Snowmass boasts 3,010 acres and the largest vertical (4,406 feet) in the US served by lifts. (To take full advantage of that, however, you must take a surface lift for the last 670 feet or so.) It is a lot of territory, offering a distribution of difficulty to satisfy all levels of skier and boarder. According to the official count, 7% of the territory is beginner, 55% is intermediate, 18% advanced (black diamond), and 20% is expert (double diamond). I am not a boarder, but I was very impressed with the appearance and scope of the terrain parks, including half-pipes, rails, and jumps that just kept on going. (These people should know how to set up terrain parks; the X-games were going on while I was there on nearby Buttermilk mountain.)
As mentioned above, Snowmass is low key. What I mean is that the mountain is surprisingly quiet. Over the entire week, I never waited for a significant time in a lift line, and frequently had runs to myself. I am told that the end of January is an especially quiet time there, which may partly explain my observations. In any event, I very much appreciated it.
I arrived on a Saturday. Sunday day and evening it snowed, adding 9 inches of powder to a good base, making Monday heaven. Even on Tuesday, I was still finding lots of powder in the glades. (That’s what a large area with with low traffic can do for you.)
Snowmass offers a nice mix of groomed and ungroomed trails, as well as plenty of tree skiing.
My other favorite is Powerline Glades off of Big Burn. Actually, Big Burn has glades lurking all over it, but Powerline Glades is a large area that just keeps on going, and each time through brings a new path.
There are many restaurants on the mountain, and I bought all of my lunches there. Everything I sampled was very good, but expensive, of course. I ate at Cafe Suzanne, The Ullrhof, and Sam’s Knob; all quite satisfying. The desserts (always a good barometer) were exceptionally good.
Along with the usual fare, Cafe Suzanne offers crepes (the spinach-mushroom crepe I had was quite good) and classical music in the background. I had always been under the impression that Colorado law prohibited the dining area, restrooms, and entrance from all being on the same floor, but Sam’s Knob provides a welcome violation. And as soon as you enter Sam’s Knob, you are greeted by comfy couches around two fireplaces. For something different, try the Sam’s Burger, which has lots of apricot chutney on it: messy but good. (It tastes great, honest!)
The little town of Snowmass offers many places to stay, a good array of restaurants, and the usual collection of sporting goods and t-shirt shops -; all close to the mountain. Free shuttle buses run constantly connecting the condos, slopes, and stores. Most of the shops and restaurants are clustered in the Snowmass Village Mall right next to the slopes.
I stayed at the Tamarack Townhouses. My walk to the slopes took about 2 minutes (in ski boots). Tamarack is very nice with a good staff, great hot tubs, and a pool.
Speaking of restaurants, I give my vote for the best dessert of the year (not offered lightly!) to the Expresso Mud Pie at the Tower restaurant in the Mall. This is not like your standard Chart House mud pie, but something to write home about!
Your lift ticket at Snowmass also lets you ski at Buttermilk, Aspen Mountain, and Aspen Highlands. Free buses will pick you up from the Snowmass Village Mall and take you to the town of Aspen and to the other ski areas during the day. At night, the trip to Aspen requires a small fee. The trip to Aspen takes 15 or 20 minutes and offers a great deal of dining and shopping.
The only negative thing a can say about Snowmass is that it is a four-hour drive from the Denver Airport. (You could fly into Aspen if you have money to burn.) But the distance is what makes Snowmass quiet, so I really don’t mind.
As the bus pulled out from Snowmass, snow was falling to begin another week in Rocky Mountain paradise…