Aspen vs Snowmass, Which is Best For Your Ski Vacation?

by Simon Naylor | Updated: September 14th, 2023 |  Best Ski Resorts

Nestled high in Colorado's majestic Rocky Mountains, Aspen and Snowmass together form one of the world's premier ski destinations. Though located just 10 miles apart or a 25-minute drive, these two iconic resorts provide vastly different experiences.

Aspen woos travelers with its storybook Victorian charm while Snowmass lures families with its expansive terrain. Here's why we think one might be better than the other for your next ski vacation.

man in brown jacket and gray pants holding ski poles on snow covered ground during daytime

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Aspen vs Snowmass, Which Has Best Skiing?

Spanning four peaks, Snowmass lives up to its “Family Mountain” nickname with 3,332 acres of skiable terrain. In contrast, Aspen Mountain feels more intimate with just 675 acres.

For beginners and intermediates, Snowmass clearly comes out on top. Nearly half of its terrain falls into the beginner/intermediate range, earning Snowmass a reputation as a fantastic place to build skills and confidence. Long, wide groomed cruisers stretch down the mountain, perfect for leisurely rides while soaking in gorgeous Rocky Mountain views.

Meanwhile, Aspen leans towards advanced and expert skiers, with over half of its terrain ranked black diamond or double black diamond difficulty. Legendary bump runs like FIS and Kristi test the skills of seasoned experts.

a person riding skis down a snow covered slope

Though Aspen lacks beginner terrain, it makes up for it with heart-pounding steeps and chutes for the boldest skiers. For intermediates, Aspen Mountain does have some nice long blue cruisers as well like Copper to Silver Bell.

In terms of vertical rise and summit elevation, Snowmass also bests Aspen. With a thigh-burning 4,406 feet of vertical drop and a lofty 12,510 foot summit, the mountain provides muscle-building descents. Aspen Mountain tops out at 3,267 feet of vertical and 11,212 feet summit elevation.

For diehard powder fiends, Snowmass' immense size means more nooks and crannies to stash fresh snow after a storm cycle. Overall, Snowmass provides superior skiing acreage and stats, making it a must-visit for powder hounds. Aspen Mountain holds its own with its iconic expert runs and stunning views.

Ski Resort Stats at a Glance

StatisticsAspen MountainSnowmass Mountain
Skiable Terrain675 acres3332 acres
Vertical Drop3267 ft4,406 ft
Base Elevation7,945 ft8,104 ft
Summit Elevation11,212 ft12,510 ft
Total Trails7694
Green Circle Trails (Beginner)0%6%
Blue Square Trails (Intermediate)48%47%
Black Diamond Trails (Advanced)26%17%
Double Black Diamond Trails (Expert)26%30%
Longest Run4.8 km8.5 km
Number of Ski Lifts821
Snowmass Vs Aspen in Resort Statistics

Snowmass: Endless Fun for All Abilities

For families and intermediate groups, Snowmass provides the quintessential Colorado ski experience. First-timers can gain confidence on the gentle green runs off the Elk Camp Gondola. Novices will progress quickly on trails like Kelly Johnson that let them upgrade from pizza wedges to proper parallel turns. Cruisers like Big Burn and Longshot on the Big Burn side let intermediates relax and enjoy the ride.

Confident intermediates can step it up on more challenging blue squares like Sneaky's, or try a black diamond like Powerline that has moguls. Experts can battle the steeps off the Cirque Headwall or hike High Alpine for double-black terrain.

With so much variety, skiers improve rapidly at Snowmass. Kids build skills at Ski School or the kid-friendly Treehouse Kids' Adventure Center. Families reconnect over long gondola rides and lunch breaks on the deck at Elk Camp Lodge. Snowmass satisfies skiers across the ability spectrum.

Aspen Mountain: A Mecca for Experts

While Snowmass woos intermediate skiers, Aspen Mountain beckons experts. Double-black diamond runs like Kristi and FIS host World Cup races, plunging over moguls and cliffs that challenge the world's best. Walsh's and Hyrup's serve up short but wickedly steep pitches. Treasure Box through the trees coats thighs with burn while Silver Bell's gut-wrenching roller coaster drops test nerves.

For confident intermediates, Aspen Mountain has no shortage of thrilling black diamonds like Copper to Silver Bell that will move them up to advanced skiers.

Aspen Mountain's relatively compact size lets skiers lap legendary trails like FIS repeatedly in a day. The Silver Queen Gondola's gentle 11-minute ascent makes fresh tracks quickly accessible. Expert skiers flock to Aspen Mountain for its storied bump runs and leg-burning steeps.

An endless parade of pro skiers like Shaun White and Kelly Clark sharpen their skills on these challenging slopes. The atmosphere celebrates skiing excellence, driving enthusiasts to push their limits. Aspen Mountain stands proudly as a must-ski pilgrimage for the most hardcore skiers.

Village Vibes: Bustling Aspen vs Family-Friendly Snowmass

Apres ski comes alive in Aspen's charming Victorian-era town. Located right at the base of Ajax Peak, the pedestrian-only downtown lined with shops, restaurants and art galleries pulses with energy. During the holiday season, the town twinkles with white lights as people admire the decorated storefronts or sip hot toddies next to the ice rink at the base of the mountain.

Year-round, the historic Hotel Jerome and the glitzy Limelight Snowmass lodge visitors in style. When the sun sets, Aspen offers diverse nightlife options ranging from laid-back bars with live music to upscale cocktail lounges. With a population around 7,000, Aspen supplies the quintessential bustling ski town ambiance.

In contrast, Snowmass Village trails far behind in terms of dining, shopping and nightlife. The newer base area lacks Aspen's infectious old-world character. Though lodging, bars and restaurants exist, the low-key scene pales in comparison to Aspen. In 2018, Snowmass logged less than 3,000 residents, lending itself better to travelers seeking a calm, family-friendly experience. Visitors desiring a vibrant village pulsating with energy choose Aspen for its mood.

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Dining: Snowmass Satisfies While Aspen Inspires

On-mountain, Snowmass wins for its quantity and quality of restaurants. Family-friendly options like burger joint Ullrhof and the Treeline ski-up taco bar satisfy hungry skiers with warm, tasty grub.

For date night, the romantic Alpin Room boasts upscale American cuisine along with breathtaking views. Lynn Britt Cabin's farm-to-table fare showcases locally sourced ingredients. In total, Snowmass treats diners to 7 on-mountain eateries. With so much variety and convenience, Snowmass proves itself as a skier's paradise.

Aspen's main on-mountain restaurant, Bonnie's, offers standard burgers and fries to fuel up for more laps. The only fine dining on the slopes lies at the very top of the Silver Queen gondola. Element 47, owned by the Little Nell hotel, earns acclaim for its locally inspired cuisine and stellar wine list.

However, reaching it requires coasting down from the summit on the last chairlift. With fewer on-mountain restaurants, skiers sometimes opt to descend into town for lunch. For sheer volume and satisfying family dining, Snowmass comes out on top for foodies.

That said, Aspen's restaurants like Matsuhisa and Cache Cache intrigues true food-lovers with their artsy elegance. Renowned chefs like Nobu Matsuhisa and Chris Lanter turn out inspired dishes that infuse local ingredients with global flavors.

For fine dining connoisseurs, Aspen's sophisticated culinary scene takes the cake. Snowmass' family-friendly fare satisfies while Aspen's gourmet masterpieces inspire.

dish on white ceramic plate

Lodging: Aspen Luxury vs Snowmass Comfort

When it comes to lodging, Aspen options abound at every price point from budget chains like the Molly Gibson to ultra-luxury retreats. Storied grand dames like Hotel Jerome pamper guests in historic Victoriana elegance. Over-the-top amenities at The Little Nell, like ski valets who whisk away gear upon return to the hotel, demonstrate next-level luxury. More modern properties like the Limelight, Hotel Aspen and The Gant exude Rocky Mountain chic with their warm, rustic-luxe decor.

Outside the hotels, high-end residential rentals managed by professional companies like Aspen Snowmass Sotheby's dot the core downtown area. These multi-million dollar private homes tempt families and groups with amenities like professional chefs, home theaters, and ski concierge services. While Snowmass Village has lodging options, none reach the elegance and grandeur found in Aspen.

In Snowmass, one can still find decent condo rentals and budget-friendly hotels. The Westin provides families a dependable, comfortable home base. For value, the Limelight Snowmass and the Crestwood provide solid mid-range accommodations near the slopes.

However with fewer choices, lodging in Snowmass Village compounds its sleepy, residential feel. Those desiring proximity to nightlife and fine dining choose Aspen lodging for its privileged location. For luxury-seekers, Aspen remains the clear choice.

a house in the snow with a mountain in the background

Ski Lift Ticket Pricing

Luckily both resorts Aspen and Snowmass share the same ticket allowing you to ski on four mountains with the same pass. This includes, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass & the smaller Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk

Aspen and snowmass are also part of the larger IKON pass.

Price subject to change. Get Yours here.

Full and flexible seasons passes (1 or 2 days a week) are available here. A premier pass for Adults 18-64 in 2023 season is $2,779 + $195 insurance.

man in black jacket and black pants riding ski blades on snow covered ground during daytime

Accessibility: Aspen's Prime Location

Thanks to its commercial airport with jet service direct from major U.S. hubs, Aspen enjoys prime accessibility compared to Snowmass Village. Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE) offers hundreds of direct flights per day in peak ski season from cities like Denver, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

For those coming internationally, flying into Denver International Airport and connecting works seamlessly.

By car, Snowmass lies almost 4 hours away from Denver International compared to Aspen's 3.5 hour drive. There are shuttle buses linking the two villages in about 25 minutes.

However, staying in Aspen provides a central location with easy access to attractions in Snowmass and the greater Roaring Fork Valley. Both Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk ski areas sit just minutes from Aspen. To reach those areas from Snowmass requires driving 25-30 minutes.

For overall convenience, Aspen wins. See the map below to get an idea of how close the resorts really are.

Après Ski Happy Hour: Aspen Parties into the Night while Snowmass Slows Down

When the lifts close, Aspen cranks up the energy well into the night. At the J-Bar at the Hotel Jerome, the party gets started with slushy cocktails, 90s hip hop beats, and bar snacks like disco fries with foie gras. Aspen's après scene offers living room coziness, sweaty dance parties, and everything in between.

Snowmass' après ski can't rival Aspen's intensity, but a few solid choices exist. The Stonebridge Inn and Tavern host live music some nights and happy hour deals on bar food.

At the Limelight Hotel's Lounge, the vibe remains chill with craft beers and shareable plates like truffle fries. Families head to Woodrun V for group dinners where kids feast while parents enjoy the wine list.

While Snowmass après options pale in comparison, the mellow scene allows weary skiers to ease into relaxation mode. Après enthusiasts looking to keep the party going head into Aspen.

Where To Pick for Your Next Ski Vacation?

Choosing whether Aspen or Snowmass suits your winter vision depends entirely on who your travelling with. Groups with children or less advanced skiers will delight in Snowmass' expansive intermediate terrain and family-focused comforts.

While adrenaline junkies and hardcore skiers will prefer Aspen's luxurious amenities and leg-burning expert runs.

Many seasoned skiers opt to stay in swanky Aspen lodging and then head to Snowmass daily to access its incredible skiing acreage. With beginner-friendly terrain, Snowmass builds skills so visitors can eventually graduate to Aspen's double-black diamonds.

With shared lift tickets and shuttle access between these sister resorts, travelers can enjoy the best of both worlds. Whether your fantasy ski trip means bonding with the kids on Snowmass cruisers or pushing limits on Aspen's legendary bumps, this legendary area guarantees an iconic Colorado winter adventure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which resort has better skiing for beginners?

Snowmass is better for beginner skiers, with wider, more gradual runs compared to Aspen. Nearly half of the terrain at Snowmass is rated green or blue.

Which resort has more expert skiing terrain?

Aspen has more double black diamond runs and challenging terrain for experts. Over half of the trails are rated black or double black.

Which resort has a more lively village?

Aspen has a much more vibrant village scene compared to Snowmass, with more dining, shopping, bars, and nightlife options to choose from.

Which resort is more family-friendly?

Snowmass has a more laid-back, family-friendly vibe. The resort offers activities for kids and a relaxing atmosphere.

Which resort has more lodging choices?

Aspen has a wider selection of lodging from budget to luxury in the main village area. Snowmass has more limited options, mostly consisting of condo rentals.

Is there a shuttle between the two resorts?

Yes, the free Snowmass shuttle runs between Aspen and Snowmass in around 25 minutes.

Do Aspen and Snowmass have shared lift tickets?

Yes, lift ticket packages can include access to both Aspen Mountain and Snowmass as part of the Aspen Snowmass resort complex giving you 5,600+ acres of skiable terrain.

Which airport is closest to the resorts?

Aspen-Pitkin County Airport is the nearest airport, located just a few miles from both Aspen and Snowmass Villages.

What are the 2023-2024 season dates?

Aspen and Snowmass Mountain open for the winter season on November 23, 2023.

  • Aspen Mountain: November 23, 2023–April 21, 2024
  • Aspen Highlands: December 9, 2023–April 7, 2024
  • Buttermilk: December 9, 2023–March 31, 2024
  • Snowmass: November 23, 2023–April 14, 2024