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Why Visit Aspen Snowmass Early Season

Five reasons why the early season at Aspen Snowmass is something special.

Early Season at Aspen Snowmass

The kick-off to ski season is always packed with anticipation. Tuning up the boards, hitting the gym, and plotting powder days with friendsit's all part of the excitement. Once the lifts and gondolas start spinning, the magic happens, and the opening of each of our four mountains before the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is an underrated treat and a great time to visit our Valley.

Here are some reasons to make an early winter trip to Aspen Snowmass and launch into your best ski and ride season yet.

1. The quiet slopes

The quiet slopes help feed your stoke while you rediscover your ski legs.

Other than the hoots and hollers from locals and the small number of out-of-town visitors, late November through mid-December is relatively lowkey. The rollout of each mountain’s opening makes spreading out to lay down your edges, find your ski legs, and catch a vibe feel easy. As each hill opens, days are filled with constant rope drops, the return of dawn patrol for uphillers, and new terrain opening across all four mountains.

2. The goods get good early

Our four mountains offer something uniquely different during early season.

Accessing steep and deep terrain can be elusive for skiers and riders in the early season, but Aspen Snowmass is one of the better places in the Rockies to diversify your exploration right off the bat. For the last six seasons, an average of 180 acres has been available to the public by opening day, and each mountain has its own unique benefits.

Aspen Mountain

Aspen Mountain is often successful at opening top-to-bottom runs in late Novembergifting your legs around 3,000 feet in vertical descent by opening day. “Were lucky to have good temperatures here,” says Senior Vice President of Mountain Operations and longtime Aspen local Katie Ertl, who says the mountain is especially good at holding snow, even at the start of the season.

New this season, Aspen Mountain is ushering in over 150 more acres of skiing and riding on the eastern aspect of the town’s mountain. Known as Hero’s, this terrain is accessible via a brand-new high-speed quad and will consist of 19 chutes, four cut rails, and three gladed runs. Ropes will drop throughout December and early-season visitors will be the first to experience this new chairlift and terrain as it’s opened to the public.

Aspen Highlands

Ski Patrol and operations works hard to get the Highland Bowl—coveted hike-to sidecountry skiing and riding—open on Aspen Highlands by opening day (generally the second Saturday of December), if Mother Nature allows.

“We believe that steep terrain is integral to the skiing experience on our mountains,” says Ertl. “So, with the help of our patrol and the community to prepare the terrain for opening, we bootpack the Bowl weeks before opening.”


Snowmass opens with something for every kind of skier and rider, making it a family-friendly option. The Elk Camp gondola whisks beginners and kids up to mid-mountain, where our learning area is a great place to get the season started for kids and the whole family. And, because Snowmass often gets more snow than any of the other three mountains, it’s famous groomers on the Big Burn chair are typically riding well after a couple of good storms in late November.

This year we’ve upgraded our snowmaking system, allowing us to get more terrain open early and to ensure we have at least one small terrain park available on opening day. “We’re very good at connecting the villages—from the top of Elk Camp to Base Village and up to the Snowmass Mall,” says Ertl. So, spreading out and getting around is easy.


Buttermilk is a friendly mountain at a lower elevation that can open its playful and approachable terrain with a low snowpack, making it the perfect place for beginners and casual cruisers to go catch the lift and arc some turns.

Thanks to operations careful summer maintenance of trimming grass and removing rocks, Buttermilk’s groomers are generally great shape starting day one,” says Ertl. Buttermilk is also home to Tiehack, one of the community’s favorite uphill routes and an easily accessible place to launch your skinning season.

Plus, this will be the first full season of the brand-new Buttermilk base area, which has been redesigned with a Guest Services building that has everything skiers and riders could need under one roof—tickets, gear rentals, lessons, day-use lockers, and more.

3. Aspen Snowmass has over 75 years of experience

Aspen Snowmass has been dialing in how to do winter right for more than 75 years.

Founded in 1946, Aspen Snowmass has had more than seven-and-a-half decades to learn the strengths of each of its four mountains, how to staff them, and most importantly, how to groom them. Every year, a huge group of longtime and seasonal ski bums and professionals get this well-oiled machine up and running-running from day one.

Training is an important part of the process. Our employees know that they are each a piece in our puzzle, and that without snowmaking, grooming, patrol, lift operations, and our many other departments, we couldn’t make it happen." - Katie Ertl

And that’s just the skiing and riding part—our staff also makes life easier for guests with things like equipment deliveries, fun on-mountain alternatives like the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster, and simply elevating your experience with a smile at every turn.

4. Early season means more value

The costs for a ski or snowboard trip can add up, it’s no secret. But at Aspen Snowmass, we have early season offers that make planning your winter getaway for November or December a smart move.

From November 23 through December 22, 2023, you can get $88 lift tickets with our early season lift ticket offer. If you book two days of skiing with lodging or airfare at least seven days in advance, you can make the most of your early season with $88 Adult lift tickets or $72 Children, Teens, and Senior lift tickets.

Plus, lessons, rentals, and lift tickets will hit peak prices during busy points in the season—think holidays and spring break. When you visit earlier, you land the best value.

5. Celebrate the holidays in town

The mountains and towns of Aspen and Snowmass are humming with holiday cheer.

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass celebrate their openings on Thanksgiving Day, making it a longtime tradition to take some steep turns before loosening your bibs and feasting on turkey and pie. From that weekend through December, the warmth of the holiday season is contagious making it the perfect time to play hooky with the family the week or two before Christmas and New Year’s.
Twinkling lights adorn the trees in Aspen and Snowmass; festive, family-friendly celebrations like Snowmass Luminescence, fill the calendar; reservations flow more freely at sought-after places like Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro or the Alpin Room, which welcomes a new head chef this season; and it’s easy to feel the merriment of the season whether you’re hanging out around town or carving down the mountain all day. Learn more about the holidays at Aspen Snowmass.