Located in the middle of the Elk Mountain Range, the Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort is a frogtastic resort with offerings for every age. This is a B-I-G resort with lots to do, see and experience. Use this guide to help you plan a ski vacation your family won't ever froget!
Family Insider's Guide to Aspen Snowmass
While you may hear this ski area simply as “Aspen,” it’s really Aspen Snowmass with Aspen as one town and Snowmass Village another. Between the two, there are four mountains: Aspen Mountain, Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk (hmm, makes me think of pancakes … ) Which mountain (or mountains!) you choose to ski depends on the kind of skier you are. More on that below.
Aspen is home to the world’s first skiing competition, which took place in 1950 and is what truly put Aspen on the map. But even a year before then, in 1949, the Aspen Musical Festival and School was founded. Through this organization, for approximately eight weeks each summer, Aspen hosts more than 400 classical music events. It’s known as one of the “top classical musical festivals in the United States.” Since 2002, Aspen, specifically Buttermilk, has been host of the XGames, an extreme winter sports event produced by ESPN featuring sports competitions and music festivals. So really, no matter what time of year you visit, you’re going to have amazing things to experience!
Getting to Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort and Parking Tips
Aspen is in the Roaring Fork Valley, south and east of Vail and nearly in the middle of the state of Colorado, so there are plenty of ways to reach the ski resort. By far the closest option is to fly into Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE), which is only 3 miles away. This airport is served by United, American and Delta.
Other nearby airports include Eagle County Regional Airport (EGE), which is west of Vail and east of Glenwood Springs, while Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) is about 125 miles east.
And let’s not froget flying into Colorado’s largest airport, Denver International (DEN). Denver International Airport is 220 miles east and north of the Aspen ski area so the most direct way of reaching the resort in the winter is to take I-70 west to CO 82 south through Glenwood Springs. Expect about a three-and-a-half to four-hour drive. (In the summer months when driving from Denver, you could take I-70 to Route 24 and then over to CO 82, which would take you over Independence Pass. The pass rises some 12,000 feet with some amazing views but is closed October through May due to snow conditions.)
The Epic Mountain Express (formerly known as the Colorado Mountain Express) offers ground transfers from Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Denver International Airport and Eagle County Regional Airport. While we recommend relying on ground transfers so you don’t have to worry about mountain driving, you can also opt to rent a car for more traveling freedom.
Wondering where to park with that rental car? Aspen is now hi-tech. Just download the Aspen Snowmass App and you’ll be able to see parking lot status. Easy.
If you’ve opted to forgo the rental car, or just don’t feel like driving it much once you’ve arrived at Aspen Snowmass, the local RFTA buses can get you around easily. Many (but not all) routes are free. Free routes include all City of Aspen routes and all Aspen to/from Snowmass Village routes. Seniors 65 and older and children 5 and under always ride free. The Village Shuttle within Snowmass Village is also free to ride. Find out details about routes and times using the Transit App for your smartphone.
Hop Tip: If you’re doing your own driving, Highway 82 turns into Main Street in Aspen.
Where to Stay in Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
When you’re looking for the perfect place to rest your head after a day on the slopes, look no further than Undercover Tourist for your accommodations — you’ll find an amazing selection of great places to stay, but here are a few of our faves.
Just one mile from the Aspen Gondola Plaza, Aspen Meadows offers suites in three different sizes to fit your traveling needs with all suites having separate sleeping and living areas. This resort also offers free 24-hour service to/from the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport.
The Residences at the Little Nell are the only ski-in/ski-out accommodations on Aspen Mountain and are right in the center of Aspen life. Offering a rooftop pool, 24-hour room service, and a plethora of guest rooms and suites, The Little Nell is luxury at its finest. Oh yeah, it’s been rated as a five-star resort by Forbes and AAA every year since 1991.
A frog family favorite, Viceroy Snowmass offers modern luxury nestled in Snowmass Village. This ski-in/ski-out resort is just steps away from the Elk Camp Gondola, Village Express and Assay Hill chairlifts, plus a mere 20-minute drive to Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk Ski Area and Aspen Mountain Ski Resorts. An outdoor swimming pool (heated year-round), three on-site dining options and an award-winning spa make you feel like you’ve got it all at this resort.
For a hoppin’ deal, check out the Wildwood Snowmass Hotel. Just steps from Snowmass Mountain, this hotel offers a more affordable option (as far as ski resorts go) with a “retro-chic” feel. Both traditional rooms and suites are available.
Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort Lift Tickets
The Aspen Snowmass 2019-20 ski season runs from late November through early to mid-April, depending on the mountain. All four of Aspen’s mountains are open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily, and one lift ticket gets you on all four mountains — sweet! If you need ski, snowboard or helmet rentals, we frogs can help you out with some frogtastic deals.
Ski Lessons at Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
With four mountains from which to choose, there’s a little of something for everyone, including novice and expert skiers, at Aspen Snowmass. Read on to learn more about lessons for those who are a little green when it comes to skiing.
Children & Teens
Group youth lessons are available at Snowmass and Buttermilk. Check out the resort’s Child and Teen Lesson Planning Guide for complete details. Here’s a basic overview.
- All children ages 17 and younger are required to wear a helmet when taking lessons at Aspen Snowmass.
- Froglets ages 2 ½ to 4 years old balance their days between supervised playtime and a ski lesson, plus they get to be in their own private ski area at the Treehouse Kids Adventure Center at Snowmass Base Village. Price includes lesson, lift ticket, equipment, childcare, lunch and snacks. Prices range from $235-$255. Full and half-day lessons are available.
- Froglets ages 5-6 participate in full-day lessons at The Hideout at Buttermilk. Prices range from $235-$255. Price includes lesson, lift ticket, equipment rental and lunch.
- Children ages 7 to 12 receive full-day lessons which include the lesson and lunch. A separate lift ticket and equipment will be needed. Prices range from $135-$155. (Group lessons are not available on Aspen Mountain for this age group.)
- Teens ages 13 to 17 can sign up for a full-day lesson. Price includes just the lesson so be sure to plan for a lift ticket, equipment rental and lunch for your teen. Prices range from $135-$155. (Group lessons are not available on Aspen Mountain for this age group.)
Also offered are smaller group experiences through the Max 4 Child Lessons for skiers ages 7 to 12. Or maybe your child need something more intense? Check out the Kids Mountain Explorers 5 Day Camp for ages 7 to 12. These kiddos need to be intermediate to expert skiers to participate.
Full-day adult group ski and snowboard lessons are available for those who’ve skied before but are looking to improve their moves and experience more of the mountains. Prices range from $175-$205.
Total novice when it comes to skiing or snowboarding? Not a problem. Aspen Snowmass will get you shredding in no time! Beginner adult ski or snowboard lessons range in price from $250-$285 for one full day, but a three-day lesson is recommended. Three-day lessons range in price from $625-$715. The beginner lessons include special beginner equipment and a lift ticket good for the beginner areas.
Adult ski and snowboard clinics also are offered for those who are intermediate skiers and boarders. Prices range from $175-$205. Just keep in mind that except for the adult beginner lessons, you will still need to purchase a lift ticket and rent (or bring your own) equipment.
Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort Childcare
The Treehouse Kids Adventure Center for kids ages 8 weeks to 4 years is the place to go for childcare. Located at the base of the Village Express Lift, the center combines childcare and ski lessons for children ages 2 to 4, but full- and half-day childcare is also available with lunch and snacks provided. Full-day childcare is 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and ranges in price from $184 to $204. Morning half day childcare is 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and ranges in price from $130 to $145. Advanced registration and pre-payment is required by calling (877) AT-ASPEN.
While you’ll have to pay for childcare during the days if your tadpoles and froglets aren’t quite yet ready for the slopes (or maybe you just want some grownup time), there are actually free activities after the skiing day ends. Yes, FREE kid activities! Known as the VIK (Very Important Kids) Snowmass Program, there are at least an hour of free kid activities each day. Just remember that this is not childcare where you can drop off and leave your tadpoles. These activities are meant to be experienced as a family. Specific details can be found here.
Exploring Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort Territory
As the second-largest ski resort in Colorado, Aspen Snowmass has more than 3,000 acres of skiable area and 150 miles of trails. Almost half of the trails are rated as blue runs (also known as intermediate runs). If you’re new to skiing, you’ll still find comfortable places to ski, but stick to Snowmass and Buttermilk. Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands are designed for the more experienced skiers and, in fact, don’t offer any green (newbie) runs.
Insider Info: Snowmass and Buttermilk are best for families!
If you’re looking for an opportunity for some private skiing on ungroomed and untouched parts of Aspen Mountain, check out an activity known as Aspen Powder Tours. Accessible only by snowcat, this luxury experience includes a gourmet lunch. As the resort boasts: No lift lines and no crowds!
Still want to ski on fresh powder but don’t want the heftier price tag? Look into First Tracks on both Snowmass and Aspen Mountain. It’s a free experience for upper-level intermediate skiers and snowboarders ages 11 and up. Space is limited and this experience is not offered every day so be sure to check updated resort information. A lift ticket and reservations are required.
Not a skier but still want to experience the beauty of Aspen Snowmass? This is the place for you! Aspen Snowmass offers Sightseeing Tickets which give non-skiers in your group a chance to ride select gondolas on three of the mountains — all without skiing.
Where to Eat in and Near Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
You’re not going to go hungry while visiting Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort. With four mountains and two villages filled with restaurants for all kinds of palates, you may want to pack a pair of stretchy pants!
Insider Info: Aspen Mountain and Snowmass offer more restaurant options than Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands.
Where to Eat on the Mountains
- Merry-Go-Round offers lunch cafeteria style at the top of Aspen Highlands.
- Reservations are strongly recommended for the Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, which is located at the Top of the Cloud Nine Lift and is a ski-in/ski-out only location. This unique restaurant not only has amazing views of the Maroon Bells mountains, but also some of the best fondue!
With four dining options at Aspen Mountain, you definitely won’t ski away hungry!
- Sundeck at the top of the Silver Queen Gondola has quick and fresh eats for the experienced skiers who visit.
- The table service restaurant Ajax Tavern, at the base of the Silver Queen Gondola, is billed as having “bistro-inspired comfort food.”
- For breakfast or lunch, check out Bonnie’s Restaurant, a mid-mountain stop off of Tourtelotte Park.
- Locally sourced gourmet food can be found at the casual yet elegant element 47. Plus, this table service restaurant can easily accommodate those with food allergies or sensitivities. Reservations are strongly encouraged but not required. (Nor is a jacket and tie!)
- At the base of the mountain is Bumps, a cafeteria-style eatery featuring pastas, salads, soups, a bakery and more.
- At the top of Buttermilk is Cliffhouse, also cafeteria-style, offering everything from fresh juices to a make-your-own Mongolian wok station.
Seven, yes SEVEN restaurants grace Snowmass where you can find everything from grab-and-go to pizza to gourmet food! Here’s a quick run-down of what you can find where:
- Elk Camp Restaurant (top of the Elk Camp Gondola) features grab-and-go American cuisine.
- Gywn’s & Gwyn’s High Alpine (atop the Alpine Springs Lift) features table service and cafeteria-style options with everything from a three-course meal to specialty burgers. It’s also been voted “North America’s best on-mountain resort” by Ski, Skiing and Powder Magazine.
- Sam’s (top of Sam’s Knob) features Italian eats with either grab-and-go options or table service.
- Up4Pizza (at the top of Big Burn Chairlift) offers, you guessed it, pizza!
- Two Creeks Cafe (at the base of Two Creeks Lift) is THE place to get a cup of coffee and some pastries, but it also serves up fresh sandwiches, salads and soups.
- Ullrhof (at the base of the Big Burn Chairlift) features burgers, fries and shakes all served cafeteria style.
- Lynn Britt Cabin (near the Village Express Lift) features modern American cuisine in a romantic aprés ski setting.
- The Sled Mobile Kitchen roams the mountain each day with a fresh menu that changes daily. Want to know where this eatery will be when you’re on the mountain? Check out @mtndining on Instagram.
Where to Eat Off the Mountains
- The White House Tavern, in downtown Aspen, has a somewhat small menu but is a favorite among tourists and locals alike. It offers sandwiches, salads and a variety of appetizers.
- If you’re feeling like a carnivore and looking for large-portion sizes with decent prices, check out the Hickory House just off of Main Street in Aspen for lunch or dinner. Baby back ribs, barbecue chicken, brisket and more — it’s all there for the eatin’!
- A frogtastic hidden gem is Mawa’s Kitchen. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, we recommend checking it out for breakfast. We’re talking pancakes, eggs, hash, lattes, cappuccinos and more. Located near the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, this is a perfect spot for those of you flying in or out early in the morning (or really anytime of the day since it serves meals all day long!)
- Sometimes after a day on the slopes, all you want is a good pizza. New York Pizza, off of Hyman Avenue, fits the bill with not only pizza but also calzones, salads and sandwiches. Just be sure to bring cash or check; no credit cards accepted at this 25-year-old establishment.
What Not to Miss in Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort
Traditional downhill/alpine skiing isn’t the only way to enjoy Aspen Snowmass, even if it may be the most popular. First, there’s no shortage of special events throughout each ski season including special dinners, concerts, races, themed days/weekends and so much more. For a complete list of events, visit the official Aspen Snowmass events webpage.
Still looking to play in the snow and cruise down the mountains but maybe not in skis? Snow tubing and a mile-plus-long alpine coaster are open daily (for an extra fee) from late December to early April and are some of the best family activities. For some nighttime family fun, check out Ullr Nights where you can travel via gondola up to Elk Camp and experience the alpine coaster and snow tubing at night. Plus, it’s the perfect place to enjoy s’mores and hot chocolate and even watch fire dancers. Ullr Nights is offered on select nights throughout ski season for an extra fee.
For something a little untraditional, book a Snowbike Tour, designed for intermediate skiers and boarders who are at least 12 years old. What’s a snowbike? Think of a bike but instead of wheels you’re on skis. Toadally fun, right? Or check out a new activity that’s been gaining popularity — uphilling. Uphilling is available on all four mountains and gives you quite the workout. (Just think of all the calories you’ll burn!) You’ll need some specialized equipment for this adventure (including skis with skins). Clinics and lessons are available.
Of course if you’re looking for more traditional winter mountain fun, there’s also ice skating, snowshoe tours, cross country skiing, and snowcat dinners. And if you’re looking to stay indoors for a spell, try out the indoor rock climbing wall at the Limelight Hotel Snowmass or visit the Snowmass Village Recreation Center.
As you’re planning your trip to Aspen Snowmass, remember to let Undercover Tourist be your go-to resource. We offer great deals on Aspen Snowmass accommodations, car rentals, lift tickets, ski gear rentals and so much more! Need more information about skiing vacations? Check out our other ski planning posts to help you in planning your trip!