5 days in Aspen Snowmass: A first-timer’s guide

Elk Camp Meadows, Beginner Magic Snowmass, beginner area Snowmass

Few ski destinations deliver extraordinary experiences for every stripe of skier and snowboarder, but Aspen Snowmass, a single resort with four ski areas accessible via one lift ticket, does just that.

While more experienced skiers and snowboarders tend to flock to Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass are the perfect areas for beginners due to their state-of-the-art facilities, exceptional ski school offerings and huge selection of beginner and intermediate terrain. Aspen Snowmass is a true one-stop destination for beginners through experts. Set yourself up for success and years of enjoyment by learning to ski or snowboard at Aspen Snowmass this winter.


With the help of Mountain Vacation Specialist Kay Petrie we compiled a 5-day sample itinerary that showcases the world-class beginner experiences unique to Aspen Snowmass.

Mountain Vacation Specialist Since 2001

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Day 1: Fly into the Aspen airport and check in at the Limelight Hotel

The Aspen airport is one of the most convenient in Ski Country. In fact, the runway is only about a par 4 away from the X Games Superpipe. Flying into Aspen also provides the opportunity—if weather and time of day permit—to see all the “Power of Four” resorts from above. Once you have collected your luggage, head over to the Limelight Hotel, located in downtown Aspen, on their complimentary airport shuttle.

After checking in and settling into your room, enjoy a hassle-free, tasty dinner at the hotel’s Limelight Lounge or venture the block or two from the hotel to try out downtown Aspen’s famed dining scene.

“Breakfast is included and the Limelight has a great après-ski with live music in the fireplace lounge.” says Kay, “The bar and restaurant is fun with pizza and drinks for a light dinner.”

Day 2: Kick off your first day on the slopes with Beginner’s Magic™ at Snowmass

For adults ages 18 and up, Beginner’s Magic makes learning to ski a comfortable experience from the get-go. On your first day in a Beginner’s Magic ski lesson, you will want to load the Elk Camp Gondola at 9 a.m. Note: Snowboarders meet in the Snowmass Base Village at Four Mountain Sports at 9 a.m. for equipment fitting. The lessons begin at 9:45 a.m. on Assay Hill.

If you’re learning to ski, you can wear your comfortable boots or shoes while you ride the Elk Camp Gondola and store them in the Beginner’s Magic Lounge during your lesson. Once you’ve reached the top of the Gondola, head into the Lounge where you will be greeted by gear professionals who will outfit you in the right ski equipment. You will then meet your pro around 9:45 a.m. and begin your first lesson at 10 a.m. at Elk Camp Meadows, an area exclusive to beginners with a safe and confidence-building learning environment. During the first lesson, you will learn basic movements, mountain awareness and how to operate your equipment. Once you’re ready to start sliding on the snow, the pros will move on to teaching you how to stop and turn and how to ride the magic carpet and chairlifts.

“The Beginner’s Magic program is one of the best deals at Aspen Snowmass. It includes your lessons, lift tickets and rentals for just $209 per day.” says Kay, “The Beginner’s Magic pros know all the newest and best ways to teach a first-time skier or boarder.”

If you have some reserve energy after your lessons, try out the newest winter activity in Snowmass: snow tubing! The tubing park is conveniently situated next to the learning area in Elk Camp Meadows.

Day 3: Explore more of the beginner terrain on Snowmass

After a day with your “Magic Pro,” you might be ready to start exploring other parts of Snowmass. Gain confidence on the gentle Assay Hill, which is located right above the Snowmass Base Village. If you would like to see more of Snowmass, you will want to hop on the Village Express and get off at the mid-way station. From there, you can head left for lunch at Ullrhof, which is renowned for their homemade fries, burgers and shakes, or turn right and make your way to meandering green runs like Lunchline, Scooper and Dawdler. This area features tons of beginner tree trails and provides access to a lot of the ski in, ski out lodging found in Snowmass.

“Before they know it, first-timers in the Beginner’s Magic program will be ready to explore a lot more of Snowmass, the largest of all the Aspen Snowmass ski areas,” says Kay.

Day 4: Experience Buttermilk and enjoy a great lunch with unforgettable views

Three days of Beginner’s Magic lessons are recommended to get first timers off on the right foot, but that doesn’t mean you have to be at Snowmass the whole time. Buttermilk offers Beginner’s Magic instruction and facilities, too. If you would like a change of scenery, schedule your third lesson at Buttermilk. Remember, it’s easy to get to and from all four Aspen Snowmass ski areas thanks to a robust, free bus system.

Buttermilk enjoys world-wide renown as a long-time host of X Games, but don’t be alarmed; the ski area is mild and a favorite among beginners. Buttermilk offers confidence-building green runs that provide access to unique scenery, like the X Games Superpipe and Slopestyle Course at the base of the resort and views of one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks from the top of the resort.

Enjoy homemade stir-fry at the Mongolian grill in the Cliffhouse, located atop the Summit Express chairlift. Pop outside onto the patio in the back of the lodge for one of the best photo opportunities in Aspen Snowmass: the 14,000-plus-foot Pyramid Peak. You can see Aspen Highlands’ terrain quite well from this vantage point, too.

“Buttermilk is on the smaller size, so you can’t get lost.” says Kay, “It’s never crowded and has beautiful groomed green and blue runs, making it another great place to learn to ski or board.”

Day 5: Set your sights on the terrain you will tackle on your next Aspen Snowmass trip

Enjoy a day off the slopes, and explore downtown Aspen by meandering through the charming cobblestone walking malls on Hyman and Cooper Avenues. Here you will find many winter sporting goods shops, restaurants, art galleries and designer boutiques.

Once you have finished perusing, pop in for lunch at Ajax Tavern in the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza. Sit on the patio if the weather permits, and watch skiers coming down the Little Nell run while you bask in the Colorado sunshine and nosh on their famous truffle fries.

If you would like a better view of Aspen Mountain, take a ride up the Silver Queen Gondola, and scope out the ski resort’s terrain on the way up to get an idea of what it takes to get the next level of skiing or snowboarding. From the top of the Gondola, you can look out to the Aspen Highland Bowl, which, for many Aspen Snowmass skiers and snowboarders, is the ultimate “Power of Four” challenge.

If you’re a first-time skier or snowboarder looking for the ultimate beginner destination that you can grow into and enjoy for years to come, Aspen Snowmass is it. It may take several years for you to evolve from beginner to expert, but one of the best parts of Aspen Snowmass is that everything is already in place for you to progress from green all the way to double-black diamond.


Let Ski.com help you start planning your Aspen Snowmass ski trip today! Call or chat now with one of our knowledgeable Mountain Vacation Specialists or request a customized quote.

Leah Boucher

Content Marketing & SEO Manager at Ski.com
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.

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About Author: Leah Boucher
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.

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