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The best guide for your Aspen ski trip in 2024

The glamorous ski town of Aspen is founded on silver, mined from its soaring mountains. Today, the famous peaks deliver riches by way of Aspen ski trips, first tracks and unbeatable dining experiences. Writes Helen Hayes and Steve Madgwick.

Aspen is made up a city-like ski town and four ski areas; Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk. Aspen Village is at the base of Aspen Mountain. There is a bit of Hollywood about Aspen. A buzz in the air, and a real ‘lights, camera, action’ vibe. Fairy lights add a sense of wonder to the town’s streets. Boutiques feature racks of designer winter gear with high price tags. In Aspen, if you think you just saw a certain A-list celebrity… you probably did. But Aspen is so much more than glitz and glamour. It still has a healthy dose of mountain culture, with its slopes enticing skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts for generations.

Aspen, Colorado in 2024

Aspen’s four resorts – Snowmass, Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk – offer 5,303 total acres of skiable terrain, eight terrain parks and 336 trails served by 46 lifts. Book your trip with Mogul Ski World to have everything looked after for you.

Aspen Mountain

The 2023- 2024 season saw the opening of new terrain on Aspen Mountain. Named ‘Hero’s’, this new playground added 20% of skiable terrain and was the first terrain expansion in nearly four decades. Hero’s has dreamy views over the Roaring Fork River below.

First tracks on Aspen Mountain

‘First Tracks’ at Aspen Mountain take place with a guide under the Silver Queen Gondola. The experience is available to those in private lessons and guests staying in Aspen Skiing Company lodging properties. Your guide can help you find some of the secret shrines hidden in the trees. The shrines pay homage to the likes of Aspen’s canines, John Denver and Major League Baseball teams.

Mountain guides

Join the complimentary 11am two-hour ‘Mountain Ambassador’ tour, or opt for a private lesson for US$889/day to get your trail bearings. You’ll also get to hear unrivalled celebrity goss (FYI: Elton John was lovely but a “one-run-then-done” skier).

  • Skiable area: 273 hectares of terrain
  • Summit: 3,417 metres
  • Grading of runs: 0% Beginner, 48% Intermediate, 26% Advanced, 26% Expert
Aspen Mountain
Aspen Mountain

Aspen Snowmass

Snowmass is 20 minutes from Aspen and by far the biggest ski area of Aspen’s four mountains. You will find gig terrain, a chilled village and super chic on-mountain restaurants. Aspen Snowmass is a less intimidating version of the Aspen ‘scene’. It is accessed by free shuttle bus, 13 kilometres west of town. Its three-peaked ski area is the most diverse of the quartet, best exemplified by the blue and black groomers that surge from the Big Burn lift.

Snowmass also sports two of Colorado’s most stylish on-snow restaurant options. Swap your ski boots for slippers to pad into Alpin Room for a long lunch of ‘reimagined Alsatian home-cooking’. The meal is highlighted by tartiflette – a dense potato and caramelised onion fondue – and a supreme wine list dominated by Californian and French drops.

Atop Village Express Gondola, Sam’s has big atmosphere and even bigger servings of tomatoey and burrata-rich Italian goodness. The Grandma Style Pizza and the ‘flavour of the moment’ cannoli will power your afternoon.

The resort complex also has the most ski-in, ski-out of Aspen’s accommodation. Electric Pass Lodge has stunning two- and three-bedroom residences. Viceroy Snowmass is a refined five-star hotel and location of an ancient Ute-inspired wellness spa. As well as the sophisticated yet lively Toro Kitchen & Lounge. Viewline Resort has ski-in, ski-out mountain front suites and an expansive Lobby Bar that offers live jazz and valley vistas.

  • Skiable area: 1,351 hectares of terrain
  • Summit: 3,813 metres
  • Grading of runs: 5% Beginner, 48% Intermediate, 17% Advanced, 30% Expert
Aspen Snowmass
Aspen Snowmass

Aspen Highlands

Aspen Highlands has cruisy blues and glade-gliding double black runs, with not a green to be seen. The ski area also harbours two of Aspen’s signature experiences, each extreme in their own way.

‘Hiking the [Highland] Bowl’ is peak skiing nirvana on the ‘local’s mountain’. From the top of Loge Peak lift, you hike up to Highland’s 3,777-metre highpoint. It takes about 45 minutes with skis/board on your back. The double black line you choose to ride down will be unforgettable.

It is customary to bring up this achievement at a Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro afternoon session. You could run into the likes of Kendall Jenner or Will Ferrel partying at this slope-side bistro. Here, US$175 Veuve Clicquot ‘champagne showers’ are commonplace. The only way down from Cloud 9 is to ski or snowboard, there is no lift access.

  • Skiable area: 420 hectares of terrain
  • Summit: 3,558 metres
  • Grading of runs: 0% Beginner, 23% Intermediate, 12% Advanced, 65% Expert
Couple standing outside Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, Aspen Highlands
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro

Buttermilk Mountain

Buttermilk is pigeonholed as a family-friendly green-run dream of forgiving slopes, which in a Colorado context is true. But it also hosts an X Games terrain park, with a killer halfpipe. And a lesser-known network of lively, uncrowded blues and blacks accessed from Tiehack Express.

  • Skiable area: 190 hectares of terrain
  • Summit: 3,017 metres
  • Grading of runs: 35% Beginner, 39% Intermediate, 21% Advanced, 5% Expert
Buttermilk in Aspen, Colorado

Wine, dine and aprés in Aspen village

Arguably, the base of Aspen Mountain’s Silver Queen Gondola is the best place for après. Try truffle fries and a Colorado ale on Ajax Tavern’s patio. Or a caviar flight and bottle of Dom Pérignon at the Little Nell Wine Bar for US$1,100.

Aspen’s fine-dining scene is uber-impressive, and there are some new faces on the streets to add to names like Matsuhisa, Prospect and Bosq – which was recently awarded a Michelin star.

PARC Aspen Restaurant

PARC Aspen Restaurant has been receiving rave reviews, with Chef Mark Connell using innovative techniques to create dishes such as cinnamon smoked elk loin and melt-in-the-mouth braised short ribs, complemented by a world-class wine list.

Stranahan’s Whiskey Lodge

Stranahan’s Whiskey Lodge opened in March 2024. It is in a very cool space and has been a smash hit with its whiskey tastings – have a flight of three or just a wee dram.

The Boat Tow

The Boat Tow is another new restaurant that is rooted in Aspen culture. The restaurant is named after the first lift that was used to tow skiers up the hill from 1937-1946. It was actually a boat, pulled uphill by a cable, and ran until Aspen’s first chairlift opened. You can après all day at The Boat Tow, with cocktails featuring names like ‘Your Next Affair’ and ‘Skiing is the Easy Part’ to sip alongside curried salmon and lamb bolognese. A taste of today with a nod to Aspen’s storied past.

French Alpine Bistro

Decadent lunch favourite French Alpine Bistro has fare as rich as its clientele, and furnishings as eccentric. The raclette, truffle gnocchi-flette and sweet crepes are crowd favourites.

The Aspen Art Museum

The Aspen Art Museum is renowned for its New York-quality exhibitions, its architecture and its Saturday rooftop cafe après.

Aspen Art Museum
Aspen Art Museum
Chica

Chica is a high-end Latin American eatery that pays serious attention to its fun-fusion fare. Meals range from lobster mac-and-cheese to the arresting ‘Flaming Skull’ – a gold-sugared cranium that ‘melts’ to reveal a lava cake.

ASPENX

Aspen is known for the X Games and also for ASPENX, the Aspen Ski Company’s high-end brand for rental, retail and experiences delivering unprecedented slope-side service. While a personal specialist helps get you sorted with premium ski equipment – including heated boots – you can casually sip on an espresso, fine wine or craft beer.
ASPENX also offers an elevated après experience. The ASPENX Beach Club sits on top of Aspen Mountain with DJs, a curated menu, refreshments, and a very cool vibe under signature red-striped cabanas with spectacular views of Highland Bowl and the Elk Range thrown in.

The ASPENX Beach Club sits on top of Aspen Mountain
The ASPENX Beach Club sits on top of Aspen Mountain

Private clubs

Caribou Club is Apen’s eccentric private members’ cave. Here, you’ll find Warhols on the walls, stacked antler chandeliers and a wine room where price is not discussed. Usually, you need to know ‘somebody’. But if you’re determined, there are temporary memberships available. These memberships cost up to US$2,000 per week for two people.

Read: The 15 most exclusive private clubs on the planet

Shopping in Aspen

Stoll down Aspen’s Main Street and adjacent avenues to browse the best boutique shops. Downtown offers shopportunities galore to update your ski ensemble with the very latest and greatest.

Hyman walking mall Aspen ski holiday Colorado
Hyman walking mall

The Chanel boutique on East Hyman Avenue offers basic black-and-white Chanel-branded skis for US$9,000. And a matte-black, pizza-sized sled for US$10,500. Prada skis are a steal at US$4,000. Add a matching ASPENX Prada Extreme Graphic parka – a collaboration between the label, ‘Aspen’s ski professionals’ and artist Paula Crown for a mere US$5,400.

For Colorado ranch-style après wear, head to Kemo Sabe. “Proudly helping soccer moms lead double lives since 1990,” says the slogan. Its cowboy/girl hats and boots range from subtle to yee-haw, peaking at US$3,600 for slick caiman skin zip-ups. Browse-worthy bespoke accessories include black bison-leather handbags and an ancient cave bear jaw-handled ornamental knife: US$20,000 by Jake 2 Jake. Browsing downtown consignment stores, such as Susie’s on East Main Street, for that pre-loved Balenciaga bargain, and boutique gallery-hopping are recommended. Galerie Maximillian and Baldwin Gallery are noteworthy.

Where to stay in Aspen

The Little Nell

In a town with surprisingly few five-star hotels (because of the number of private residences), the Little Nell best reflects Aspen’s heightened style and excellence. Rooms and shared spaces are adorned with bold geometrical symmetry and old-world textures. It is cosy without being stuffy, and well-appointed without being busy. The ski concierge, outdoor heated pool and 24-hour room service should have you wanting for nothing. Make a beeline for its iconic wine cellar, new Spa and state-of-the-art fitness centre. You can ‘buy out’ the Little Nell’s private speakeasy, The Board Room, hidden behind a sliding bookshelf and featuring a pool table-cum dining-table and plush furnishings. Guests staying at this hotel are eligble for complimentary ‘First Tracks’.

Hotel Jerome

Hotel Jerome is an elegant accommodation choice in Aspen. The hotel’s Living Room Bar is a quintessentially cosy place for a hot cocktail. I recommend you try the spicy Little Theodore. From the hard-working mining town days to the ‘80s, Jerome has always held up a mirror to Aspen’s fortunes.

Ski-in, ski-out from The Little Nell Aspen, Colorado
Ski-in, ski-out from The Little Nell

The Little Nell Snowcat Powder tour

Guests of The Little Nell also have the opportunity to book The Little Nell Snowcat Powder tour. Head out into perfect untouched snow in a snowcat and enjoy a blissful eight to 10 runs of intermediate to expert terrain, followed by lunch at a heated cabin with wines hand selected by the hotel’s Wine Director. And in typical Little Nell style, enjoy a chair massage to soothe those post-ski muscles.

A nod to Aspen’s mining history

Elements of its mining past are evident everywhere. The Silver Queen Gondola is named after the biggest silver nugget in the world – found at the Smuggler Mine in Aspen in 1894. It weighed a whopping 830kg. The Hotel Jerome is an elegant mix of past and present, and if you sit at the bar of the J-Bar, you might be sitting where Jack Nicholson and Hunter S. Thompson spent many an evening. The Little Nell, often named as the best ski hotel in the world, also gives a nod to silver in the name of Michelin-recommended restaurant Element 47 – the atomic number for silver.