Reviewed by Luke Lubchenco
Nov 06, 2008
Just 25 miles north of the historic mining town of Durango, Colorado.
The small to zilch lift lines—even during spring break—are a welcome change, along with the epic backcountry access, newly opened Tunnel Face (another nod to persistent poaching creating change), and no sign of Vail-tude.
Mary Jane—named for a mining-era lady of the night—and its sister area, Winter Park, offer plenty of prospects for good skiing, including bumps and powder-filled bowls. Forming one of the closest major resorts to Denver, the two areas spread across five mountains and 3,078 acres. Add 3,060 feet of vertical, 30 feet of snowfall, and a direct train from Denver and it’s no wonder why the Front Range packs the place on Saturdays.
A 15-minute drive from Aspen proper gets you to Snowmass—one of the biggest resorts in North America. But don’t let the size turn you off. With an all-new base village and ski-in-ski-out lodging, this place has something to offer every type of skier. There are enough groomers to keep you cruising all day and challenging double blacks to satisfy even the most expert cliff-hucker. The mountain’s park scene includes the newly renamed Snowmass Park as well as two smaller parks.
Start Here: Ride up the Big Burn lift and burn down Dallas Freeway for a classic warm-up.
Quick Tip: Get out early and head to the Elk Camp lift when the line at the Big Burn lift stacks up.
Must Hit: Gowdy’s is the closest thing to Jackson Hole’s Corbet Couloir’s on Snowmass. A cornice builds up by mid season, making an optional air into this 48-degree open chute. Beware: This run gets scraped off quickly.
The Stash: Locals call the run Possible. This chute funnels down 50 feet, crammed full of rocks and meager amounts of snow, then opens up to a spacious apron. Go there if you want to test your skills.
Powder Day: Patrol might be slow to open The Wall, but get there as soon as they do. Ride up High Alpine and hike five minutes to the top. Then ski Roberto’s to Wall One for two outrageous shots in one run.
Three Days Later: Head to Long Shot. Take the Elk Camp quad and follow the boot-pack for five minutes. You’ll be rewarded with a powder run that skirts the boundary and stays fresh longer missed because people avoid the hike. Don’t avoid this one.
Park and Pipe: The main Snowmass Park packs an array of features, including an 18-foot superpipe and a mix of rails and jumps. Head to the intermediate park, Little Makaha, or the beginner park, Lowdown if your jibbing skills still need some work.
Backcountry Access: Hike The Wall after riding up High Alpine. Traverse right until you see the boundary ropes, then look to your right for the backcountry gate. Drop in for sweet west- and southwest-facing turns. Check the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) before you head out for the day.
Weather: Snow and 20-degree weather through the season keeps the fluff on the hill instead of the river, but watch for a really cold week or two in February.
Après: Order a plate of fresh sushi (flown in daily) from the Mountain Dragon located in Snowmass Village. Warning: This place isn’t easy on the wallet, but it’s well worth it.
Fuel: Feeling the need for some go juice? Head to Taste of Philly to get the most bang for your buck. Grab a Philly Cheese Steak with onions and green peppers before heading back to Gowdy’s.
Up All Night: Check the Belly Up schedule for late night concerts. With big-name acts ranging from hip-hop to bluegrass, chances are there will be something you’ll like.
Digs: For luxury and slope-side comfort, including a pool, check out the Silvertree Hotel. [From $200; silvertreehotel.com]
Elevation: 12,510 feet (Top of Cirque) Vertical Drop: 4,406 feet Snowfall: 300 inches Acres: 3,132 Info: aspensnowmass.com
Apres: Your guide to eats & drinks
Beer and chili lovers will descend on Snowmass, Colorado, June 4-5, for one smokin’ weekend. Here are some tips on brews to watch out for, chilies to sample, and hikes to work it all off at the end of the day.