Updated: May 26
Skiing in Aspen in Colorado was always on my bucket list. And skiing out west was something that I've always wanted to try because of the remarks I've heard from others. Aspen is near and dear to my heart because that is where my late mother learned to ski. Having the opportunity to experience their mountains was an eye-opening time. If you get a chance, I highly recommend skiing out west. I chose to have us go to Aspen first because it was the furthest away from the Denver airport, and then our journey would make our way backward towards Denver once again.
A quick note about something I did not know before traveling out west was that all of the mountains primarily have paid parking. Depending on your parking lot, this price can vary from $5 to $10 an hour or $30 a day. They also have free parking that is much further away, but they provide free shuttle access to the mountain. So you can get away without paying to park, but if you pay the $30 for the day, you can walk from your car to the lift in a couple of minutes. It is just something to think about if you're trying to visit a place like this but need to find ways to cut your cost.
Aspen comprises four different mountains that offer different types of skiing for different levels. Aspen Snowmass, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk, and Aspen Mountain, also known as Ajax.
We have the Ikon pass, which allows us seven full days at all of the Aspen mountains combined. Had we not had this pass, I don't think we would've been able to afford to ski at this resort as it is costly. If you have the funds, it is well worth it, although if you don't, the Ikon pass makes it worth it alone; if you ski seven days at Aspen, the pass will pay for itself.
The first mountain visited was Aspen Highlands. This mountain is known for its significant elevation and its back basin. While I did not go to the very peak, my fiancé made it to hundred feet from the peak and then dropped into the bowl. This mountain has stunning 360 views, which are breathtaking. This mountain is not for the beginner skier whatsoever. I foolishly thought that because I am an extremely expert skier on the East Coast, that would be the same on the West Coast. That is not true because you have to consider the elevation and that your body is not used to being that high and skiing in conditions like those out west. I personally am used to skiing on the ice at a very low elevation, and I can do that very well.
I found it very interesting that they had a free snowcat ride up most of the way to the peak so that you didn't have to hike as far. The peak stands at 12,392 feet which I believe is the highest of all of the Aspen mountains. This mountain is considered the most laid-back out of the four and has the most challenging terrain.
Aspen Snowmass was the second mountain we visited, and words can't even describe how enormous this mountain is. It was the only place we visited where we could park in a garage. They offer over 3,300 acres of skiing which cannot be done in one day. They are also known for having the highest vertical rise out of any mountain in the country. Compared to the highlands, Snowmass offers a broader terrain for all skiers. The peak of Snowmass is accessed by a secondary left which is the kind of lift you put between your legs, and it pulls you up the mountain. These kinds of lifts are perfect for areas where they could be high winds, and that way, you don't have to shut the lift down; it can still keep running. I must admit this was my first time using a lift like this. You have to be so engaged in your core and legs to not fall; I found it very scary but well worth it. The views from the peak once again were spectacular, and maybe it was just because I'm not used to views like this on the East Coast, but you can see for miles, and it is breathtaking.
When skiing these mountains, one of our goals was to cover as much of the mountain as possible and try to ride every lift that was not a beginner lift. While we could not ski every trail, we could ski every lift, arriving there at 8:30 in the morning to beat the crowds. They also had an Alpine coaster that I'd never seen before, which is pretty cool.
There are many lodges and places to eat, and what Aspen has going for them is its base villages. There is so much to do in the base Village that you don't need to go anywhere else.
Skiing Out West
If you're skiing out west, you should take the necessary precautions to have the best time ever. You should work your way up slowly into elevation to avoid elevation sickness. If you are skiing, make sure you have the correct type of skis for the conditions because powder skis are necessary out west and warm weather wax on your skis is also necessary. I found out very quickly that I did not have the correct skis to be going through powder because my skis are considered terrain park skis which do not perform as well when there is no ice and nothing but powder.
I was also blown away by the fact that it was so sunny and beautiful 95% of our trip. So be sure to pack your sunscreen because you definitely don't wanna get a sunburn or a goggle tan.
I experienced eating at different mountains, and it was the most amount I've ever spent on food per person. The food quality was superb, and I was exceptionally excited to see that they had vegan options for people. Out of all of the mountains, they seem to be the ones that care most about people's dietary needs and restrictions which, as someone with an allergy, I can stand behind and say is impressive. However, if you are trying to cut down on your costs and don't want to spend $100 on lunch for two people, I suggest you bring your own food to the mountain.
Lodging at Aspen is costly in all aspects. I looked into Airbnb, hotels, and different types of hotels, so ones within 40 minutes of their resort, ones at the resort, and ones with which I could have discounts. It quickly became apparent that it would cost thousands of dollars to stay in or near the town. I opted that it would be easier and more financially sound to stay further away and just drive the distance because the cost of gas did not outweigh the cost of where we would be able to stay. We stayed in Redstone, Colorado, about an hour away, at an Airbnb. You can check more about that stay in my Redstone Colorado blog post.
I loved Aspen, and I would 100% go back. You need to be very financially stable to ski at this resort full-time. Their pass is almost double and a half the past that I have. It is fascinating to see that most people come by private jet. It is definitely a different type of ski society than I'm used to. I would say that I preferred skiing over the types of people there; however, we did have a fantastic time and 100% would go back.
Check out Aspen: https://www.aspensnowmass.com