One of my favorite Spring destinations is Snowmass. Yes, I love Snowmass because it is close to my home. But I also love Snowmass because it is a big mountain with a good bit of everything: super cruisers, steep extremes, gorgeous vistas and yummy food. The lift infrastructure has been continually upgraded through the years, most recently with the additions of the Sheer Bliss Express Quad and the Elk Camp Gondola. The terrain parks are graduated and my kids love them. And in the Spring, the sun is often warm and the snow soft well into the afternoon.
But these are just my opinions of why Snowmass is a great mountain. In January, I had the opportunity to ski with A.D. Fuller, an Aspen/Snowmass Media Guide and former Snowmass ski instructor and ski patroller. This is a guy who knows this mountain and knows it well. Over lunch, I asked him to help make a list of the Top 10 List for Families Visiting Snowmass. This is what we came up with.
1. A.D. recommends the ski school and he should know. He recommends putting your kids in ski school as many days as you can, especially if you are coming for a one-week ski vacation. On Thursdays, the ski school has a race and picnic at the Lizard Lodge. This is a lot of fun and shouldn’t be missed.
Recently, Snowmass moved the bulk of the learn-to-ski center away from the Fanny Hill base. While the Treehouse Children’s Center (for very young skiers) and a magic carpet are still at the base, most beginners will take the gondola to Elk Camp Meadows, some very gentle terrain, higher on the mountain with another magic carpet and a dedicated lift.
If you an adult beginner, the same advice goes for you: Enroll in ski school for as many days as you can. It will jump-start your skiing experience and really make it so much more fun. Frankly, I think ski school is great for anyone or any level. Anyone can always improve with tips from a pro.
2. Snowmass has several areas with dedicated children’s trails. Ski Scooper and follow the tracks into the trees. You may end up skiing through a mining tunnel or maybe even find a bear den. They are just for show, but are a lot of fun. My kids loved darting around on these trails when they were little. There are also kids’ trails off of Adams’ Avenue. Look for the “old west.”
3. Elk Camp is where you want to go for these “don’t miss” runs: Sandy Park, Gunner’s View and Bear Bottom. To get to these runs, exit to the right from the Elk Camp Quad (not the gondola). Look for an old wooden structure on Gunner’s View. It is a stand that was used for avalanche control, back in the day when they actually fired mortars at the mountains.
4. The Makaha Park underneath the Elk Camp Gondola is the place to begin honing your kids’ (or your own) park skills. Less intimidating than the big park under Coney Glade, it is a lot of fun.
5. The Big Burn lift will take you to the top of the mountain. Up high, you’ve got many intermediate runs to choose from. Try the open glades and become a tree skier.
6. Don’t miss the Noon Groom. Yes, it is sort of a gimmick, but it is also fun. Snowmass closes off one intermediate run each day and grooms the corduroy to perfection. The rope drops at noon, by 12:05 the corduroy is gone, but the runs are still grand. Whispering Jesse and Green Cabin are popular Noon Groom runs.
7. Go to the top of High Alpine, exit to the right and skate over to Green Cabin. Green Cabin is one of the longest runs on the mountain, smooth and fast, with some fun rollers. You will end up on Fanny Hill near the base.
8. The bulk of the mountain is yours, so take it from top to bottom. From the top of the Big Burn, you can go to skiers’ left and take Sneaky’s or Sneaky’s Glades down to Powderhorn, a bump run which marked as a double black, less because of steepness and more because of its challenging double fall line. Powderhorn will take you to the base of Campground.
Riding back up on the chair, check out the incredible views of Mount Daly. Alternatively, if you are at the top of Sam’s Knob, you can take Slot to the bottom of Campground. This area sees fewer skiers. You’ll be glad it is served by a fixed-grip lift so your legs can rest.
9. Don’t miss Sheer Bliss. While I am not a fan of Garrett Gulch (I don’t like gulches, gullies or “natural half-pipes”), A.D. and I agreed that the chutes which drop into the Gulch are mighty fun. He’s the expert and he suggests Glissade.
10. Snowmass used to have a reputation as a family, intermediate mountain with not much to interest the expert skier. Not any more. With the addition of the Cirque and Hanging Valley, there is plenty of exciting, expert terrain to keep even the most hardcore skier happy. Check the status board at the Cirque surface tow to see what is open and go for it. Alternatively, you can take about a five-minute hike to Hanging Valley from the top of High Alpine.
When You Go….
Spring is all about special events and fun at Aspen/Snowmass. Spring Jam kicks off tomorrow, Friday, March 18 and runs through Sunday, March 27. Offering concerts, competition, and camps, you can check out the full schedule at the Spring Jam link on the Aspen/Snowmass website.
Beginning in mid-February and continuing through the end of the season, the Bud Light Big Air Friday competition brings together the best skiers and snowboarders in Colorado to compete for a weekly purse in a big air competition at Snowmass. Great fun to watch!
As for dining and lodging, I’ve covered some of this in a previous post, Snowmass, Colorado: Family Friendly at Any Age. There you will find recommendations on both skiing and dining/lodging.
Talking with A.D. led to a few other suggestions. Here’s what he says.
For lodging, A.D. suggests the Viceroy, a gorgeous new property in the base village and the Silvertree, a slopeside ski-in/ski-out hotel. There are also a lot of condos and these can located through the stayaspensnowmass.com website or through services such as VRBO.
To deliciously recharge and fill-up, A.D. suggests Il Poggio, The Stew Pot and the Snowmass Bakery and Cafe. For lunch, he recommends Brothers Grill in the Silvertree Hotel.
A.D. and I had lunch at the top of Sam’s Knob at Sam’s Smokehouse. Not only was the food delicious, but the views from inside and on the deck were incredible. It is my “Don’t Miss” recommendation.
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