There’s a common misconception—mostly from first-time visitors staring upward at its imposing face—that Aspen Mountain is not family-friendly. Granted, it has no green trails, and thus no beginner lessons. But for a family of at least intermediate abilities (and those with a high tolerance for speedy local skiers), Aspen Mountain is the classic, the original local ski area with a rich mining and ski-racing history and an altogether unique personality.
“When I say to kids I’ve been teaching for years that we’re going to Aspen, that’s their motivation,” says Isabel Melvin, a longtime local instructor. “It’s the golden nugget. You know you’ve arrived when you’re on Aspen Mountain.”
Perhaps the most family-friendly feature is the Silver Queen Gondola, which gives up to six people per car enough time to adjust gear, plan the day, and chat in relative comfort on the 15-minute ride to the summit. Stop at the top for a group photo against an impressive alpine background, then choose from a variety of blue intermediate runs fanning out from there. Our recommendation: Buckhorn Cutoff to Midway Road to North American, a classic, undulating groomer steeped in history. (The basin at the bottom, Tourtelotte Park, was the site of a mining camp of several hundred people in the late 1800s.)
"Don't be cheap on ski socks–if they get cold feet, you lose."–Catherina Lemons
More classic cruising can be found off the Ruthie’s and Shadow Mountain (often called “1A”) lifts on Aspen’s west side. Here, follow in the tracks of the world’s greatest ski racers (Aspen hosted the World Cup Finals in 2017), from the top of Ruthie’s Run, around the swooping “airplane turn” at the bottom of Spring Pitch, to the wide, groomed slopes of Strawpile and Fifth Avenue.
When it’s time to warm up cold toes, refuel, or meet other family members, the top-of-mountain Sundeck is the perfect spot. Even non-skiing family members can ride the gondola up for lunch.
Young speedsters may beg for a few laps through the public NASTAR race course on Silver Dip (open daily 11 a.m.–3 p.m.), while freestylers will like Spar Gulch and Copper Bowl, two large gullies that can feel like huge, natural half-pipes.
Aspen Mountain has no official kids’ tree trails (or terrain parks), but it houses dozens of shrines–memorials to celebrities, musicians, sports heroes, and beloved locals that include mementos and trinkets affixed to trees—that kids love to discover. Some of the more family-friendly ones are dedicated to the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe, and Snoopy.
Where you'll find local parents: settling in for a few hours in the "nursery" at the rear of the Sundeck, then taking turns skiing while one partner stays with the infant; getting dragged into Bonnie's for a hot chocolate break, then being roped into filming kids going off the jump out back