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Advanced/Expert Skiers: Skiing Snowmass

Todd Hartley's picture

Larger than the other three Aspen ski areas combined, Snowmass has a well-deserved reputation as an intermediate skier’s paradise. Look beyond the manicured cruiser runs of the Big Burn and Elk Camp, however, and you will find that Snowmass has some of the best and most varied expert terrain in Colorado.

First is Hanging Valley Wall, accessed by a short hike from the top of the High Alpine lift. The key to skiing this extensive region is knowing how to best connect the various runs. For instance, on one lap, you might choose to stay to the far right and ski Adios Ridge, Upper Ladders, and Rayburn’s. On your next lap, you might opt to stay left and tackle Roberto’s, Frog Pond Glades and Shotgun Willy’s. A third choice would be to take a middle line down Headwall and Big Spruce. Hanging Valley Wall offers plenty of options and, due to its size, can offer up great snow conditions long after a storm.

Down the line from Hanging Valley Wall, accessed by skiing The Edge and dropping off to the right, are two narrow gullies called Possible and Baby Ruth. Each offers steep, tight turns, and both runs empty out into a vast bowl that funnels down toward a run called Waters. Cutting out high and right through Weird Woods, however, will bring you to the uncrowded Lower Glades, three short, steep pitches with some of the best snow on the mountain.

The last expert run on that side of the mountain, Hanging Valley Glades, can be found by heading right farther down The Edge. After skiing the short tree runs in this area, it’s possible to traverse left back to the High Alpine lift or continue on to Waters and the Lower Glades.

The other major region of expert terrain at Snowmass can be reached from the top of the Big Burn and Sheer Bliss lifts. From here, either ride the Cirque Poma lift to reach the Cirque Headwall, AMF and Gowdy’s, or follow a run called Sheer Bliss to KT Gully and Rock Island.

Cirque Headwall and East Wall are short, wide-open runs that usually have good snow but can hide a number of lurking rocks. AMF is a fairly tame chute that fans out into a vast powder field, and Gowdy’s is a wide couloir with a cornice at the top and one of the steepest pitches in the Aspen area.

Dropping off to the right of Sheer Bliss, KT Gully is a wide, south-facing chute that is at its best in spring conditions. Just down the line from KT, Rock Island is one of the most unique runs anywhere: a steep jumble of rocks, trees, and cliffs with myriad opportunities to catch big air. Two other gates farther down Sheer Bliss, Buckskin and Hang on Halvin’s also lead to this area.

Less extreme (but still fun) runs include Reidar’s Trees, accessed by bearing left halfway down Reidar’s; Garrett Gulch, which is best skied by working the right side of the gulch to avoid the bumps at the bottom; and the long, rolling trails of the Campground area, including Powderhorn, Campground and Bearclaw.