‘Slowmass,’ my ass.” Thus began my write-up on Snowmass for Skiing magazine’s annual resort guide many years ago.
Here’s the rest of it: “The nickname that some people throw Snowmass’s way doesn’t do justice to the depth of its double-black terrain. Sure, the resort caters to families, with kid-friendly runs and a tubing park. And the cruisers off the Big Burn, Elk Camp, and Coney Glade chairs are all top notch. But take a hike over to the cliff-banded chutes and glades of Hanging Valley, ski the butt-spanking moguls of Garrett Gulch, drop into the Cirque Headwall at 12,000 feet, or launch into the precipitous Gowdy’s, and by day’s end, your legs will be crying ‘no mas.’”
Seventeen years later, I still feel exactly the same way. I’ve had amazing skis down the G Zones in Highland Bowl, light-as-silk snow rustling up and over my head, and memorable days on Aspen Mountain, where on powder mornings my no-fail face-shot line down Walsh’s never, ever disappoints. At Buttermilk, the unforgettable days come from skiing with my son when he was 3 and 4: just learning to navigate on two little planks. But when I think about my best-ever ski days at home—with deep snow, runs so exhilarating you never want to stop, a group of just-as-enthusiastic friends—the ones that come up first took place at Snowmass.
That’s why I can’t wait to head over and help the resort celebrate its 50th anniversary. A blowout weekend is on the books for mid-December, and special events are planned throughout the winter; I’ve also heard talk of another blowout in the works for closing weekend in April that would appropriately bookend the season. Writer and Aspen Sojourner contributing editor Catherine Lutz produced this issue’s feature on Snowmass—its history and some of the people and places that helped shape it, plus a quick primer on great ways to experience the mountain.
Of course, some of you readers may have no idea what I’m talking about. Many locals, and some visitors, rarely make it past the roundabout; for them, Snowmass may as well be in Utah. They don’t know what they’re missing.
I’ve been skiing the glades and steep, wide-open pitches of the Hanging Valley Wall for almost 20 years now, and I don’t think I have ever taken the same line twice. I still discover out-of-the-way places thanks to my husband, who long ago with his friends nicknamed huge rocks and other terrain features (Funky President, anyone?). Ripping down the small bumps and jumps in Powerline Glades with a posse of eager kids? There’s nothing like it. (If your legs aren’t burning by the time you reach the lift, I’d like to know your secret.) And, of course, those long groomers for which Snowmass is known can be anything but slow—you’d be hard pressed to find better trails at any of the other mountains for arcing out long, fast turns.
The town’s marketing arm recently adopted the slogan, “Would you run away with me?” to advertise the destination’s allure. I’m going to propose a simpler, and much more doable offer to you, dear reader: “This winter, would you come and ski a run at Snowmass with me?”