Navigating one of Buttermilk’s tree trails

Image: Frank Shine

Buttermilk has a little image issue. Skiers and snowboarders tend to either think of it as a gravity-bound beginner’s mountain or associate it with the high-flying Winter X Games—the late-January event has been held here since 2002, though as of press time its 2021 status was still up in the air, so to speak. But many people don’t realize that Buttermilk, all 470 acres of it, may be one of the most experientially diverse mountains in North America. Here’s how to sample various aspects: kids’ tree trails, terrain parks, and powder.

Pint-size play

For a thrill ride on Buttermilk’s west side, follow your little ripper from the top of Summit Express, starting with meandering green Aldrich Alley. Step up to blues off of Westward Ho, and let them lead you through the turny, sloping blue Devil’s Gut for a romp through tunnels and trees.

Segue immediately into Mr. Bill, where adventurous souls of any age can dart into the margins to sample the powder and contribute to an array of braided lines through sparse aspen trees. From the end of Mr. Bill, get on the lift at the midway loading station, or slingshot to the bottom through the big berms of Moose Alley in the tree island.

The familiar home of the Winter X Games

Park it

Buttermilk’s terrain parks and its competition-size superpipe define the mountain as much as any beginner terrain. At the Red’s Rover intro park on West Buttermilk, jumps get progressively larger down the trail, and boxes and rails that begin flush with the snow can grow to more than a foot off the ground by the bottom. Look for quarter pipes, buffalo bumps, and rainbows—the park crew changes it up when they can.

Park riding quickly gets real, as the hits seamlessly transition from jumps intended to send you up 15 feet on upper Teaser to upward of 35 feet by the bottom of Spruce Park at the base area. Follow Teaser over the Homestead Road bridge, and the park transitions into Uncle Chuck’s Glades. The run narrows and steepens as it plunges into a thick aspen grove, where a variety of fabricated metal features—stairwells, cannons, cheese wedges, and wall rides—emerge as Chuck’s segues into Jacob’s Ladder halfway down. By the time Jacob’s reaches Spruce Park at the start of the expert line, skilled riders can be sending 25-foot jumps. Exit stage right at Spruce if you’re not ready to supersize your air.

Typically after the X Games, Buttermilk opens the 22-foot superpipe and the last of the slopestyle jumps to the public. You—yes, you—can ski over (or likely around) the mega jumps that boost athletes 65 feet into the air. Buttermilk’s crew also redistributes the big-air jump to skier’s left of the superpipe, shaping it into jumps intended for up to 35 feet of air.

Powder patience

The Tiehack side has plenty of powder day devotees, but the real secret is the low-angle shots you’ll find at Buttermilk days after a big storm: head to the top of the Summit Express, and dart into the trees to skier’s left of the Teaser terrain park. Hold a hard left line in search of tiny rock drops between Teaser and Westward Ho. Or, once in the trees, head right down alternating hills and plateaus, where you can pick an untracked line through the loose aspens from the top of the Teaser park, across Homestead Road, and down through the trees to the left of Camp Bird, all the way to the bottom of the West Buttermilk lift.

Heads up this season

Find heated outdoor dining tents at Bumps and the Cliffhouse...Monthly Full Moon Dinners for uphillers have been scratched this winter, but the weekly Friday morning Uphill Breakfast Club still takes place.

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