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Logistics may be a bit different this winter, but, thankfully, many things remain the same in Snowmass Village. Expect to find lots to do on and off the slopes—including some cool new interactive art displays and free stuff like skating, snowshoe tours, and s’mores—plus the welcoming, family-friendly vibe that makes the Village and the ski area one of North America’s favorite resorts. Here’s what’s on tap for the season in Snowmass.
On Mountain Skiing, Riding, and More
Something to be grateful for: COVID has no effect on snow, sunshine, and ski runs. You’ll find all 3,342 acres of terrain at the ski area as enjoyable as ever (check out the new six-seater, high-speed lift up the Big Burn). That said, be mindful of this winter’s health safety protocols, which include wearing your mask in lift lines (and while getting on and off the lift), in on-mountain restaurants, and throughout the Village.
You’ll even discover that some things are more streamlined. For example, rather than waiting at the ticket office, buy your lift ticket online, then swipe the emailed QR code at one of the new outside pickup boxes. It’ll spit out your printed ticket and, presto, you’re off to the slopes.
If you’re new to Snowmass and are at least an intermediate-level skier or rider, get oriented through one of the free on-mountain tours, whether it’s the three-times-a-week early morning First Tracks (reservations required), daily Ambassador Tours, or twice-daily nature-focused runs hosted by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies.
Unlike many ski resorts, which are only offering private lessons this winter, Snowmass continues to have ski-school groups, though with a max of five students per ski pro.
And when you want to stay out on the mountain—taking in the views and fresh air but giving your ski legs a break—head to the multi-lane, lift-served tubing hill and the thrilling Breathtaker Alpine Coaster at Elk Camp (buy tickets in advance). You can also experience the coaster and tubing, plus mini-snow bikes, bonfires, and à la carte dinner at Elk Camp restaurant, during Ullr Nights in February and March; this winter, because of capacity limits, only those who reserve and purchase a $64 all-activities pass will be able to ride the gondola to these special evenings.
There’s not much lingering over lunch this year, as indoor dining capacity at restaurants is limited to 25 percent, which could potentially turn all of us into the type of hardcore skiers who pack an energy bar and scoff at extended breaks. But lunch-lovers, don’t despair. The cafeteria-style Ullrhof, High Alpine, and Elk Camp restaurants have all added more sit-down space in large, heated tents, and you can save time in line by ordering grab-and-go options beforehand via the Aspen Snowmass mobile app. Sam’s still serves its delicious Italian fare tableside, and Lynn Britt Cabin offers hearty but refined mountain cuisine on its outside patio.
Capacity limits also give you all the more reason to ski down to the Snowmass Mall or Snowmass Base Village for lunch. Grab a panini or a wrap at Fuel (we love the avocado and sweet potato with tahini–poppy seed spread), warm up with a bowl of chili from the Stew Pot (a go-to for more than 50 years), or awaken your taste buds with a curry or noodle bowl from locals’ favorite Grub Thai, all on the Mall.
In Base Village, find fast and easy options at the Crêpe Shack (the chicken Florentine, with spinach, mushrooms, and Alfredo sauce, is a winner) or mix6, which creates salad or grain bowls with your pick of toppings. Duck into just-opened JUS for a healthful and yummy smoothie or the adjacent GG’s Market for grab-and-go staples. The Limelight Lounge now serves lunch, too—though you may just want to order up a fennel sausage pizza to-go on your Aspen Snowmass app and split it on the Elk Camp gondola. That’s hardcore and indulgent at the same time.
Be sure to check out Snowmass’s 30-plus restaurants for great dinner options, too.
Okay, so you won’t be sipping margaritas in a crowded bar or elbowing others while jockeying for the best s’mores-roasting position around a fire pit—at least not this season. But Snowmass Tourism has graciously filled the s’mores void by handing out two tasty, ready-made alternatives created by local restaurants mix6 and Slow Groovin’ Chophouse (from 3:30 p.m. on); oh, and the cost (free), is pretty sweet, too.
As you stroll the Snowmass Mall, munching on your s’mores bar, listen to live performances from local musicians from the Tower Stage every Thursday afternoon.
Out of doors is the best way to go for celebrating your time on the hill this winter, including near-to-the-slopes spots like the Ranger Station (which specializes in New Belgium Brewing beer), Venga Venga, MoxiBar, Base Camp Bar & Grill, and the Artisan. The Viceroy’s poolside Nest Bar is even conveniently ski-in/ski-out.
Off the Slopes
Whether you’re taking a day or an afternoon off from skiing, there’s plenty to tempt you out of your hotel room or condo (though we’ll never deny the appeal of a good nap).
The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which has long offered popular mountain-top snowshoe tours and ski tours, added free, twice-daily snowshoe treks that start at the edge of the Mall and traverse a pair of local trails—once you see an ACES naturalist point out critter tracks or ID the trees you normally whiz past on skis, you won’t look at the mountain environment in quite the same way.
Test your local knowledge with the new Snowmass Mountain Mission, an anytime app-based scavenger hunt that will take you all over the village and ski area. Challenges range from answering trivia questions about the resort to snapping photos and videos in designated locations. Get enough points and you’ll win a Snowmass Buff, not to mention eternal bragging rights.
The Collective’s Game Lounge became a hub when it debuted last winter, offering old-school arcade games, ping-pong, a massive ball pit, and more. It’s open this year with a few understandable modifications: a $15 per person fee for 50 minutes and required reservations. Visit the new Selfie Den (Thursdays to Tuesdays), with multiple interactive stations, and capture yourself with family or friends for a quirky reminder of this memorable winter. The Collective also hosts weekly free entertainment, including comedy night, family chess night, bingo night, and more (public health orders depending).
Right outside The Collective, in the heart of Snowmass Base Village, the ice skating rink opens daily from noon to 8 p.m., with free skate rentals (masks on, please). On Saturdays, there’s the DJ-hosted Disco Night (if you do the “Saturday Night Fever” pose for your kids, will they have a clue?). Give curling a whirl on select Friday afternoons during the rink’s cleverly named Game of Stones series.
Things to Ooh and Aah At
Few things say “perfect pandemic arts experience” more than outdoors exhibits. Start by admiring the season-long array of ice sculptures in Snowmass Base Village and the Snowmass Mall (and catch a carving demo by a local sculptor every other Wednesday). Alongside Fanny Hill, explore Snowmass Luminescence, which dazzles with thousands of colored LED lights arrayed in interactive walkways, arches, and more (through February 28); two additional touring installations by international artists add to the fantasy factor.
Over at Anderson Ranch Arts Center, just about a mile and half down Brush Creek Road, lights are also a thing this winter. In addition to computer-programmed displays comprised of 20,000 LEDs, the Ranch commissioned six artists to imaginatively decorate half a dozen trees. The viewing lasts until 9 p.m. daily (through February 1), but make sure to get there before dark to see “Sculpturally Distanced,” a thought-provoking, campus-wide exhibit of 17 contemporary works by acclaimed sculptors that debuted last summer; if you snap a pic of the earthworks “Love Grave,” you’ll be in good company, as it’s now the Ranch’s most Instagrammed spot.
If all of these vibrant light displays make you think of fireworks, well, Snowmass has those, too, with displays going off monthly over Fanny Hill that you can safely view from the socially distanced confines of your lodge or condo.
While promoting good health this winter has required some changes, the essence of Snowmass—whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time regular—still holds plenty of appeal. Stay safe, and see you on the slopes.