Aspen is synonymous with skiing, and one of the hottest spots for hitting the slopes is Snowmass. Particularly popular with families and groups of friends looking for a thrilling winter holiday, Snowmass boasts countless trails, as well as one of the largest vertical descents in the world. Burnt Mountain Glades and High Alpine are among the areas to explore on your skis, while there are plenty of dining options amid the picturesque scenery for when you need to refuel. The hearty meals will be just the thing after a day’s adventure on the powder.
Buttermilk may be smaller than Snowmass, but this top winter sports destination is perfect proof that size certainly isn’t everything. Skiers and snowboarders who are still learning the ropes will be in their element, thanks to the local ski school and all the beginner-friendly terrain. At the same time, Buttermilk draws expert powder hounds eager to try out the terrain parks, where epic features like a 22-foot superpipe await. Buttermilk is known as the home of the Winter X games, and ticks the boxes whether you’re a newbie or an all-out Olympian.
Want to get wet and wild? Hit the Roaring Fork River, which is an irresistible draw for rafters and kayakers. You can use local companies which provide everything you need to enjoy the cascading waters, whether you’re new to the whole thing or you’re a whitewater veteran. Different sections of the river will suit different skill levels, and experienced rafters will love the heart-pumping excitement of Slaughterhouse Falls, which calls for aggressive paddling and daredevil fearlessness. The sheer exhilaration is worth it.
Be sure to pack your comfiest hiking boots when visiting Aspen, because there are endless trails to explore. A much-loved spot with locals and visitors is Smuggler Mountain, which doesn’t take too much time to walk and rewards your efforts with immense, panoramic views across downtown Aspen. If you can, take the trek up to the observation deck to coincide with sundown, and you’ll enjoy some seriously spectacular scenery. Look beyond the cityscape and you’ll also be able to feast your eyes on the major Aspen ski resorts from here.
Another haven for hikers is Sky Mountain Park, which is adorned with many miles of trails ideal for ambling along. Or, you could always go mountain biking and horseback riding around these parts. However you decide to explore, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in sweeping mountain views as you go – Sky Mountain Park is a place that lives up to its name. And if mountain biking is your thing, some of the trails are bound to get the adrenaline pumping. One of the best is the Deadline trail, which is downhill-only and dotted with rollers and tabletop jumps.
Snowmass isn’t just about skiing. If you’re here during the warmer months, it’s a sprawling playground for mountain bikers, with miles of trails to discover on 2 wheels. For thrills and spills you can make a beeline for the downhill trails, or you can have a more serene and leisurely day cycling the cross-country routes. Whatever your skill level, there are parts of Snowmass that will fit the bill, and the chairlifts make it easy to get to the ideal starting-off point for your mountain biking odyssey in this rugged swathe of the great Colorado outdoors.
If you have a passion for rock climbing, you’ll want to head from Aspen to nearby Independence Pass, where both trad and sport climbers will be in their element amid the dramatic, granite scenery of this winding wilderness. The drive alone is gasp-inducingly scenic, so you can imagine how it feels to scale the walls and see it from a climber’s vantage point. There are spots here for both novice and experienced climbers, with many visitors eager to scale the Grotto Walls area, where the memorably-named Cryogenics Corner presents a popular challenge.
Some call it Aspen Mountain, others call it Ajax. Either way, this is a must-visit for outdoorsy adventurers during a visit to Aspen. It’s primarily known for its skiing and snowboarding opportunities, but in the spring and summer it also attracts hikers keen to see the mountain in a different light. The mile-long Ajax Trail cuts across the bottom of the mountain, allowing hikers to take in the whole region. If that’s not enough, you can also tackle the Little Cloud Trail, which provides even more stunning views over the rooftops and mountains of Aspen.
Want to go horseback riding through a particularly majestic part of Colorado? The Maroon Bells area is well worth seeking out during your Aspen stay. Overlooked by the mountaintops of Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak, and featuring a glossy, mirror-like lake, it’s one of the most photographed parts of Colorado, for reasons that will be instantly clear whether you’re exploring on the back of a horse or on foot. If anything, it’s even more ravishing during the autumn, when the landscape comes alive with the coppery colours of the season.
While the other skiing areas hog the limelight, Aspen Highlands is where people who actually live in Aspen like to come. The slopes here are less crowded than the likes of Snowmass, and you can enjoy unforgettable views of the Maroon Bells from here. For a skiing experience like no other, head for the Highland Bowl. This is the jewel of Aspen Highlands, its steep white slopes offering an exhilarating experience for winter sports aficionados. Just be ready to take an energetic hike to the summit, because the only way to get up there is on foot.
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