Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Sunlight Mountain Resort. Twenty-five minutes south of Glenwood Springs, Sunlight Mountain Resort is affordable Colorado skiing at its best. Overshadowed by world-class neighbors, the resort sees far less traffic than typical Colorado slopes. Fresh powder, typically skied off at Aspen within an hour, can last as long as two days here on classic downhill runs like Sun King and Beaujolais; you'll rarely, if ever, stand in lines at the four lifts. The resort has 67 trails, including a series of double-black steeps on the East Ridge. The varied terrain, sensational views, and lack of pretension make this a local favorite. The lift tickets cost a fraction of what they do at nearby Aspen. A terrain park for freestyling skiers and boarders features rails, boxes, and jumps. Families will appreciate that every child under 12 skis free with an adult if you book a ski-swim-stay package, and every slope meets at the bottom base lodge. For winter sports enthusiasts who don't want to ride a chairlift, there's a 20-mile network of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails just off the slopes. Parking at the resort is free. 10901 County Rd. 117, Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–7491 or 800/445–7931. Early Dec.–late Mar., daily 9–4.


Sunlight Mountain Resort. The shop at the base of Sunlight Mountain has complete ski rental packages starting at $25 a day. 10901 County Rd. 117, Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–7491 or 800/445–7931.

Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop. The resort's retail outlet, Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop, is in downtown Glenwood Springs. Prices for ski rentals here are typically a little cheaper than at the mountain. 309 9th St., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–9425.


Roaring Fork Anglers. This shop leads wade and float trips throughout the area, and sells a variety of fly-fishing gear. 2205 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–0180.


Colorado River. When the ski season is over and Colorado's "white gold" starts to melt, many ski instructors swap their sticks for paddles and hit the mighty Colorado River for the spring and summer rafting seasons. Stomach-churning holes, chutes, and waves beckon adrenaline junkies, while calmer souls can revel in the shade of Glenwood Canyon's towering walls. Glenwood Springs, CO.


Blue Sky Adventures. At this outfitter, you can book a "Pedals & Paddles" package that includes a half-day raft trip with Blue Sky Adventures, followed by a bike rental from next-door sister company, Canyon Bikes. 319 6th St., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–6605 or 877/945–6605.

Rock Gardens Rafting. In addition to half- and full-day trips on the Colorado River, Rock Gardens Rafting rents inflatable kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. 1308 County Rd. 129, Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–6737 or 800/958–6737.

Whitewater Rafting, LLC. This company offers tours that include the "Double Shoshone" tour, where you run the area's most hair-raising white-water rapids—twice. 2000 Devereux Rd., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–8477 or 800/993–7238.


Glenwood Canyon Bike Path. A concrete trail sandwiched between the Colorado River and the highway traffic, Glenwood Canyon Bike Path runs about 16 miles from Dotsero southwest to Glenwood Springs through the spectacular depths of Glenwood Canyon. The path generally runs below, and out of sight of the interstate, and the roar of the river drowns out the sound of traffic. Because of the mild climate on Colorado's Western Slope, it's only closed in the winter months during heavy snow years. The concrete path also has several dirt spurs that head up into White River National Forest for hikers and mountain bikers. A choice ride is the 18-mile round-trip from Glenwood Springs east up to the trailhead at Hanging Lake, where you can leave your bike and hike a steep mile (climbing 1,000 feet) to the beautiful emerald lake. Horseshoe Bend, about 2 miles from the Vapor Caves, is a perfect picnic spot, since the highway ducks out of sight into a series of tunnels. Trailhead: enter path from either the Yampah Spa Hot Springs Vapor Caves in Glenwood Springs or farther east on I–70 at Grizzly Creek rest area, Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601.

Outfitters and Rentals

Canyon Bikes. Canyon Bikes will shuttle you 16 miles up Glenwood Canyon. You can then enjoy the downhill bike ride on a paved recreation path back to the shop at Hotel Colorado. 319 6th St., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–8904 or 877/945–6605.

Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop. Downtown's Sunlight Ski and Bike Shop rents mountain and comfort bikes, as well as tandem bikes and tag-a-longs for young riders. 309 9th St., Glenwood Springs, CO, 81601. 970/945–9425.

Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

Aspen Highlands. Locals' favorite Aspen Highlands is essentially one long ridge with trails dropping off either side. Aspen Highlands has thrilling descents at Golden Horn, Olympic Bowl, and Highland Bowl, a hike-in experience unlike any in Colorado. The steep and often bumpy cluster of trails around Steeplechase and Highland Bowl makes this mountain one of the best places to be on a good-powder day. Aspen Highlands has a wide-open bowl called Thunder that's popular with intermediate skiers, as well as plenty of lower-mountain blue runs. The best overall downhill run is Highland Bowl. Besides the comparatively short lift lines and some heart-pounding runs, a highlight of Aspen Highlands is your first trip to the 12,392-foot summit. The view, which includes the Maroon Bells and Pyramid Peak, is the most dramatic in the area, and one of the best in the country. Maroon Creek Rd., Aspen, CO, 81612. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200. Mid-Dec.–mid-Apr., daily 9–4.

Aspen Mountain. Open since 1947, Aspen Mountain is a dream destination for mogul and steep skiers. Bell Mountain provides some of the best bump skiing anywhere, followed by Walsh's (also a favorite for snowboarders), Hyrup's, and Kristi's. Those wanting long cruisers head to the ridges or valleys: Ruthie's Run, Ridge of the Bell, and International are the classics. There are no novice-level runs here: this is a resort where nearly half the trails are rated advanced or expert, and a black-diamond trail here might rank as a double-black diamond elsewhere. The narrow ski area is laid out on a series of steep, unforgiving ridges with little room for error. Most skiers spend much of the morning on intermediate trails off the upper-mountain quad. Then they head for lunch on the deck of Bonnie's, the mid-mountain restaurant that on sunny days is one of the great people-watching scenes in the skiing world. After a big storm there's snowcat skiing on the back side of the mountain. Many trails funnel into Spar Gulch, so it can be quite crowded late in the day. For an alternate route, head down the west side of the mountain below the Ruthie's chair and take the road back to the main base area. E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200. Late Nov.–mid-Apr., daily 9–4.

Buttermilk. If you're looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of Aspen, spend a day at Buttermilk—a family-friendly place where it's virtually impossible to get into trouble. Buttermilk is terrific for novices, intermediates, and freestylers, thanks to the superpipe and Buttermilk Park (which has over 100 features). It's a low-key, lighthearted sort of place, and an antidote to the kind of hotdogging you might encounter at Aspen Mountain. Red's Rover on West Buttermilk is a mellow long run for beginners, while Racer's Edge appeals to speed demons. Among the featured attractions is a hangout for children named Fort Frog. The Tiehack section to the east, with sweeping views of Maroon Creek valley, has several advanced runs (though nothing truly expert). It also has superb powder, and the deep snow sticks around longer because many serious skiers overlook this mountain. Buttermilk's allure hasn't been lost on pros, however: it's the longtime host of the Winter X Games. W. Buttermilk Rd., Aspen, CO, 81612. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200. Early Dec.–early Apr., daily 9–4.


Aspen Highlands: 3,635-foot vertical drop; 1,028 skiable acres; 118 trails; 18% beginner, 30% intermediate, 16% advanced, 36% expert; 3 high-speed quad chairs, 2 triple chairs.

Aspen Mountain: 3,267-foot vertical drop; 675 skiable acres; 76 trails; 48% intermediate, 26% advanced, 26% expert; 1 6-passenger gondola, 1 high-speed quad chair, 2 quad chairs, 1 high-speed double chair, 3 double chairs.

Buttermilk: 2,030-foot vertical drop; 470 skiable acres; 44 trails; 35% beginner, 39% intermediate, 26% advanced; 3 high-speed quad chairs, 1 double chair, 4 surface lifts.

Aspen Highlands. 3,635-foot vertical drop; 1,028 skiable acres; 118 trails; 18% beginner, 30% intermediate, 16% advanced, 36% expert; 3 high-speed quad chairs, 2 triple chairs. Aspen, CO, 81611.

Aspen Mountain. 3,267-foot vertical drop; 675 skiable acres; 76 trails; 48% intermediate, 26% advanced, 26% expert; 1 6-passenger gondola, 1 high-speed quad chair, 2 quad chairs, 1 high-speed double chair, 3 double chairs. E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO.

Buttermilk. 2,030-foot vertical drop; 470 skiable acres; 44 trails; 35% beginner, 39% intermediate, 26% advanced; 3 high-speed quad chairs, 1 double chair, 4 surface lifts. W. Buttermilk Rd., Aspen, CO, 81611.

Lessons and Programs

Aspen Mountain Powder Tours. This company provides access to 1,100 acres on the back side of Aspen Mountain via a 12-person snow cat. Most of the backcountry terrain can be handled by confident intermediates, with about 10,000 vertical feet constituting a typical day's skiing. Reservations are required at least a day in advance, but you should book as early as possible. Full-day trips include a hearty lunch, snacks, drinks, two guides, and all the skiing you can do. Aspen, CO. 970/920–0720 or 800/525–6200 Ext. 3720.

Aspen Skiing Company. Aspen Skiing Company gives lessons at all four mountains. Full-day adult group lessons start at $139, and a private full-day lesson for up to five other people will cost you $660. Beginner's Magic is a package for first-time adult skiers and snowboarders that includes a full-day lesson, lift ticket, and gear rental for $199. Aspen Skiing Company also offers women-only clinics, children's lessons, and freestyle camps just for teens. Aspen, CO, 81612. 970/925–1220 or 800/525–6200.


Numerous ski shops in Aspen rent equipment. Rental packages (skis, boots, and poles) start at around $50 per day and rise to $75 or more for the latest and greatest equipment. Snowboard packages (boots and boards) run about $60 per day. Reserve your gear online before you arrive in town to save 10–20%. For convenience, consider ski-rental delivery to your hotel or condo.

Aspen Sports. This sporting-goods store has a huge inventory of winter gear to choose from. 408 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–6331.

Black Tie Ski Rentals. Reserve your ski or snowboard package online or over the phone, and Black Tie Ski Rentals will deliver your gear directly to your condominium or hotel room. Aspen, CO. 800/925–8544 or 970/925–8544.

Four Mountain Sports. Owned by Aspen Skiing Company, Four Mountain Sports has an impressive fleet of ski and snowboard rental equipment. 520 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/920–2337.

Durrance Sports. Durrance Sports, in Aspen Highlands Village, has equipment from many companies. 414 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/429–0101.

Pomeroy Sports. Pomeroy Sports, at the base of Aspen Mountain across from the gondola, has good deals on equipment and rentals. 614 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–7875.

Backcountry Skiing

Alfred A. Braun Hut System. The Alfred A. Braun Hut System is one of Aspen's major backcountry networks. The trailhead leads from the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center into the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness. Take the usual precautions, because the trails cover terrain that's prone to avalanche. Huts sleep 7 to 14 people. They're open in winter only, and reservations can be made beginning May 1. 970/925–5775. $25 per person per night, 4-person minimum.

Aspen Alpine Guides. If you're unfamiliar with the hut system in Aspen or are inexperienced in backcountry travel, you should hire a guide. One highly reputable company is Aspen Alpine Guides. 970/925–6618.

10th Mountain Division Hut Association. Named in honor of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division, whose troops trained in the central Colorado mountains, the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association is a nonprofit organization that maintains nearly three dozen huts in the backcountry, including a handful of huts that are located just a few miles from Aspen. You must be in good shape and have some backcountry skiing experience to reach the huts in the winter months. There is a fair amount of skiing along tree-lined trails and a good bit of high-alpine ups and downs. Accommodations in the huts vary, but you can count on mattresses and pillows, wood-burning stoves, and utensils for cooking. Huts sleep 6 to 20 people (more if you're willing to cuddle). 1280 Ute Ave., Suite 21, Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–5775. $33 and up per person per night.

Ute Mountaineer. In Aspen the best place for renting or purchasing ski equipment, climbing skins, packs, sleeping bags, mountaineering supplies, and other backcountry gear is the Ute Mountaineer. 210 S. Galena St., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–2849.

Track Skiing

Ashcroft Ski Touring Center. About 12 miles from Aspen, the Ashcroft Ski Touring Center is sequestered in the high-alpine Castle Creek Valley. The 21 miles of groomed trails are surrounded by the high peaks of the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness; a novice section passes by the old ghost town of Ashcroft. Rental gear and guided tours are available. 11399 Castle Creek Rd., Aspen, CO, 81612. 970/925–1971.

Aspen Cross-Country Center. Lessons and rentals for track skiing are available at the Aspen Cross-Country Center. Diagonal, skating, racing, and light-touring setups are available. 39551 Hwy. 82, Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–2145.

Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Council. Subsidized by local taxes, the Aspen/Snowmass Nordic Council charges no fee for the 60 miles of maintained trails in the Roaring Fork Valley, making it the largest free groomed Nordic-trail system in North America. For a longer ski, try the Owl Creek Trail, connecting the Aspen Cross-Country Center trails with the Snowmass Club trail system. More than 10 miles long, the trail leads through some lovely scenery. CO. 970/429–2039.

Other Sports and the Outdoors

Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. This nonprofit environmental science education center runs workshops ranging from what animals you might find on local trails to how to survive in the wilderness. ACES naturalist guides offer free snowshoe walks in winter on Aspen Mountain, at Snowmass, and in the historic ghost town of Ashcroft. Summer brings guided hikes in Aspen, Snowmass, and the Maroon Bells, as well as oodles of educational classes for kids, teens, and adults. Its Aspen location is a 25-acre nature preserve on Hallam Lake, but ACES also operates a working farm at Rock Bottom Ranch down-valley between Basalt and Carbondale. 100 Puppy Smith St., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–5756.


Aspen Trout Guides. This company, which is in the Hamilton Sports shop, runs guided fly-fishing tours of local waterways in Aspen. 520 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/379–7963.

Roaring Fork River. Fast, deep, and uninterrupted by dams from its headwaters to its junction with the Colorado, the Roaring Fork River is one of the last free-flowing rivers in the state. The healthy populations of rainbow and brown trout—of the hefty 12- to 18-inch variety—make the Roaring Fork a favorite with anglers. From the headwaters at Independence Pass to within 3 miles of Aspen most of the river access is on public lands, and is best fished in summer and early fall. Downstream from Aspen the river crosses through a checkerboard pattern of private and public land; it's fishable year-round. CO.

Taylor Creek Fly Shop. This shop has Aspen's best selection of flies and other fishing supplies and also offers guided fishing trips on local rivers. In Aspen Sports, 408 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/920–1128.


Aspen Club & Spa. For the price of a day pass ($75), visitors can work out at the upscale Aspen Club & Spa, which has plenty of weight-training and cardiovascular equipment, as well as indoor squash and racquetball courts and a plethora of group fitness classes, from ski conditioning and Pilates to yoga and Zumba. When you're finished getting all sweaty, relax with a steam, sauna, or hot tub. The club is on the outskirts of Aspen; call for a complimentary shuttle pick-up. 1450 Ute Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–8900.


If you aren't used to it, high altitude can pack a wallop. Drink plenty of water to remedy the effects of altitude sickness—dizziness, shortness of breath, headache, and nausea. And slather on the sunscreen—it's easy to get sunburned at high altitude even when the sky looks cloudy. In summer, plan to be back below timberline by noon; afternoon thunderstorms are frequent and can be deadly.

Cathedral Lake. You'll get a taste of several ecozones as you tackle Cathedral Lake, a 10.4-mile round-trip trail. The popular day hike starts gently in aspen and pine groves, but you're likely to break out in a sweat during the long, steep climb into a high valley. Another series of steep, short switchbacks ascend a headwall, followed by a scree field. From there it's a short walk to a shallow alpine lake cupped by a wall of granite cliffs. When the high-country snows melt off in mid-July the meadows and willow thickets surrounding the lake are colored with blooming wildflowers. Castle Creek Rd., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–3445.

Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness Area. Aspen excels at high-altitude scenery (seven of the state's 54 Fourteeners are in the Elk Mountain range), and nowhere is the iconic image of the Colorado Rockies more breathtaking than in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness Area. In summer, shuttle buses take visitors up Maroon Creek Road to the base of the Maroon Bells from 9 am until 5 pm. Private cars are allowed at all other times (there is a $10 recreational fee). More ambitious sightseers can select from a number of hiking trails. Friendly forest rangers staff the Aspen Ranger District office on the west side of town, where you can get recommendations for your ability level. Aspen Ranger District, 806 W. Hallam St., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–3445.

Horseback Riding

Maroon Bells Guide & Outfitters. For day or overnight horseback tours into the spectacular Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness, try Maroon Bells Guide & Outfitters. 3133 Maroon Creek Rd., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/920–4677.

Ice Skating

Aspen Recreation Center. Home to an indoor ice rink big enough for National Hockey League games, the Aspen Recreation Center (or ARC to locals) also has a fitness center, climbing wall, Olympic-size swimming pool, and water play area with lazy river and slides. 0861 Maroon Creek Rd., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/544–4100.

Silver Circle/CP Burger Ice Rink. For outdoor ice-skating, try this good-size rink across the street from the Rubey Park bus station downtown. Skate rentals are available. In the summer the rink transforms into a mini-golf course. 433 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–3056.


Aspen Kayak & SUP Academy. Long-time Aspen paddler Charlie MacArthur runs the Aspen Kayak & SUP Academy, where you can learn to roll and drop in on a wave in a kayak. You can also sample stand-up paddlng, which is like surfboarding with a paddle. 315 Oak Ln., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–4433.

Mountain Biking

Aspen Sports. This store has a wide selection of rental bikes, as well as trail-a-bikes and trailers for kids. 408 E. Cooper Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–6331.

Blazing Adventures. This company leads biking, hiking, jeep, and rafting tours through Aspen and the surrounding valleys. 555 E. Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/923–4544 or 800/282–7238.

Hub of Aspen. Hub of Aspen has high-performance mountain and road bikes. 315 E. Hyman Ave., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–7970.


Aspen Paragliding. This company provides everything you need for a safe and memorable tandem flight above Aspen and the surrounding valley. There is no experience necessary—even children as young as five can fly with an experienced pilot. 426 S. Spring St., Aspen, CO, 81611. 970/925–6975 or 970/379–6975. $250 per tandem flight.


Blazing Adventures. For the truly adventurous, Blazing Adventures runs mild to wild rafting excursions on the Roaring Fork, Colorado, and Arkansas rivers. 555 East Durant Ave., Aspen, CO, 81615. 970/923–4544 or 800/282–7238.