Best Off-Piste Spots in Aspen Snowmass for Snowboarders

Jeremy James: DC, CSCS

Most of the terrain in Aspen/Snowmass tends to favor skiers (aka the road bikers of winter sports) a bit more than snowboarders. Fortunately, there is some great off-piste terrain to be had on powder days if you know where to look.

In my opinion, almost all the good stuff is in Snowmass. I know, I know, “Deep Temerity” they say, “the Highlands Bowl,” they say. Nope, Snowmass has the goods.

On deep days, my personal favorite is to start the day in Rock Island. Located through a gate on Sheer Bliss, Rock Island has some great pillow drops and small to medium sized (4 to 10-foot) cliffs. There are a multitude of lines to choose from, and on most days, you can get lap after lap for hours getting fresh turns every time. Next up is Buckskin, also located through a gate off Sheer Bliss, further below Rock Island. Buckskin has some good steep trees at the top with a great cliff drop midway down through the middle. The cliff itself is probably about 15 feet with a great steep landing before flattening out. The runout is fun too with lots of little jumps and drops.

Rock Island

Rock Island

The last fun spot on this part of the mountain is Burn Cliffs. As the name implies, there are lots of cliffs and a few big ones. The most popular way through is Stiletto, a narrow chute with a 4-foot drop at the end over some rocks. There’s a rope to down climb for people, usually skiers, who get in over their heads and don’t want to hike back out. To the skiers right of Stiletto, there are some large cliffs you can hike to that should satisfy almost any person’s need for thrills.

Burn Cliff

Burn Cliffs

Leaving this section of the mountain, I next like to head to Hanging Valley Wall. This is a pretty large area with a multitude of different ways through. I won’t try to guide you through other than to say I usually hike all the way (don’t stop at Roberto’s), strap in, and then keep to skier’s right at the beginning as far as you can go. Drop in once the track runs out. There is so much good terrain in here, and it takes days to get fully tracked out after a good storm.

Finally, after a few laps in Hanging Valley Wall, I like to end the day on Burnt Mountain. Burnt Mountain is located off the Elk Camp chair. You take a short hike up after exiting the chair. Look for signs for Burnt Mountain and Long Shot. Burnt Mountain has some great glades, thick trees which stay deep for days, and a sizable cliff which usually has a deep (but somewhat flat) landing. To get to the cliff, follow Rio and stay on the ridgeline through the glades. You will see the cliff on skier’s right as you come to the end of the ridge. You will be thanking me in your head in colorful language as you do the runout later.

Burnt Mountain

Burnt Mountain

Those are my favorites, but there are plenty, plenty more. The best part of Snowmass is that it stays good for days because most people go to the other mountains. Enjoy!

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