Ditch the Ski Pass and Go Backcountry Skiing
You don’t need a pricey season pass to enjoy Colorado’s excellent terrain. With the right gear and safety knowledge it’s easy to get out into the backcountry to ski some untouched powder. If you’re new to the sport, make sure you have the correct gear, and consider taking an avalanche safety course. Experienced ski buddies are a necessity for your first few trips, too.
Try some of these perennially popular spots along the Front Range, and then keep exploring to find your own hidden gems!
Located “near” Fort Collins (it’s still an hour and 45 minutes away off of Colorado 14), Cameron Pass is home to numerous backcountry skiing options, and it’s a northern Colorado favorite. Nokhu Crags
is one well-loved area, and it can be reached via a two-hour journey from the trailhead.
The pass even has its own ski patrol: the Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol. It’s an elite group, boasting only the most experienced search and rescue teams. They offer avalanche education courses.
Loveland Pass is one of the most popular backcountry skiing spots along the Front Range thanks to its prime location near I-70, as well as its terrain. You can ski either side, but the front-side (the side closest to I-70) is typically favored. There are tons of lines to choose from, just be sure to assess avalanche danger, as some routes are more prone than others.
If you see a fellow skier looking for a ride back up to the top, consider giving them a lift. It’s good karma – you might be able to snag your own ride back up the next time around.
Find Herman Gulch east of Loveland’s ski area, located conveniently near the mountain town of Dillon. It’s not overly
popular during the snowy months, making it an excellent place to find (some) peace and quiet along the Front Range.
There are numerous lines to descend and you’ll find everything from intermediate to expert terrain. To reach Herman Gulch, go west on I-70 and turn off at exit 218. Next, turn right onto Forest Service Road 98. The road will take you to the trailhead.
Berthoud Pass was once home to the Berthoud Pass Ski Area, but now it’s a favorite spot among backcountry enthusiasts. Old trail maps make it easy to figure out where the best lines are, too. There’s even a road on either side of the pass, making car shuttles feasible (which is one of the biggest draws of this backcountry ski area.)
Access the summit, which is approximately 15 miles north of I-70, via U.S. Route 40. Winter Park’s ski resort is located near the bottom of the pass.
You’ll find Montezuma Road just east of Keystone, in the tiny and quirky town of Montezuma. The area is a great artery into Colorado’s backcountry. Handcart Peak, linked above, is one option. For easy ski touring, try Peru Creek, which is on the left a few miles up Montezuma Road. Tip-Top and Morgan Peak are two other favorites, and they’re perfect for intermediates.
From town, begin by ascending Santa Fe Road. You’ll top out around 12,000 feet, and the backcountry will be spread out all around you. If route finding seems too complicated, inquire about guided tours
If hiking up a Colorado 14er in the summer seems just a bit too easy, consider making the ascent of Torreys Peak during the winter and then skiing down.
The Tuning Fork descent is a classic, and it’s one of the longest routes on a 14er. You can even ski right down to I-70. Plus, it won’t be quite as busy when there’s snow on the mountain.
The Indian Peaks Wilderness area doesn’t typically have deep snow pack, but its location close to Boulder is its main selling point. Additionally, the scenery is rugged, and you won’t see any of the crowds that flock there during summer. Mount Audubon, Mount St. Vrain, and Mount Toll are three well-traveled routes. Each mountain has a relatively easy ascent, too.
The Indian Peaks area tends to experience high winds, so always check conditions before heading out and don’t be too stubborn to call it a day if conditions are dangerous.