Compared to my snowboarding experience at Snowbird in Salt Lake City, Snowmass is more similar to Whistler Blackcomb in resort size and style. Having brought my own gear and a good afternoon of rest the previous day, I woke up early to have breakfast and was greeted by a wonderful cloudless morning with fresh snow the previous night too!
The first thing I did was to snowboard down to the Base Village to exchange for my RFID ski-pass which was a very convenient system that Whistler is moving to this coming Winter season. From the Base Village, I boarded the only gondola system in Snowmass which brings me to the mid-base. The aptly named Elk-Camp Gondola is decked in black and creates a sharp contrast to the white landscape in Snowmass.
Alighting at the top station of the gondola, I had to further transfer to the Elk Camp chairlift to reach the summit of Elk Camp. For many skiers and snowboarders, Elk Camp is perhaps one of the nicest areas in the whole of Snowmass, and it is also suitable for kids and families judging by the time I spent there. The terrain here is mild and the views marvellous, so it is always advisable to come here early in the morning when the crowds are thin. By mid-day, this area is packed. It also helps to note the Elk Camp area is the area where the lifts open longer, and on Fridays, the whole area opens till late night with bonfires, snow tubing and a snow-play area for kids. Families would want to take note, as even the Elk Camp restaurant and cafe opens till late with specials for dinner. This also means skiers and snowboarders get to play more since the Elk Camp gondola opens to allow guests who do not ski access to this area.
One of my favourite run here is called ‘Bull Run’, and the whole run has a certain momentum to lift your spirits up. There are also photographers near the end where the run merges with the other trails so skiers that want to bring home some action memories can try their best here! Over here, one can also find terrain for the more adventurous such as the Long Shot run which is accessible after a 15 minute trek upwards from a fork at the right side of the Elk Camp summit. The Long Shot run starts from the Burnt Mountain Glades and is one of the longest and most tiring in North America and definitely can give Whistler’s Peak-to-Creek run a match!
Another long run one can do from Elk Camp is to continue down via the Creekside run to the base after reaching the bottom of the Elk Camp chairlift. Both the Creekside and Long Shot run will bring skiers down to the Two Creeks area, where the crowds are really thin and a different view awaits. There are some animal crossing near the bottom so skiers do take note and keep a lookout for wildlife like deer and the likes.
After doing Elk Camp and Creekside for the morning, I got some recommendations through a skier while taking the chairlift to check out Campground. On the trail map, Campground is a black diamond run, but it really is perhaps my single favourite area in the whole of Snowmass. Thus, I left Elk Camp via the Adams Avenue run that brought me back to the Westin ground floor where the ski rentals and storage was located at. From there, I snowboarded back down to take the Village Express. As the name goes, this is perhaps the single most crowded chairlift in Snowmass, and allows skiers to unload at the middle. Mainly used by ski schools, this lift gets crowded all times of the day and is the last lift to close for the day.
At the top of Village Express lies Sam’s Smokehouse where I had my lunch. This restaurant gets quite busy during peak lunch hours, and I suggest making some reservations if possible. I had a light lunch of pork belly cabbage wrap which was succulent and delicious. Prices here were about the same as Whistler Blackcomb and I did enjoy this lunch so it was worth it.
Now comes the main part which is snowboarding at Campground. I spent the rest of my afternoon at Campground and it was that good. There are 3 main runs in this area which leads to the bottom of the Campground chairlift. Though Bear Claw is a mogul run and the Slot run makes a detour so my review mainly covers the main Campground run. The black diamond feature is that this area has some steeper terrain but there was very few people, and at some sections I had the whole run to myself. I enjoyed it so much, I returned here with the snow day the next day and it left some of my most memorable moments! On a powder day, the Campground run is a definite must for intermediate snowboarders as the run is long enough and gives you some speed on the way down to make it thrilling! The only tricky part is getting out of the area as you need to cut through the main path into a wooded area to access the Sam’s Knob area. Beginners would be better off taking off their bindings and walking across.
The other 2 major ski areas in Snowmass are Big Burn and High Alpine. To access Big Burn, skiers could head towards the Sheer Bliss chairlift from the top of Alpine Springs or take the Big Burn chairlift after skiing down from Sam’s Knob. Big Burn is mainly for beginner and intermediate snowboarders who want to improve on their skiing and riding ability and the runs are shorter, probably similar to that in Elk Camp. I generally prefer Elk Camp more for its views but Big Burn does seem to have less crowds in the afternoon.
Expert skiers would definitely need to get up Big Burn though as this is the starting point for the Cirque T-bar. This trip was also the first time I tried out the T-bar as it was the only way to get to the Headwall. Sadly though, I failed miserably, and decided it was just not meant to be. I think getting up is the worst part but the High Alpine area does have some serious double black diamond run! This are is probably for experts only with steep drops but it sure is adrenaline pumping!
For the High Alpine area, it is accessible via the Cirque Headwall or via the High Alpine chairlift. This area is generally for experts but I find skilled intermediates and amateurs should find no problem on the trails. The views from the top of the High Alpine is also perfect for composing panoramas.
Now that I covered most of the snowboarding, let’s talk about the food on the mountain. As I mentioned, I had lunch at Sam’s Smokehouse on the first day. On the second day, I had a quick bite at Ullrhof, as I just munched on fries but they do have a variety of grated cheese, sour cream and green onions for the soups that I was able to add as toppings on top of my fries. Prices were generally on par with what I used to pay for Whistler. So it is expensive, expect to spend $15 upwards for a decent meal. The third day, I had some granola bars to maximize my time since it was a nice day and I had a late afternoon snack at Elk Camp Cafe and Restaurant, which is probably the nicest place to have lunch at. They have some of the best selections too from pizzas to salads, sandwiches and burgers.
After a day on the slopes, there really is not much else to do besides chilling in your hotel room. Around the plaza at the Village Mall, the ambience is generally quiet. It makes it easy to find spots to rest by the fireplace outside the Westin’s ski rental store, or get your own S’mores pack to snack on. Come dinner time, most of the restaurants will have a spot for walk-in guests and one budget-friendly spot I recommend is Taster’s Pizza, which is located across the street from the transit centre. Guests in the Westin can get a complimentary drop there though!
The other food options I tried at Snowmass itself was disappointing. I had a fried noodle dish and spring rolls at Bia Hoi and while the portion for the noodle was generous, the food took some time and the fried noodle was terrible. Another place I tried was the Double Black Noodle Bar in the Wildwood Hotel, which is another SPG property beside the Westin. Generally the Asian cuisine was a huge fail and I really recommend skiers to head out to Aspen for dining out and the overall nightlife.
In terms of the snowboarding and terrain, I totally recommend Snowmass since even for my 3 days there, I do not think I covered all of the runs, but I certainly did go on the Campground run and Elk Camp area countless times. There is a variety of runs to suit all types and even some adrenaline pumping sections too! On both clear days and snowy weather, the whole mountain was enjoyable. But as a snowboard destination in itself, I would not rate it the best, as the food selection was average and the prices were high. Not to mention, the