There are few places, save for Jackson Hole and Crested Butte and perhaps a few others, that revel in leg burning, heart pumping, non-stop top-to-bottom expert skiing the way Aspenites do. The locals have a penchant for pain, with a large population of endurance athletes, and a storied reputation of being extreme. Let’s not forget that this is where the 80s cult ski movie Aspen Extreme was filmed, and in fact most of the film’s stars still live and ski there. And while expert skiers and those with a passion for ski history will love what Ajax offers, beginners and intermediates have thousands upon thousands of acres of skiing to choose from between Aspen Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
With Aspen Mountain’s three ridges to choose from: Face and Back of Bell, The Dumps and Gentleman’s Ridge the difficulty isn’t just in the terrain, but choosing where to ski. A good rule of thumb is to follow the sun. Back of Bell and The Dumps are often good earlier in the day, while Face of Bell and Gentleman’s Ridge ski better with the late-day sun. All of these expert areas feature glades, moguls and variable snow conditions.
For a truly extreme Aspen experience and bragging rights, a hike, or two, up the famed Aspen Highlands Bowl is an absolute must. While the hike is long and steep— it takes most Aspen visitors about one hour—the reward is worth it and then some. Not only are the views the best “The Power of Four” have to offer, but the wide-open bowl skiing is like no other. The best lines are from the “G’s,” so be sure to make the hike to Bowl’s summit and the snake along the ridge towards the trees on skier’s right. From here you can head towards well-spaced, steep glades, and small powder fields in G-2 through 5, or head straight down the fall line on G-8.
Despite its reputation as a family mountain, Snowmass has epic, expert terrain, most notably in the Cirque and Hanging Valley Headwall areas. The areas feature cliffs, pillows, powder fields and glades.
To get a good feel for all the expert and extreme terrain Aspen/Snowmass has to offer, consider signing up for the three-day Black Diamond Expedition. The clinic starts at Snowmass and provides options to ski at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands the following days.