The Complete Guide to Skiing in Aspen Colorado

Aspen is a popular mountain town located in the White River National Forest, set within the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado. The Aspen ski resort town is known for its stunning mountain scenery along with the distinction that it was America’s first real ski town. Aspen is located in the Roaring Fork Valley, about 100 miles southwest of Denver.

White River National Forest

Address: Co Rd 1260, Silverthorne, CO 80498   •   Learn More…

Aspen is now a world-renowned winter destination that also happens to be one of the most expensive places to live. The Aspen Snowmass ski resorts cover four different mountain areas: Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Snowmass. Combined, they have a total of over 5,300 acres of skiable terrain and a max vertical drop of almost 4,500 feet.

This one small town is home to some of the best ski resorts in Colorado!

The Aspen Ski Season

The ski season in Aspen, Colorado typically runs from November to April, depending on how the weather cooperates any given year. Aspen is known for its massive snowfall amounts, which can reach up to 300 inches (~8 meters) per season. The type of snow that falls in the Aspen area is typically dry and powdery, which makes it the ideal (and preferred) snow for skiing and snowboarding.

During the ski season, the weather in Aspen can be comfortable for skiers, with average temperatures ranging from the low 20s to low 30s Fahrenheit. The region is also known to experience strong winds and extreme cold, particularly at higher elevations, so it is important to dress with multiple layers and to be prepared for changing weather conditions.

The ski season in Aspen is highly dependent on the weather and can vary from year to year. However, the region’s consistent snowfall and state-of-the-art snowmaking systems do work together to help ensure a long and enjoyable ski season for its visitors.

Visiting the Four Aspen Ski Resorts

Coming into Town

Highway 82 is the only road into and out of Aspen. Because of this, traffic is usually at a standstill during busy in and out times during ski season. Unfortunately, no matter if you take a car service like Uber or Lyft, a bus shuttle, or drive – the single road restriction remains the same.

If you aren’t able to drive, the closest major airport is Denver International Airport (DEN). It is about a 3.5 hour drive (222 miles) from the airport into downtown Aspen. You will want to rent an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive vehicle if you intend to drive yourself. In fact, I70 requires AWD or 4WD or snow chains during the winter months. Expect to get fined if you try to drive this stretch of the Interstate without a vehicle unprepared for massive snowfall.

The Aspen Pitkin County Airport (ASE) is also an option. It is one of the busiest small airports in the country during ski season with weekly flights from Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Phoenix. The Aspen Pitkin County Airport is only about 4 miles from downtown Aspen.

Where To Stay

There are a variety of accommodation options available for skiers and snowboarders visiting the Aspen area, depending on your preferences and budget.

One option is to stay in the town of Aspen itself, which offers a range of accommodation options including hotels, bed and breakfasts, vacation rentals, and more. Aspen is a popular tourist destination with a variety of amenities and activities, and it is located within easy driving distance of all the ski resorts in the area.

Another option is to stay at one of the ski resorts themselves. Most of the ski resorts in the Aspen area offer on-mountain accommodation options, such as hotels, condominiums, and vacation rentals. This can be a convenient option for skiers and snowboarders, as it allows for easy access to the slopes with ski-in and ski-out accommodations.

It is also possible to stay in a nearby town, such as Snowmass Village or Glenwood Springs. They both offer a variety of accommodation options and are located within easy driving distance (just as long as you intend to drive during off hours) of the ski resorts in the Aspen area. No matter which option you choose, it is important to book your accommodation in advance, as the ski resorts and towns around Aspen can be busy during the ski season.

Use the IKON Pass

The IKON pass allows skiers and snowboarders unlimited access to a network of ski resorts, including all four Aspen-area ski resorts

The IKON pass comes in several different versions, including the IKON Base Pass, the IKON Base Plus Pass, and the IKON Day Pass. The IKON Base Pass offers unlimited season-long access to their network of resorts, but unless you live near one of their resorts, this pass won’t be for you. However, if you’re taking a trip to Banff to ski, we would recommend buying a 3-day IKON pass, which should save you around 20% on lift ticket prices when compared to the same-day gate prices.

These four mountains are also a part of the Mountain Collective ski pass, but the most popular option is still IKON.

The Ski Resorts of Aspen

All four Aspen ski resorts are a part of the same company, and occupy the same mountain range.

Aspen Snowmass Ski Resort

Aspen – Unsplash.com/@sandbarproductions
Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Snowmass is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 44% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 4,406 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  12,510′
Vertical:  4,406′
Base:  8,104′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  336
Lifts:  40
Acres:  5,517

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  6%
Intermediate:  50%
Expert:  44%

More Information…

Snowmass is a popular ski and snowboard destination located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It is located in the town of Snowmass Village, which is about 10 miles northwest of Aspen. The resort is known for its wide range of terrain, which includes groomed cruisers, moguls, steeps, and backcountry, making it a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders of all abilities.

Snowmass has thousands of acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of over 4,400 feet. Snowmass is generally considered one of the hardest ski resorts in the country, which makes it best for advanced or intermediate skiers.

Aspen Snowmass also has a world-renowned ski school. This Aspen ski school has everything from adult and child beginner lessons, to more advanced terrain lessons. Snowmass features a variety of terrain parks, including the Snowmass Park, the Spider Sabich Race Arena, the Lowdown, and the Skidder, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle, snowboarding, and cross country skiing.

Aspen Highlands Ski Resort

Aspen Highlands – Unsplash.com/@joshuas
Aspen Highlands Ski Resort

Aspen Highlands Ski Resort is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 77% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 3,635 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  11,675′
Vertical:  3,635′
Base:  8,040′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  144
Lifts:  5
Acres:  1,040

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  0%
Intermediate:  23%
Expert:  77%

More Information…

Located about 15 minutes from Aspen, Aspen Highlands is a popular ski resort known for its challenging terrain and stunning views. The resort has over 1,000 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of over 3,600 feet. It features several terrain parks, including the Summit Park, the Upper Wildcat Terrain Park, the Lower Wildcat Terrain Park, and the East Ridge Terrain Park, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Aspen Mountain Ski Resort

Aspen Mountain – Unsplash.com/@joshhild
Aspen Mountain Ski Resort

Aspen Mountain Ski Resort is one of the hardest ski areas in the country. It ranks in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in all of North America, mostly due to the fact that it has 52% of its trails rated as expert-level, and a vertical drop of 3,267 feet.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  11,212′
Vertical:  3,267′
Base:  7,945′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  76
Lifts:  8
Acres:  675

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  0%
Intermediate:  48%
Expert:  52%

More Information…

Located in the heart of Aspen, Aspen Mountain is a popular ski resort known for its challenging terrain and stunning views. The resort has over 675 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of almost 3,300 feet. It features several terrain parks, including the Aspen Mountain Park, which offer a range of features and challenges for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Buttermilk Ski Resort

Aspen – Unsplash/@joshuas
Buttermilk

Buttermilk can be beginner-friendly, but it depends on the ski trails you ride. While it ranks in the lower half of all North American ski areas in terms of overall difficulty, it still has 65% of its trails rated at or above intermediate ski level.

Mountain Stats

Summit:  9,900′
Vertical:  2,030′
Base:  7,870′

Terrain Stats

Trails:  44
Lifts:  9
Acres:  470

Trail Breakdown

Beginner:  35%
Intermediate:  39%
Expert:  26%

More Information…

Located about 15 minutes from Aspen, Buttermilk is the smallest ski resort in the area, and is known for its wide range of terrain and family-friendly atmosphere. The resort has over 470 acres of skiable terrain and a vertical drop of around 2,000 feet. It features numerous terrain parks, including the Aspen Mountain Park, the Buttermilk Terrain Park, which offer a range of features.

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Chris Cagle

I love traveling the United States. I hunt down fantastic places to visit in the summer and great slopes to ski down in the winter. The first national park I ever visited was the Smokies, but since then, I've been to dozens. However, my favorite by far has been Zion.