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Go: Snowmass, Colo.

Go: Snowmass, Colo.

Sweet new glades, an innovative lodge, and a friendlier resort-wide vibe highlight a promising makeover at this Colorado classic.
By Samantha Berman
posted: 03/03/2014
Sam's Smokehouse By Daniel Bayer/Aspen Ski Co.
Snowmass: Sam's Smokehouse

OK, so maybe the second dessert was overkill. Heck, maybe the first was too. I’m slowly plodding my way, skis over my shoulders, up the ridge to Snowmass’s newest terrain, Burnt Mountain, where 230 acres of powder-filled glades await. Elk Camp Lodge, the scene of my overindulgence, slips into the backdrop behind me, yet each boot stomp reverberates in my gut. Oh, raspberry crumble, huge, gooey cookie, and teeny-tiny bite of fudge brownie, you seemed like a good idea at the time...

Ten minutes later, my climb levels off and the Burnt Mountain terrain comes into view. A huge boon for intermediate skiers looking for a little more adventure, the new terrain features acres of rolling meadows with perfectly spaced aspens and evergreens at just the right pitch. It’s like gliding through a magical Christmas-tree forest in some spots, with a choose-your-line exhilaration that’s just plain fun. I swoop between bare-branched aspens, cutting sharply to weave through a stand of spruce trees that soar high into the cloudless blue sky.

From the top, the picturesque Roaring Fork Valley spreads out below. There are three new “trails,” but they’re not trails in the traditional sense, more like general trajectories. And all three—Split Tree, Rio, and A Line—would be designated
 as blue runs instead of the black they now are were it not for a particularly tricky run-out. It’s uneven, the trees get tight, and it’s hard to scrub speed throughout some of the steeper sections. The resort already remedied a small portion of the problem this past summer and now it awaits the Forest Service’s next move. “We hope to one day soon improve the [run-out] so that more skiers can enjoy this terrain,” says Jeff Hanle, the resort’s director of public relations.

Burnt Mountain isn’t the only news at Snowmass. When Elk Camp, the resort’s state-of-the-art day lodge atop the Elk Camp gondola, opened in November 2012, it elevated Snowmass’s on-mountain dining portfolio: seating for 250, a separate lounge, an outdoor deck with a sleek glass fire pit and seating for an additional 150, and lunch offerings from six food stations. Locally sourced? Yes. Organic? Naturally. Rotisserie chicken and pork. Soups and stews. Artisan pizzas and paninis. A salad bar that doesn’t quit. And you already know about the house-made desserts. Plus, in keeping with Aspen Skiing Company’s green initiatives, Elk Camp, as of press time, awaits its LEED Gold certification for its energy efficiency and green building practices. It will be the resort’s fifth LEED-certified building.

Turns out Elk Camp’s view over the Meadows trail through the immense wall of windows is just as evocative after the sun sets as it is during the ski day. We step off the Elk Camp gondola at 6 p.m. and are greeted by a pair of Vikings—the medieval Norse variety, not the football players—welcoming us to Ullr Night. Every Friday from the end of December through late March, Elk Camp becomes home base of sorts for a family-friendly winter-themed party, where the music cranks up, food
 and drinks flow, and Vikings roam. Just outside those windows, bundled kids romp on a Viking ghost ship complete with two slides, they sled down a snowy hill, roast marshmallows over the fire, and ice-skate on Rayburn’s pond. We settle in with glasses of red by the fire pit and set the littles free. When they’re properly chilled, we all head inside to get some gourmet pizza and watch dozens of kids groove to the band and snap cell-phone selfies with the Vikings.

This communal, your-family-is-welcome-here vibe can be found all around the resort. Down at the base, where the new Wildwood Lodge shed its motel past and came back to life last season as a chic ski lodge, that vibe is present at every turn.

It’s no coincidence that throughout our trip, we find ourselves camped out in the Wildwood’s eclectic lobby/living room, which is stocked with board games, books, and comfy overstuffed couches. We après with New Belgium on tap and shared snacks from the Bar at Wildwood’s menu—specialty pizzas, piled-high nachos, jalapeño poppers. Our kids and a half-dozen of their new best friends mingle in this welcoming space, and then buzz between here and the upstairs game room, with its classic arcade games (Ms. Pac-Man!), billiards, and air hockey. Tomorrow, they’ll spend their final day at Snowmass’s Treehouse Kid’s Adventure Center, and we’ll return to Burnt Mountain to explore some new lines and whoop through the aspens. This time, though, we’ll go before lunch.

SLEEP » Wildwood Lodge got a retro makeover last season, and its whimsical new decor delights the kids and entertains the adults. A restaurant and bar and two outdoor hot tubs and a heated pool round out the offerings; wildwood- snowmass.com. The Wildwood’s sister property, the Westin Snowmass, was also fully renovated and reopened last season with 254 spruced-up guest rooms, restaurant, lobby bar, fitness center, and outdoor pool and hot tubs; westinsnowmass.com.

EAT » Snowmass Kitchen, at the Westin, plates up elegant yet rustic American fare, including a fun selection of small plates. Its lunchtime skier’s buffet for $19 is a good value and a convenient slopeside option; westinsnowmass .com. On the mountain, Sam’s Smokehouse’s pulled-pork and beef brisket sandwiches with fresh-baked cornbread satisfy; aspensnowmass .com.

DRINK » Ranger Station, on the old Snowmass Mall, has about a dozen New Belgium beers on tap at any time and the perfect snacks to accompany them. Try the Bavarian pretzels with three dipping sauces or the bison-chili nachos; rangerstation.org.

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