The Roaring Fork Valley boasts four popular resort areas—Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass Mountain—that attract myriad visitors per year. While the winter is the undoubtedly busiest time due to the unrivaled skiing and snowboarding conditions on each of the four mountains, summertime is a season not to be missed. In fact, a common tossed-around phrase from locals is, “I came for the winter and stayed for the summer.”
From June through September, the town comes back alive after a spring sojourn with an average temperature in the high 70s, perfect for outdoor exploring. According to local concierges, it’s important for visitors to keep in mind, however, that not all mountains are accessible during these months. “I wouldn’t recommend Highlands … in the summer,” says Lynsey Martin, a residence concierge in Aspen. “It’s pretty much a ghost town. The only mountains that operate gondolas and lifts during the summer are Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Mountain.” Here, concierges share what makes both mountains special in the summertime.
Often referred to by its former name, Ajax, Aspen Mountain is on the upper end of the Roaring Fork Valley and stems from the downtown area of Aspen. Part of its appeal lies in its hiking trails that lead to more recreational activities surrounded by breathtaking views.
“It’s a great mountain to hike. There is an intermediate to difficult route up … that takes you all the way to the top—the gondola ride down is free if you hike up—and easy trails at the back of Aspen Mountain, which open up to beautiful meadows. For our furry family members, dogs are allowed on the gondola during summer. … Aspen Mountain has stunning views of Castle Peak and Hayden Peak. It also offers yoga [and] nature programs … as well as the Sundeck restaurant, which boasts a bird’s-eye vision of some of the best views in America.” —Lynsey Martin, residence concierge in Aspen
“I love Aspen Mountain in the summer. You can hike the Ute Trail (only 1 mile to the scenic viewpoint), but you gain a grueling 1,200 feet so it’s not easy. Those who are tenacious enough can venture another 2,300 feet to the very top in approximately 2 more miles. … I also tell people that the red gondolas offer solar-powered music outlets so you can plug in your phone or iPod and enjoy the views down to your own soundtrack.” —Sonya Haushalter, concierge at The Ritz-Carlton Club, Aspen Highlands
Located 9 miles from Aspen, Snowmass Mountain is the largest and popularly frequented mountain with various happenings like festivals, camping trips and concerts that entice young kids and adults alike. When it comes to navigating Snowmass, biking is the go-to mode of transportation with routes for all abilities.
“[Viceroy Snowmass] hotel is in Snowmass, so obviously we are going to send our guests here. There are so many festivals, like Mammoth Fest, which ended June 14, and the upcoming Snowmass Balloon Festival (Sept. 18-20), which is incredible if you’re out here. … Every Thursday night there’s a free Snowmass concert. Those take place on Fanny Hill and they set up a big stage during the summer. It’s family-friendly—you can bring a camping chair and sit on the lawn. The concerts start early in the evening, so it’s still light out for the most of the event. They spotlight all kinds of music from bluegrass to reggae to hip-hop. They try to make it something different every week that people can enjoy it and come back again.” —Lauren Sakin, concierge at Viceroy Snowmass
“I have to say that Snowmass Mountain is my favorite [with] some of the most adventurous mountain biking and downhill biking trails (ranging from beginners to advanced) that you’ll find in Colorado. Camp Aspen Snowmass offers mountain biking clinics, paintball, two disc golf courses and even overnight camping—more like glamping—in luxurious tents for kids, which give parents an opportunity for a quiet and romantic evening alone. … And don’t forget the Snowmass Rodeo every Wednesday (through Aug. 19), where some of the best cowboys from all over the country compete and show off their agility and talent; and, of course, delicious barbecue is served.” —Lynsey Martin, residence concierge in Aspen
—Written by Kirsti Correa