We have four fantastic mountains to choose from out here, all with their own distinct personalities and offerings. The most “famous” is Aspen Mountain, known for it’s steep terrain (there are ZERO green runs), Aspen Highlands, the “local’s” mountain, with the famous hike to Highland Bowl, a treasure trove of inbound backcountry-feeling terrain, and Buttermilk, known for the X-games, along with gentle, rolling terrain suitable for beginners and families.
Then there is Snowmass, my favorite. Of course, living here makes it easy to enjoy its 3,332 acres of terrain, but we CHOSE to live here, rather than Aspen, where we would be closer to the nightlife and famous apres’ scene, as well as restaurants and shopping to die for. We can easily drive the 8 miles to Aspen to do those things, but for the things WE like to do during the day, Snowmass is hard to beat. The Delicious Day Blog recently quite thoroughly discovered 22 things to love about Snowmass. From the on-mountain restaurants, varied terrain and free goodies on the mountain to the lack of lift lines (seriously), they covered a lot. But there is so much more to love about Snowmass. Here are some of my favorite things.
1. It’s easy to get from one side of the mountain to the other
Before we became part time residents, our one-week-a-year trek to Colorado used to be to Beaver Creek. We liked the multitude of intermediate terrain, since we weren’t very adventurous in our short visits. Our daughter liked the ski school, and we are creatures of habit so that was where we went. It wasn’t until we decided to see what the fuss was about at Snowmass that we realized that we really didn’t like poling over from the main ski area at Beaver Creek to Bachelor’s Gulch or Arrowhead. At Snowmass, there are four main areas…Elk Camp, Alpine Springs/Upper Alpine, Sheer Bliss/BigBurn/Cirque, and the Village Express/Sam’s Knob area. it’s so easy to ski from the Elk Camp area on one side to the Sam’s Knob area on the opposite side of the mountain. Literally, ONE run down and ONE lift up. And it’s that way no matter where you want to go on the mountain.
On days that I want to mix it up a little, I love to hike uphill. It’s such an incredible way to be outside, get a kick a$$ workout, and if you’re skinning uphill on your skis, you can also take a few turns afterwards. But some days, especially if it’s a sunny day and we haven’t had snow in a few days, it’s so easy to throw on your Yaktrax (cleats that go on your hiking boots), and head out for an adventure. At Snowmass, we can do it any time of day. If you want to hike up Aspen Mountain, you have to be at the Sundeck (restaurant at the top) by 9 a.m.! At my speed, that probably means I’d have to start way before sunrise. No, thank you. Same goes for Aspen Highlands…you have to be at the Merry-Go-Round (mid-mountain) by 9. Buttermilk will allow you to go any time of day (except during X Games), but the terrain is not nearly as varied. At Snowmass I can change up my hike every day. I like to hike to the on-mountain restaurants for lunch or a snack before heading back down.
3. Long runs
I like to ski. I don’t like to ride the lifts. When the trails are short, you spend three or four times as much time on a lift as you do skiing down. Snowmass has 150 miles of trails (vs. Aspen Mountain’s 64 miles), with the longest run of almost 6 miles! And with 8 high speed quad or six chair lifts, plus a gondola to warm up a little if you need to, you can get back up to the top pretty quickly.
This is actually a perk on all four mountains, but I didn’t know about them until this year. There are several “ambassadors” every day on the mountain, and if you are new to the area, or don’t want to ski by yourself, you can get paired with an ambassador to show you around. And it’s free of charge! I love when they end up on the lift with me, because they’re a treasure trove of information, and their job is to answer questions and show people around. They are all volunteers, and the only payment they receive is a season’s pass. Look for the Grey Aspen Jackets and reddish-pink pants…they’re all around! I actually think it’s a pretty cool job to have. As much as I like to talk to people, I think that is one volunteer job I’d love to have!
5. Restaurants/Vegetarian Fare
As a pescatarian, (vegetarian + fish), it’s sometimes hard to dine out in Colorado. They love their meat here. But it’s getting much better. Here are some of my favorite dishes for lunch on the mountain, or in the Mall.
Stew Pot: Veggie Chili (tiny place in the mall area…be prepared to wait for a table, but it’s worth it.)
Venga Venga: Veggie Fajitas, Fish Tacos (also in the mall. Best margaritas you’ve ever had, too!)
Ulrhof: Mahi Sandwich or Veggie Burger
Up for Pizza: Cheese Pizza and Chocolate Chip Cookies
Elk Camp Restaurant: All organic, local, and lots of choices. Tomato Soup in a Bread Bowl, Veggie Pizza, Grilled Cheese, and an unbelievably huge salad bar. Also, the vegetable sides are awesome!
Sam’s Smokehouse: No veggie or fish sandwiches, unfortunately, but fried green tomatoes, baked beans and corn muffins, and a veggie kabob.
6. Nordic Trails
Here in Snowmass, you can enjoy one of the largest free groomed cross-country ski systems in North America! 60 MILES of free, groomed cross country and snowshoe trails connecting Snowmass to Aspen and Basalt.
7. Lack of Lift Lines
This can’t be mentioned enough. Vail lift lines are so long you can see them from space! Here, even after 3 feet of new snow, nothing. During Christmas, President’s Weekend, and Spring Break you might have to wait 5 minutes at Elk Camp, Alpine Springs, or the Village Express lift. Other than that…nothing. Seriously, nothing.
8. Labor Day Jazz Festival
Jazz Aspen/Snowmass holds their big money maker on Labor Day weekend here in Snowmass! It’s three days of not much jazz, but a variety of big name concerts. In the last three years we have seen Train, Keith Urban, Journey, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Trombone Shorty, Jason Mraz, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, and Michael Franti, just to name a few.
9. Summer Free Thursday night concerts
During summer season, there are free concerts every Thursday night on the hillside next to Venga Venga. Rock, Blues, Funk, Bluegrass…it’s always fun.
10. Snowmass Club
I love the Snowmass Club. Yes, you do have to buy a membership, but if you need a full service gym with incredible Tennis, Golf, and Swimming, it is a wonderful facility. Yes, living here gives you multiple choices to exercise in the great outdoors, but sometimes you just want a good workout, a massage, or a tennis lesson. And the Snowmass Club has it all.
11. Bar at 8K
Sure, Aspen has a lot of great restaurants. And you can always grab a quick meal at a multitude of bars. But Snowmass is catching up. We always enjoy grabbing a quick bite at the 8K at the Viceroy. The bartenders are friendly, you can watch whatever sports event is on, and even though you can order off the full menu, the bar menu has several choices for pescatarians. The trout almondine is to die for!
12. Mountain Biking
I don’t mountain bike anymore (too many broken bones). But my husband does, and the network of mountain bike trails starts right outside our back door! More than 50 miles of unbelievably cool tracks, from beginner to single track advanced, downhill, climbs or freeride, we have it all.
13. Summer Hiking
I can’t say enough about the hiking. Every distance. Every ability. Yoga hikes. Nature Hikes. Gut busting hill climbs, or gentle, meandering, view-filled hikes.
Beautiful black bear, mule deer, elk, raccoon, coyote, beaver, skunk, badger, bobcat, mountain lion, porcupine and fox all make their home in and around Snowmass. I feel like I’m at a zoo. Last summer I spent a couple hours watching a little orphaned black bear eat grass in the backyard.
This is probably the biggest reason we live in Snowmass, instead of Aspen. There is definitely always something fun going on there, and we have the choice to experience it. But when we’re ready to go home, we happily return to the peace and quiet of Snowmass.