Though Snowmass enjoys a family friendly reputation, the mountain’s 3,128 acres and 4,406 vertical feet hold plenty of expert terrain. Snowmass’ Hanging Valley Headwall and the Cirque have hosted big mountain competitions and consistently challenge hard-charging skiers/riders with steep chutes, tight tree shots and aesthetic cliff bands. This is your guide to finding the expert terrain that will make your heart race.
Before we dive in, you’ll want to keep a trail map handy (click the map to the right), as we guide you step-by-step through our most exhilarating, challenging and bold runs on the mountain.
Strategize Like a Pro
G.R. Fielding, a former ski racer and big mountain competitor, spent years getting to know Snowmass while living at its base. Fielding usually starts with Snowmass’ High Alpine chair. “Hitting the Glades, Cookies, and the Edge until the gates start to open up is a great way to ski fun terrain all day long,” says Fielding. “Once the gates open, either hike out to Hanging Valley Wall to Wall 2 or pump out a quick lap on Possible.”
“Possible, an exposed chute through a cliff band, looks worse than it is,” says Fielding. “Stomach the tight section, and you’ll find alternative lines below that hold snow for days after a storm.” Another favorite? Baby Ruth to the tree glades. “You can ski pillows, chutes, and some of the best trees on the mountain.”
On a powder day, Fielding starts on the Sheer Bliss high-speed quad, which provides easy access to the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss areas. “With the gated terrain spanning everything from deep woods to high alpine open lines and moderate blacks to big airs, it’s got a bit of everything.”
Gowdy’s, an expert run off the Big Burn, pitches to 52 degrees. Start at the KT Gully gate and AMF gates to get your feet wet. If you want some air under your skis or board, look for the Rock Island or Burn Cliffs gates.
Want a real challenge?
For Snowmass’ best bumps, ride Sam’s Knob and hit Zugspitze, a run named for Germany’s highest mountain. The Big Burn lift offers mogul runs like Garret Gulch, Powerline and Sneaky’s Glades.
While uphill skiers at neighboring Aspen Mountain have to summit by 9 a.m. and are limited to a single uphill route, uphilling is allowed at Snowmass throughout operational hours and on any run except Adams Avenue. The best route offers a prime reward—lunch at Elk Camp. Follow Assay Hill, Funnel and Bull Run for a 2-mile skin to elevate your heart rate and earn that grass-fed beef chili.
The Legendary Highland Bowl
Once you’ve exhausted Snowmass’ expert terrain (and possibly its three terrain parks), head to neighboring Aspen Highlands to hike “the Bowl.” You can catch a free skier shuttle from Snowmass to Highlands (more info on that here). A 45-minute ridge hike (with spectacular views of the Maroon Bells) accesses a 12,392ft summit and 1,500 vertical feet of backcountry-esque skiing. Ski the gut for a wide open, sustained pitch or ski down the ridge a ways to the North Woods for an endless line up of adventurous tree runs.
Written By Tess Weaver Strokes