the Edge

During the day, you might find Berne and his friends taking a break over a cone of truffle fries at Ajax Tavern; this year, it has an expanded bar area inside and a bigger deck outside. And at night everyone heads to the same place: Sky Bar. "We usually end up wearing our ski gear out to the bars after that. Before you know it, it's 11 p.m. and I'm dancing in my snowboard boots... It's simply blissful."

General Information: www.aspensnowmass.com/aspenmountain; 1-800-525-6200.

Location: 219 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.

Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Snow Report: 1-970-925-1221.

Lift Rates: TBA.

Terrain: 673 skiable acres with 76 trails; 48 percent intermediate; 26 percent advanced; 26 percent expert. The base is 7,945', with a 3,267' vertical rise; summit: 11,212'.

Buttermilk Mountain

X Games gold medalist, snowboarder, lifetime Aspen local and owner of Radio Boardshop Travis McLain is a huge fan of the park at Buttermilk. "The X Games Superpipe is unreal," he says. "It's one of the best pipes in the country, for sure." He says that's because of the size and the pitch, which is steep enough to allow him to really build up his speed. And McLain hasn't even tried the new Olympic-sized, 22-foot half-pipe opening this season yet. It adds four feet to each wall of the pipe, sending skiers and riders higher than ever. There are only three pipes that size in the country.

McLain likes that the Upper Tiehack lift can access the whole mountain, with terrain from beginner to advanced, and the park. He likes Buttermilk's steep gladed terrain through aspens and pines. Over in west Buttermilk is an intermediate cruising zone where you can get away from everybody. But even at peak season, Buttermilk doesn't get that crowded — except when the X Games come to town. "It's awesome," he says. "It's like a huge party. Seventy thousand people come to watch, so it's pretty busy."

General Information: www.aspensnowmass.com/buttermilk; 1-800-525-6200.

Location: 218 miles west of Denver via I-70 and Colo. Hwy. 82.

Hours: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.

Snow Report: 1-970-925-1221.

Lift Rates: TBA.

Terrain: 470 skiable acres with 44 trails; 35 percent beginner, 39 percent intermediate, 26 percent advanced. The base is 7,870', with a 2,030' vertical rise; summit: 9,900'.

Snowmass

Snowmass has everything. "You can start on an average groomer, like three or four miles long, then go jump off an eighty-foot cliff if you feel like it," explains ex-bump skier Andrew Ingardia, who manages the Christy Sports in town and is about to enjoy his fourth season at Snowmass. He grew up on the East Coast and lived in Steamboat for years, but says nothing is as variable as the terrain at Snowmass.

His favorite spots are some of the areas Snowmass is best known for, like the Burn Side Cliffs — which are featured in this year's Matchstick Productions movie Claim and are home to the annual Colorado Freeride Championships. "That's definitely some very extreme terrain," Ingardia says. "It's stuff that you'd see on the back side of Alta, but it's right here in our back yard."

This year, with the new $7 million detachable quad chairlift Sheer Bliss that will serve 700 acres in the Big Burn area, it'll only take nine minutes to access the black-diamond glades and blue cruisers of the area.

The Cirque is one of Ingardia's favorite extreme spots. Nearby is AMF — a steep chute with a lot of cliff bends that opens up to a wide bowl. "It's a great spot for the extreme skier or someone trying to get more adventurous with their skiing," he says. "You're not going to tumble down 500 feet. If you take a tumble, you're going to end up 50 feet down and all good. I've taken many a tumble there."

More extreme is the Headwall itself, which locals just call the Wall. "Unfortunately, we've lost a couple of people there and had avalanches over there," Ingardia says. "You can make it as extreme as you want."

Snowmass is also known for its groomers. Ingardia calls Naked Lady the standard introduction to Snowmass, the run he hits when friends or family come out who haven't been there before, because in addition to the rollers, it has the best views. Ingardia also thinks Snowmass is one of the most kid- and family-friendly resorts around. He loves that the park has its own lift and a bridge that separates park skiers and the average recreational skier. "It's almost impossible for a family to get stuck in the park," he says.

Snowmass is just a fun place to be, he says, especially with events like Big Air Fridays, where a ton of local skiers and snowboarders come out every Friday night to compete before the weekly fireworks show. This season, he hopes things will become even more festive with the opening of the new $1 billion Base Village development, which includes 100 new ski-in/ski-out residences, four restaurants, shopping and a conference space. New on the mountain is the $9 million Sam's Smokehouse — a 7,800-square-foot restaurant with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Garret's Peak and Mount Daly with fast, sit-down service so you don't have to wait in the cafeteria line with your boots on.

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