The Difference Between Aspen’s Four Mountains


Well-groomed runs, unparalleled scenery and renowned apres-ski scenes populate all of Aspen’s four mountains—and from the base of any of them, it may be difficult to decipher how they differ. But local insight reveals that Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk, Aspen Highlands and Snowmass each present offerings that make them special, giving avid skiers and snowboarders reasons for repeat visits and longer stays in order to experience them all.

The area’s diverse features have made it a world-class ski destination for celebrities and dignitaries. Whether it’s beginner-friendly runs, X Game-worthy terrain or premier dining, all levels of snow sport aficionados are bound to find something to love. Here, local concierges share their favorite mountain and the characteristics that will make it yours, too.


Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mt gondola-credit Dan Bayer
Dan Bayer

The concierge team at Viceroy Snowmass enjoys Aspen Mountain for its intermediate and advanced terrain. Visitors won’t see a lot of beginners on Aspen, also referred to as Ajax, as some experience is required to navigate this mountain. Viceroy Snowmass’ concierge team explains that many people you’ll encounter on Aspen have knowledge of its runs.

In addition to the challenging moguls, high-speed turns and steep descents, the mountain also has a notable apres-ski scene, including the Sundeck at the summit and Ajax Tavern at the base. For something a little different, complimentary yoga sessions for skiers take place in the morning. Participants take a gondola to 11,212 feet and are provided with yoga mats, plenty of room to stretch, stunning views and crisp mountain air.


Aspen Highlands

Highlands Cloud Nine
Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro (David Kirsch)

Mary Pat Rysdon, concierge at The St. Regis Aspen Resort, favors Highlands, known for its challenging terrain including the famous Highland Bowl.

“We call [Highlands] a local’s mountain,” she says. Although steep descents attract experts, skiers and snowboarders at the beginner and intermediate levels are welcome to try the mid- and lower mountain terrain. Plus, Rysdon adds, the runs are wide and not crowded.
Rysdon also recommends Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro at 10,900 feet, which offers panoramic views of the Maroon Bells and hearty fare.
“It turns into an apres party and people are dancing on the tables and it’s fun to watch. The food is out of this world.


Buttermilk Mountain

Family on Buttermilk- photo by Jeremy Swanson
Jeremy Swanson

Hotel Jerome concierge Stanton Moore divulges one of Aspen’s best-kept secrets: Buttermilk’s reputation as a beginner’s mountain doesn’t capture the entirety of its offerings. While it does feature terrain and instruction perfect for novices, there is much more to explore for all levels of snow sport enthusiasts.

“When speaking of instruction, Buttermilk deals with either youth or adults that are new or returning to skiing or snowboarding,” he says. “… With the addition of a brand-new children’s facility at the base of the mountain, Buttermilk for ski/ride instruction is hard to beat.”
However, Buttermilk is also home to the winter X Games (Jan. 22-25, 2015)—a testament to its appeal for nonbeginners. “There are a ton of features, insane jumps and, of course, the halfpipe,” Moore explains.

Then, there’s the food. Moore recommends The Cliffhouse’s Mongolian bowl station and Bumps at Buttermilk Mountain Lodge, where visitors will find “arguably the best carbonara in Aspen.” In addition, the redesigned lobby and bar area at the Inn at Aspen is set to be an apres-ski favorite this season.


Aspen Snowmass

Snowmass - by Jeremy Swanson
Jeremy Swanson

The largest out of the four mountains, Snowmass is also residence concierge Lynsey Martin’s favorite. With 3,332 acres of terrain, 94 trails and 21 chairlifts, the mountain’s runs range from beginner to expert-only. “Awesome for both skiing and snowboarding alike, it’s very family-friendly but also an amazing mountain with a backcountry feel without encountering the out-of-bounds backcountry dangers,” Martin explains. “It has three terrain parks ranging from … [introductory to] intermediate and advanced, which allow beginners to start, intermediates to learn new tricks and experts to ride the Snowmass … 65-foot jumps.”

Apart from the skiing and snowboarding, Snowmass is home to nine restaurants, some of which host snow cat dinner rides. “You experience a winter wonderland inside a warm snow cat viewing ski-in/ski-out residences that glitter in the darkness,” Martin says. “Lynn Britt Cabin is an elegant log cabin featuring majestic panoramic views of the Snowmass Valley [and] live music.”


—Written by Linda Domingo