Located just a 20-minute drive from Aspen, Snowmass, Colorado has long lived in the chic mountain town’s shadow, but it’s no consolation prize. Snowmass has been attracting ranchers and explorers for more than a century, providing verdant land, snow-fed creeks and majestic views. Once the ski industry was established in the middle of the 20th century, more people followed, and today it sports the area’s best mountain for summer and winter activities.
In contrast to its ultra-luxe neighbor, Snowmass is relatively affordable and laid back, but it’s still home to all the creature comforts your next vacation requires, including amenity-packed hotels and a growing restaurant scene. Now, all you need is a game plan. Here’s a primer on visiting Snowmass, with everything you need to know about where to stay, what to do and where to find surprisingly good sushi.
How to Get There
The easiest way to visit Snowmass is by plane, and both American Airlines and United offer direct flights into Aspen/Snowmass Pitkin County Airport from a handful of major metro areas. If you can’t book a direct flight, you can stop in Denver before taking a short hop to your destination. Otherwise, it’s about a four hour drive from Denver through mountain peaks and valleys.
Where to Stay
Snowmass accommodations range from simple lodges to luxury hotels and multi-room condos. For spacious and comfortable rooms, great food and a lively après scene, you can’t beat the Viewline Resort Snowmass, which is built into the mountain and located at the top of Snowmass Village. A recent $50 million renovation transformed an old Westin hotel into this shiny new Autograph Collection property, complete with 254 guestrooms, including 18 suites and a couple of two-bedroom penthouses. The lobby has everything you want in a mountain hotel, provided you want slopeside views, a stylish retro-Alpine aesthetic and a floor-to-ceiling fireplace. The property’s ski in/ski out location makes it convenient for winter stays, whether you’re first in line at the lifts or glued to the après-ski patio with a cocktail in one hand and a private-label Viewline IPA in the other. The outdoor pool and hot tubs are welcome respites after a long day outdoors, or visit the spa and oxygen bar before adjourning to dinner at Stark’s Alpine Grill. The downstairs restaurant serves local and seasonal dishes like Ora king salmon, steak frites and skillet cornbread with wildflower honey and grass-fed butter.
Viceroy and Limelight are two more properties that are well situated for all your adventures. Each offers ski-in/ski-out access during the winter and mountain biking and hiking access in the summer. Viceroy has 162 residential-style rooms ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, all with kitchens and gas fireplaces, plus a restaurant and a 7,000-square-foot wellness spa. Limelight sits at the base of Snowmass Village and has 99 modern rooms, a casual restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas, a pool and a five-story climbing wall.
What to Do
Snowmass is best known as a ski and snowboard destination, and for good reason — it’s the largest mountain in the area, and its slopes vary from wide, beginner-friendly runs to expert-only moguls and terrain parks. If you’re visiting in the winter, by all means, shred some of that sweet powder. There’s also a coaster that zips through the forest on an elevated track, multiple tubing lanes and snowbiking paths, giving you several ways to explore your surroundings. If you’d like to log some miles and test your cardio, the Aspen Snowmass Nordic Trail System runs through Aspen, Snowmass and nearby Basalt, with more than 60 miles of groomed cross-country ski and snowshoe trails.
As much as Snowmass shines in the winter, don’t sleep on its summer potential. The summer months through early fall provide warm, sunny days and cool nights, and there’s always something to do outdoors. The Lost Forest is where you’ll find zipline canopy tours, a ropes challenge course, a climbing wall and two 18-hole disc golf courses, so you can easily spend a full day within.
The Snowmass Bike Park runs 3,000 vertical feet from top to bottom and features 25 miles of trails. Bring your bike up the Elk Camp Chairlift, and you can descend down singletrack paths at varying degrees of difficulty. If you prefer a good stroll, access 80 miles of hiking trails right from the Village, or venture further afield to explore the iconic Maroon Bells peaks and Crater Lake.
Where to Eat and Drink
With nary an ocean in sight, Colorado resort towns still manage to serve sushi on par with big cities. In Snowmass Village, it’s all about Kenichi, which has operated in Aspen since 1991 and finally opened a Snowmass location 30 years later. The menu is stocked with small plates and specialties, like Hanabi lobster, miso black cod and wagyu beef seared on a hot rock. But don’t miss the fish — the nigiri and rolls are fresh, well-constructed and seasoned by the chefs, so you don’t need to drown each piece in soy sauce.
Nextdoor to Kenichi is Aurum, a polished restaurant with a large patio, a seasonal New American menu and a solid wine list. You can’t go wrong with the caramelized onion-topped burger or the maple-brined pork chop with duck fat confit potatoes. There’s also an excellent happy hour from 3pm – 5pm, with half-price starters and discounted drinks, which taste even better after a day outdoors.
Venga Venga comes from prolific chef Richard Sandoval and serves Mexican plates like fish tacos and slow-roasted pork carnitas alongside more than 100 tequilas and mezcals. Last Chair is a casual beer hall with burgers, sandwiches and 10 Colorado taps, and New Belgium Ranger Station serves New Belgium beers, flatbreads and a hearty chili cheese dog.
There’s plenty more to eat over the course of your stay, whether it’s for a week or a weekend. But should you want to leave the cozy confines of Snowmass, dozens more restaurants are just 20 minutes down the road in Aspen.
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