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Beginner/Intermediate Skiers: Skiing Buttermilk

Todd Hartley's picture

If you’ve just arrived in Aspen, and you’ve never been on skis before, Buttermilk is far and away your best choice to learn how to ski. Though it’s home to ESPN’s Winter X Games and has one of the most fearsome terrain parks to be found anywhere, Buttermilk is still, at its heart, an exceptional beginner’s mountain.

Start your day on Panda Peak, the short double chair at the base of the hill. The easy pitch in this area is ideal for gaining confidence and learning how to turn your skis. Don’t be in a hurry to leave Panda Peak, either, as your next destination will be the top of the mountain.

When you feel confident in your ability to negotiate green slopes, ride the Summit Express lift to the top and soak in the impressive view of Pyramid Peak. Don’t be scared by the relatively steep terrain below the lift; you won’t have to deal with those trails until later.

From the summit, follow Homestead Road out to the gently rolling slopes of West Buttermilk. Larkspur and Westward Ho are both tame runs that will bring you down to the midway loading station of the West Buttermilk Express lift. You’ll want to board the lift here, as the pitch gets steeper near the bottom.
Take a few laps on the West Buttermilk lift early in the morning, before the runs get crowded. Be sure to take a trip down Red’s Rover, which has a basic terrain park with features that are fun for beginners of all ages. Once you feel like you’re ready to progress beyond green trails, ski a run on Big Face Hollow, a mild blue run right under the lift, and see how it feels.

If all goes well, and you’re ready to challenge yourself, follow Homestead Road to the base area and board the Summit Express lift again. This time, however, head over to the Tiehack side of the mountain on Buckskin, a wide-open intermediate run with a few steeper pitches. The Tiehack area is a great place to work on your technique, as you will encounter very few other skiers on frequently groomed runs such as Magic Carpet and Sterner Gulch.

Having conquered the blue runs of Tiehack, you should now have no problem tackling the slightly more intimidating runs of Main Buttermilk, including No Problem, which will lead you past Fort Frog, a log fort that is a favorite destination amongst Buttermilk’s younger skiers.

Other runs in this area that are definitely worth checking out are Lover’s Lane and Bear, both of which will bring you back to the final pitch above the base area. This last hill can be intimidating for even seasoned intermediates, so if you don’t feel comfortable, just remember that you can always stay on Homestead Road as it switchbacks its way down to the bottom.

Spend a few days skiing the immaculately groomed slopes of Buttermilk, and before you know it, you’ll be ready to take on any of Aspen’s other three mountains.