Tips for Skiing the Massive Terrain of Snowmass
Snowmass is a massive mountain, with one of the largest amount of skiable acres of any ski resort in the United States. With all of this terrain there is something for everyone, this is one of the things that makes Snowmass such a great ski area for families. There are wide open groomed runs for high speed carving off of the Big Burn chairlift, you can access the Poma chair from here as well that takes you to the Cirque, truly special double black terrain that is very unique. You can access gated terrain into Rock Island where as the name implies you can drop cliffs of all size, and this is just one small piece of the mountain.
Because of the breadth of Snowmass, the different types of terrain available and the way that some runs end in a way that force you to access different chair lifts you need a plan to ski this mountain.
If you want to ski as a family and everyone can ski intermediate terrain one good option is to take the gondola up and spend a few hours on the Elk Camp portion for the mountain. In addition to rolling terrain that is really fun to ski there is a family area that has different types of entertainment. Another option for keeping everyone together is the Big Burn, this is going to be ideal if it is a sunny day as this side of the mountain can get a little more wind. This part of the mountain is just two lifts away from the Snowmass Base Area accessed via the 6 pack. Once on top you can split up with part of your group skiing the really long and super consistent Sneaky's, this groomed run is ideal for skiers working on their turns. Just skiers left of Sneaky's is Powerline Glades, excellent lower angle tree'd terrain that is ideal for getting comfortable skiing trees. The best part is all of this terrain takes you back to the same chairlift, so you can have drastically different skiing experiences and still ski with the same group.
After a few laps on The Burn you can start making you way to the skiers right side of the mountain. You can do this by heading up to the very challenging Cirque or any of the gated terrain including "AMF" and Goudy's, all double black and for good reason, do not enter this terrain until you are ready or you are in for a long afternoon. The Cirque is truly something special, it is the kind of terrain you would find higher up in the Rockies or in the larger ranges around the world but at an accessible 11,000 foot elevation the top is just above tree line. This giant bowl shaped area can be accessed from different aspects and usually holds fresh snow for days after a storm. After the initial bowl you can access a variety of terrain, your choice either glades to your right or a gully that skies like a natural half pipe to your left.
No matter how you leave The Burn heading in this direction you will eventually end up at the Alpine Springs lift. This is the center of the mountain and from here you can get about anywhere. Since you have already skied The Burn the ideal would be to continue up High Alpine for some more expert skiing. The bump runs of off High Alpine are legendary, long and consistent you will need great technique and legs and lungs of steel to ski these runs without stopping. Fortunately one of the best places to relax and enjoy some good food is here, Gwyn's High Alpine. With both sit down and cafeteria style eating there is something here for everyone.
Now that you are refueled it is time to head back up High Alpine and take the short 10 minute walk out to The Wall, the entry to this area is as steep as the name implies so be ready for some mandatory steep turns. After the initial headwall there are several choices, you can head right into Strawberry Patch, really nice moderately steep terrain that holds great snow, or head left into Glades terrain that seems to go on forever! There are a few cliffs to launch in this area as well, you may want to take a preliminary run to scope the landings but as your stay goes on this is your chance to get some air. As you ski out of The Wall you will be heading towards Elk Camp. If is is early and you still feel strong you can wrap back around to Alpine Springs and do it all again, or you can finish the day off with some laps on the varied terrain that Elk Camp has to offer.
If you are up for a real adventure at this point in the day you can take a short but steep hike up to Burn't Mountain and one of the longest runs you will find anywhere, Longshot. This () mile long run feels like you are skiing in the backcountry, with rolling terrain, trees that seem to never end. This part of the mountain sees very little traffic and sometimes you can find yourself all alone out here. If you pushed it to last chair you can get a bus from here back to the base area, or you can take the Two Creeks chair back up and ski all the way back across the mountain to the base area. Some people will choose to park here if they drove, then start their day traversing over to the Burn and then working their way back. This is an excellent strategy if you drove to the area.
However you choose to ski it Snowmass is truly a great ski area with something, make that more than something for everyone. But a mountain of this size does take some planning so hopefully the tips here will help you dial in your strategy.