Snowmass, Colorado: Family Friendly at Any Age

As a native of Western Colorado, it seems obvious that I would start with a review of Snowmass – the big family resort on our side of the hill.   Yes, Vail is bigger.  Yes, the scenery at Telluride is more spectacular, but for out and out family fun in Colorado, I don’t think you can beat Snowmass.  It’s an obvious choice, but also an excellent choice.

One Happy Family, having just skied Hanging Valley Wall

I enjoyed skiing Snowmass as a child, but my real appreciation for the mountain didn’t begin until a magical April weekend when my sons were 3 and 6.  At this time, our then three-year-old was completing his first season on skis.  He could ski most intermediate runs, which is what Snowmass does best. This was the first time our boys had been on a big mountain, away from our local area.  They were thrilled by the high-speed quads, the childrens’ trails through the trees, and the reindeer.  Yes, reindeer.  For little kids, it doesn’t get much better than seeing actual, live reindeer in a corral adjacent to a twisty-turny trail through the trees.  This was adventure!

While some may complain that the terrain at Snowmass is geared toward the mass-market destination skier, this emphasis on well-groomed moderately sloping intermediate terrain makes it the perfect place for young families. While there are three lifts and a tow that are better left to advanced and expert skiers, the rest of the mountain is pure heaven for intermediate kids, with wide runs, rollers, small groves of trees perfect for ducking into and out of, and, did I mention, reindeer?

With the relatives from Hong Kong at the top of Elk Camp

Three years later, we brought our nieces from Hong Kong to Snowmass.  As teenagers, they were not at all interested in twisty-turny trails through the trees or reindeer, so we began this Snowmass adventure on the Elk Camp Gondola, taking it to the top and enjoying not only the jaw-dropping views of the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, but also the wide open groomers.  By the end of the trip, they were even trying the moguls off of Sam’s Knob.

Closing weekend, 2010. Hanging out at Gwyn’s High Alpine. Smiles all around. Why does ski season ever have to end?

Flash forward to winter 2009.  Our boys are now 12 and 9 and not really interested in reindeer.  I’m sad to say that I don’t even know if the reindeer are still there.  But, Snowmass still delivers.  As my oldest son, the ski scholar, says “Snowmass is great because there is a lot of different terrain, a lot of places to stay and eat and if you have really little kids, you can put them in the Treehouse (daycare).”  He recommends the Headwall (off of the Cirque) and Hanging Valley Wall for their steep, north-facing chutes.  The Cirque and Hanging Valley Wall provide challenging extreme terrain with deep powder, tree skiing and steep moguls.  Campground has long advanced mogul runs, such as Powderhorn, the Big Burn builds your ego as you blast through the Powerline Glades, while High Alpine, Sheer Bliss and Sam’s Knob provide enough moguls to wear anyone out.  Tired yet?  Check out the s’mores at Liquid Sky in the new base village.  At any age, Snowmass can be magical.

Fast Facts for Families

Snowmass recently rebuilt their base village, which has expanded the area’s dining, lodging and retail options.

General lodging information can be found at a multitude of sites. Trying googling “lodging Snowmass” or you can try

We love staying at the ski-in/ski-out Snowmass Mountain Chalet.  Although it was sold several years ago and there were plans to tear it down, rumor has it that they are taking reservations through at least 2011.  The Snowmass Mountain Chalet is super-convenient, with underground parking and an outdoor pool and hot tub.   A filling hot breakfast and soup lunch are included free of charge.

HOV (4 people or more) parking is free at the Two Creeks base area.  A new parking garage at the main base has been completed, but rates have not yet been published.  There is free parking for any number of guests at the Rodeo Lot (requires taking a bus to the base and village).  Free bus service from Rubey Park Transportation Center in Aspen is offered every thirty minutes at :15 and :45 past the hour.

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  1. James says

    Dear BSM:
    Snowmass seems to get dissed by some, but for max vert(maximum vertical) its a great mountain – tons of high speed lifts accessing some of the best terrain – ie: Sams’ Nob and Sheer Bliss are two lifts that can get you up to steep and deep. I once skiied with a beautiful women for half a day at Sam’s Nob and we went if for lunch and she passed out she had skiied so hard before lunch. If you have not been to Snowmass, or keep passing it up tp get to Highlands or Ajax, go there this season and rediscover the huge, diverse terrain!