The days of skiing all day because there’s nothing else to do are long gone.
Whether you feel like taking time off the slopes to rest tired legs, want to explore the area beyond the chairlifts, or you’re the family member who doesn’t ski or snowboard at all, Snowmass’s off-mountain options are vast and varied. We call it JOMO: the joy of missing out. Here are some of our favorite options for a day off the slopes.
Yes, it’s skiing, but very different from the downhill variety. Gliding on a pair of long skinny skis in freshly groomed tracks — or skate-skiing for a more intense cardio workout — is not only great exercise but can bring you into a state of zen not typically found with alpine skiing. Quieter and more rhythmic, cross-country skiing also allows more opportunity to enjoy views and the pristine winter landscape. Get outfitted and consider booking a lesson or tour at the Snowmass Cross-Country Center, located at the Snowmass Golf Course, then explore the surrounding 10 kilometers of skate and classic trails. Found your passion? The Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System boasts 90 kilometers of free, interconnected cross-country ski and snowshoe trails from Aspen to Snowmass to Basalt.
Winter Hiking or Snowshoeing
Ever explore your favorite summer hiking trails in the winter? It’s a whole different world — a fairy-tale landscape dotted with animal tracks and marked by mounds of snow-covered rocks and frosted trees. Most of Snowmass’s 80 miles of trails are accessible and enjoyable with snowshoes or winter traction devices on waterproof hiking shoes — some favorites include the flat, wide, 1.6-mile Ditch Trail and the Tom Blake Trail, meandering for 3.8 miles through an aspen forest. The Aspen Center for Environmental Studies offers two-hour snowshoe tours with a naturalist from the top of the Elk Camp Gondola, and several local guide services also include snowshoeing.
You need to totally relax and rejuvenate — what better way to get pampered than at one of Snowmass’s spas? The Spa at Viceroy Snowmass is the ultimate sanctuary as soon as you walk through the custom brass gate, offering Ute Indian-inspired therapies tailored to soothe the impacts of a high-elevation snowsports vacation and a stunning meditative relaxation lounge with a soothing central waterfall and infinity pool, among other services. At Snowmass Club Fitness and Spa, treat your skin to one of a dozen peels or facial treatments, a hot stone massage, or a day package to get it all. The Westin Snowmass Spa experience is designed to restore your energy levels, with customizable packages including a range of massages, facials, and even lunch. Ahhhh.
While the rest of the family is skiing or snowboarding, try something a little different on the ski mountain. Channel your inner child on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, winding through a mile of winter forest on an elevated track, and/or on multiple snow-tubing lanes, both accessed from the Elk Camp Gondola. You can even schuss your way down the mountain on a customized snow bike, although ski boots and lessons are required. All should make for great stories when the family meets up at lunchtime.
Mush! With Krabloonik Sled Dogs
An altogether unique resort experience, Krabloonik dog sledding has been a Snowmass mainstay for 45 years. The largest sled-dog operation in the Lower 48, Krabloonik (which means “big eyebrows” and was named after one of the original world-famous sled dogs) offers morning, afternoon, and twilight rides — an hour-plus adventure winding through the pristine Snowmass backcountry in a sled pulled by 8-10 Alaskan huskies. You can also get to know the dogs and learn what it takes to raise these special animals on a kennel tour, and cap off the experience with Krabloonik’s famous mushroom soup in its rustic log cabin restaurant.
Hang Out in Town
A plethora of in-town activities can easily fill a day off the slopes in Snowmass. The Limelight Hotel boasts Colorado’s tallest indoor climbing wall — five stories high with three lanes and glass-enclosed, in case you’d prefer to watch others’ moves from outside. Spend another hour gliding around the new ice-skating rink, in the plaza at the base of the ski area — it’s free, including skate rentals from the 1958 Airstream adjacent to the rink. Learn all about Snowmass’s fascinating pre-history at the Ice Age Discovery Center, through fossil collections and displays about the 2010 discovery of the finest high-elevation ice age fossil site in the world, where over 36,000 bones from mammoths, mastodons, and other prehistoric animals were unearthed. Take some time to visit Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Snowmass’s cultural hub, where you can take a self-guided tour of the historic campus, made up of restored buildings from Snowmass’s ranching past that now house artists’ studios; browse its gallery; and shop the ArtWorks Store, which offers a selection of unique gifts and art supplies.
Catherine Lutz is an Aspen Snowmass-based freelance writer and editor who contributes to local publications including Aspen Sojourner magazine and national magazines such as Powder and SKI.