When to go
Best time to go: Early to mid-December and January
Avoid: Winter X Games (if you’re not interested) and holiday periods
Buttermilk’s proximity to the three more advanced mountains of Aspen Snowmass makes for fewer crowds, short wait times and ideal conditions. That being said, Buttermilk does not receive as much snow in comparison, making for a slightly delayed opening date to build up a solid base. Its snowmaking facilities are impressive and do a great job to make up for the lack of natural snowfall, however, they’re only permitted to make snow until January.
Christmas time attracts hoards of visitors to the Aspen area, which can often lead to busier runs and longer waits since the mountain only features three main lifts. The Winter X-Games, President’s Day, and Valentines also attract large crowds, so early to mid-December and January visits are a sweet spot for optimal conditions and short lift lines. Spring skiing at Buttermilk is great, but is heavily dependent on the weather, as the relatively shallow base depletes quickly in absence of snowmaking facilities.
Ski and Terrain
Buttermilk’s trail map boasts an interesting mix of terrain to suit the varying skill levels of its skiers and snowboarders but the resort has gained a reputation for the most family-friendly terrain in the region. The majority of the runs cater to beginners, but a lack of crowds and great snow making facilities make the slopes at Buttermilk enjoyable for all. The mountain is also becoming a paradise for free-skiers with its popular terrain parks.
There are only three high-speed quad chairlifts serving this small resort, along with three supplementary lifts which are generally geared towards beginner riders. During blizzards, some high lifts and the superpipe will be closed. Also note, all lifts close at 3:30pm, but many riders choose to keep their day going by hiking the runs after last call. Uphill routes are marked on the trail up, though uphilling itself is technically only allowed during when the resort is open and we think it’s best to avoid the park during low light conditions overall.
Score the best snow
If you’re after freshies, the trees at Tiehack (including the Timber Doodle Glade) tend to hold the white stuff for longer. As long as there are no ropes closing off the tree terrain, just make a turn in! The lines are generally gentle weaves through the trees. To stay safe off-piste, make sure you read the Skier Responsibility Code on your lift ticket or the signposts throughout the mountain.
Best for Beginners
Buttermilk is by far the best resort in Aspen for beginner riders to hone their skills before diving into more serious terrain. Nothing is too steep and the runs are nice and unintimidating. Home to some of the best ski instructors in the region, the welcoming atmosphere at Buttermilk makes it a dream come true for inexperienced riders. The Ski School’s Magic Carpet, Panda Peak, and Ski & Snowboard School’s lifts allow riders to practice their turns and stops on the designated Panda hill ski area before making their way to the rolling hills and sweeping trails on the west side.
The easy green and mellow blue terrain over at West Buttermilk is our pick for the best terrain for the whole family to enjoy. The West Buttermilk Express drops you off at the 9,900 ft summit as you prepare for a long leisurely cruise down Westward Ho or Red Rover with plenty of time to make some turns. These tracks are great for beginners looking to ski on their own, a big confidence booster.
Those with a bit more stamina can take the 3 mi long Homestead Road off Westward Ho, the longest trail at the resort. Starting from West Buttermilk, the piste crosses over to the Main Buttermilk before winding its way past trees and then flowing into wide open slopes down to the base.
Best for Intermediates
Intermediate skiers might be happier with the selection of runs at Aspen Mountain but Buttermilk still has plenty to offer. For those who’ve had their fill of sweeping turns and leisurely cruises down the west side, Main Buttermilk is the perfect setting to let off some steam. The blue runs in this area are not necessarily difficult, but the glades and beautiful scenery make it a great destination for more experienced skiers.
Fan favorites for intermediate skiers include Savio in Main Buttermilk and Camp Bird, a great progression trail in West Buttermilk. Intermediate skiers can take the Summit Express and West Buttermilk Express to access a range of intermediate runs across the mountain. For “steeper” slopes, the Tiehack area also has a number of blues including the 1 mi groomer, Buckskin. Take it up a notch and try out Tiehack’s black runs such as Racer’s Edge, which acts more like a double blue.
Best for Advanced/Off-piste
Powder hounds and seasoned skiers might be a bit disappointed by the rudimentary terrain at Buttermilk, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun too. The Tiehack area serves up some approachable black trails and bushy glades away from the crowds of the Main Buttermilk region. This is where you’ll find most of the off-piste terrain and (more) advanced runs. Javelin is a steep rolling piste trail that’s great for practicing your GS turns while Timber Doodle Glade is a popular off-piste tree trail that will entertain even the most experienced skiers. You’ll see why when you’re in it.
With so many trees in the Tiehack area and a less experienced clientele at Buttermilk, there are plenty of nooks and passages covered in fresh snow that remains untouched for weeks after a storm. Just turn into the trees (including Timber Doodle Glade) and weave through the trees to find the fresh powder!
If the black trails at Buttermilk feel like a warm up after you’ve tested them then its best to head over to Aspen Highlands for some of Colorado’s best steep in-bounds skiing. With a lift ticket that covers all four mountains, why wouldn’t you? But if you want to stick to Buttermilk, then test your skills at their terrain parks!
Home to the Winter X-Games for over 13 years in a row and the Red Bull Double Pipe event, it’s pretty clear that there’s a high demand for the terrain parks at Buttermilk. The Buttermilk Main Park is made up of five terrain parks and stretches from the top of Little Teaser to the base offering a unique top to bottom run. The X Park and accompanying 22 ft Zaugg-cut superpipe is the highlight of the park but here’s a quick breakdown of all the parks:
Advanced and Experts
X Park: Located at Spruce and Government trails, expert and advanced riders can access the park off the Summit Express lift. The X Park is home to the 22 ft Zaugg-cut Superpipe used for the ESPN Winter X Games and has approximately 10 jumps ranging from 45 ft to 70 ft and up to 15 jib features including the ESPN Winter X Games boxes and rails.
Advanced and Intermediates
Teaser Park, Chuck’s Park, Jacob’s Ladder Park: Advanced and intermediate skiers and riders have these three parks to choose from. Directly located underneath on another, the parks can be accessed via the Summit Express. All serve up a variety of features including rails, boxes and urban features such as a propane tank.
Intermediate and Beginners
Midway Avenue Park: Located at Midway Avenue Trail, this is the only place in Buttermilk Main park with features for beginners and intermediates. There’s also a banked slalom course (if they’re up for it)!
S3 Park (for Ski and Snowboard Schools): This is only the terrain park outside of the Main Buttermilk Park located over at Reds Rover Trail which can be accessed from the West Buttermilk Express lift.
With a massive 20 beginner and intermediate features including table-top jumps and a variety of shaped jibs, entry and low-level park riders will be able to learn all sorts of tricks before heading over to the bigger features.