Don’t call it a run… at Snowmass we call it terrain.
Snowmass might have the reputation as an intermediate, family-friendly resort, but we want to let you in on our best kept secret: 30% of Snowmass is classified as black/double black diamond, expert terrain. Add 300 inches of annual snowfall into the mix and you find yourself in some of the best double black skiing/snowboarding the state of Colorado has to offer.
If you consider yourself an expert skier/rider, you know what a black diamond run looks like. It’s a steep pitch with the occasional unique fall line that is accessible to hot lap via the same chairlift. And while those “runs” are fun, they don’t quite feel like expert “terrain”. Here, expert terrain is actual terrain. It keeps you on your toes, offers a new line, entry and exit point with every lap. It’s a ‘build your own adventure’ of actual snowy adventure. And, it makes you feel like you ducked the rope into untouched side-country goodness. The thing is, at Snowmass, that’s part of the 1,000 acres of inbounds, expert terrain. We’re here to challenge the way you think about expert terrain. It’s time to explore the high alpine secrets of Snowmass and change what you thought you loved about the expert area of a ski resort.
Take the Hanging Valley Wall. It’s not just one run, instead it’s a compilation of nearly 23 named ‘runs’, and that doesn’t include the local’s secret stashes with names that don’t make the trail map. With such an expansive area, conditions range from cliff band splitting chutes, to gladed runs to wide open powder fields. It could take a lifetime to ski every single possible line in just this single area.
Local, Steve Karczewski, competed in the Colorado Freeride Championships when they were held right in the middle of the Hanging Valley Wall. If that doesn’t speak to the caliber of the terrain, we don’t know what does. And where does he ski on any given day? “When I want to lose myself and find some good turns, I hop into Weird Woods. It’s like a “Choose your own Adventure” in there,” says Steve.
Around to the right of the Hanging Valley Wall, is the Cirque Lift. It’s an old poma that elevates skiers to the highest point of all four mountains, 12,510 feet. From there, high above tree line, the Cirque stretches in both directions around a bowl loaded with every kind of extreme terrain you could want. And, snow. Lots and lot of snow. This is one of the many massive ‘nooks’ where snow has a tendency to unapologetically pile up. The top of the Headwall rolls away into a sheer open face, punctuated with snow covered rocks. The next set of entrances offer a series of technical chutes, splitting cliff bands and offering varying cliff drops to those in need of some air time. Don’t be fooled by a lower gate, the Burn Cliffs wait at the bottom of the Cirque with mandatory air time to launch into gladed forest turns.
Snowmass photographer Tamara Susa gets her favorite shots there. “Rock island is one of my favorite places to shoot because of all the cliff drops and pillow lines. Gowdy’s off the cirque is the steepest run on the mountain, with amazing views of the cirque and the valley.”
Maybe cliffs aren’t for you. And that’s a-okay! Just head over to the other side of the mountain for a second serving of exciting terrain. Powderhorn, is a double black that runs from the top of Sam’s Knob all the way to the bottom of Campground. The steep pitch and challenging bumps make this a mogul lovers paradise. On a bluebird day, this marathon run has stunning views of Mt. Daly from top to bottom. Likewise Garret’s Gulch and Powerline are hidden gems for experts, just off the more traveled blue runs of Big Burn Lift.
Whether you are on the lookout for fresh, bowl powder turns, steeps, or drops, Snowmass has it all. Just remember, it’s not just expert runs… at Snowmass it’s terrain. And plenty of it.