When to Go
Ski season on Aspen Mountain generally begins in late November during Thanksgiving weekend and goes through late March - sometimes stretching into April. The crowds start flooding in Christmas week and the party continues until the end of January as the town comes alive for the Wintersköl festival and the X Games. But if you’re only there for the mountain, the slopes are deserted during the X Games though it’s still considered peak season for lodging.
If you’re a powder hound, the best months to ski or ride Aspen Mountain are December, January and February. That said, March and April are Colorado’s snowiest months, so even if you arrive late in the season there are still freshies to go around – though the snow tends to be a little heavier, turning into compact powder near the tail end of the season. For a good balance of sun, snow and quiet, February is good bet!
Where to ski
Ajax is characterized by steep terrain with long runs and plenty of moguls. There are a few groomed runs on the mountain but for the most part, the snow is shaped by the edges of the skis and snowboards that glide over it.
Best for Beginners
Best for Intermediates
If you’re not quite ready for the expert stuff, the Ajax Express and Ruthie’s will deliver you to plenty of intermediate runs. Both routes offer multiple blue runs with varied terrain separated by powdery pockets of trees you can dip in and out of at will. Specifically, Dipsy Doodle under Ajax Express lift and Ruthie’s Run under the Ruthie’s lift let you veer in and out of other runs through small openings in the trees without straying too far from being able to catch those same lifts again.
Best for Advanced/Experts
Aspen Mountain is an expert’s playground! Don’t miss out on my favorite area – Traynor’s Ridge where the terrain is steep with large rocks and cliffs to launch off while you weave between the trees! All while you’re starting downhill into the heart of downtown Aspen! It is accessible from Summer Road / Aztec under the Ruthie’s lift along the lower western ski area boundary. However, the area is rarely open (probably less than 10% of the season from my experience) so it’s a real treat if you get on that part of the mountain!
On a powder day, plan to spend the day riding the stretch of Aspen trees between the end of Bear Paw and Rayburns above Spar Gulch. This is unofficially known as the Cone Dumps where unlimited face shots await all day among the trees – the classic Aspen experience. On a non-pow day, Bell Mountain runs like Face of Bell and Back of Bell are excellent for weaving through moguls and conifers.
For a historical thrill, there is an old mine shaft and mine shack sitting right in the middle of the mountain. The Silver Queen and Silver Rush runs (expert only) will take you right through an old mining complex leftover from the 19th Century.
Snowboarder alert! Beware of Lud’s Lane at the bottom of Walsh’s, Hydrup’s and Kristi’s off Gent’s Ridge. It is a flat catwalk that will stop you in your tracks regardless of how much momentum you come off the hill with -- especially on a powder day.
Avoid the Crowds
Ajax Express lets you enjoy the upper mountain without having to go all the way to the bottom to catch the gondola but is also one of the busiest lifts. It services two on-mountain restaurants so definitely avoid the lift during lunch time. Instead, ditch the crowds and maximize your time ski time by looping Silver Queen Gondola and sampling the huge amount of terrain it presents.
If you’re a family of intermediate skiers, doing laps off the Silver Queen Gondola is always a winner with the kids – it’s one of the longest and steepest blue runs in all of Aspen covering the entire vertical of Ajax with a breathtaking views of town as you ski back to the base for another lap. Taking Ruthie’s lift is another great option because it offers access to a variety of groomed terrain.
Night Skiing and Terrain Parks
Aspen Mountain doesn’t offer Night Skiing, check out Buttermilk if you want to make some turns at night. There are no terrain parks either, but several natural features along the mountain such as natural half pipes, hip transfers and log jibs for you to show off your skills!
If you plan to go out of the ski area boundaries, make sure you have the required prerequisites of an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel and that you and your partner both have avalanche training. If you want to ski on completely untouched terrain of the out of bounds area minus the risk, try Aspen Powder Tours which offer guided cat skiing on the backside of the mountain.