Gully, the Cirque and Hanging Valley, or head to the terrain garden and snowboard pipe designed by world champ Jimmy Scott, one of the three terrain parks and two half pipes on the mountain, including a 22-foot Zaugg-cut Superpipe.
As you'd expect at a top-notch family resort, Snowmass also hosts a suite of non-ski/ride activities. This year marks the debut of The Breathtaker, an alpine coaster thant descends a 5.700-foot-long track that winds through the trees between Gunner's View and Sandy Park ski trails. The also offer tubing, winter-centric URRL nighttime celebrations every Friday, live music and will host the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix.
Ski-in/-out condos and lodges abound–so many that it’s easy to find an affordable place to stay. In addition to the dining and distractions at Snowmass itself, the long list of restaurants and bars in greater Aspen round out the quintessential Colorado experience. You can catch a ride into town for more glitzy nightlife and high-end shopping, or just head for a comfortable seat at the inexpensive Aspen Brewing Company.
And should you want to consider branching out during the day to ski or ride at one of the three other resorts, free shuttles make it easy. That said, there’s no shame in playing favorites.
STAY: Perfect for families and group getaways, Woodrun V boasts the largest condos in Apsen-Snowmass, nestled into the vast network of the resort's trails. All the condos have ski-in/out convenience as well as kitchens, microwaves, wood-burning fireplaces, high-speed internet and covered parking. Plus there’s a fun heated outdoor pool, hot tub and saunas.
DINE: The on-mountain Elk Camp has great pizza and an awesome bakery–just take the Elk Camp Gondola midway up the mountain. There’s a big fireplace ideal for après ski hot chocolate, plus a bar with a tremendous view.