The following is a guest post from evo Denver — a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer.
Plenty of skiers get into human-powered backcountry travel for the skiing. They want to ski new zones, outside of the resorts, ski better snow, and just generally get away from the rat race of inbounds skiing. But while they may have come for the skiing, many often stay for the sense of adventure and exploration that comes with moving through the mountains under your own power. There’s something special about skinning silently through the pre-dawn dark, watching the sunrise over new mountains, and knowing that over each rise, across each valley is some beautiful new vista for you to explore. So sure, you can stick to skiing the same zone all winter, or you can get out and explore all that the Colorado backcountry has to offer.
Of course, just like any backcountry skiing endeavor, exploring new zones comes with an element of risk. Don’t go into the backcountry without the education (at least an Avy 1), the proper tools (e.g., beacon, shovel, probe), and the information (stay up to date on the Avy Report). All of that holds especially true when you’re leaving the radius you usually ski within. New terrain brings new challenges, different storm cycles, and less predictable hazards. So we recommend you talk to someone experienced before you head into a new zone.
One of the best ways to get current updates on the state of the snowpack is to talk to folks at your local backcountry ski or Denver snowboard shop. Any shop that carries backcountry gear should have staff that is knowledgeable about different areas and can point you in the right direction. And as a bonus, they can get you set up with new skins or a splitboard rental.
Top Colorado Backcountry Touring Zones
Rocky Mountain National Park
This is probably the most obvious zone that’s worth exploring. It’s massive, and it’s got something for everyone, from puckering chutes to mellow glades. And the best part is that because it’s a national park, you won’t be competing with motorized users. Instead, you’re just likely to see some other backcountry skiers or folks on snowshoes.
RMNP is a huge, complicated area, so we highly recommend checking out one of the guidebooks to the park. They’ll help point you toward tours and objectives that make sense for your level of experience.
If you’re looking for something a little less intimidating, check out Berthoud Pass. This area used to be a ski resort, so it’s easily accessible and many areas are still gladed for skiing. It also gets a fair amount of traffic so skin tracks are often already set, making your day even easier. Berthoud has a wide range of terrain available, but doesn’t have as much expert terrain as RMNP. Its got a lot more beginner and intermediate friendly lines, so it’s a great area to go gain confidence.
Just be aware that because more people ski at Berthoud, you’ll have to work harder to get fresh tracks, and you’ll need to be aware of avalanche danger in relation to skiers above and below you.
A good rule of thumb is that most mountain passes are home to good backcountry skiing, and Vail Pass is no different. There’s a variety of terrain available on both sides of I-70, with something for everyone. If you’re looking for more mellow meadow skipping, head to the north side of the highway. And if the avalanche conditions permit, and you’ve got the skills, the south side holds a bunch of big, interesting lines.
The west end of the pass is closed to motorized vehicles, but the east side isn’t, so keep that in mind. It’s not the end of the world to be traveling in the same terrain as snowmobiles, but it’s important to be prepared and knowledgeable if you are.
As one of the easiest areas to access from Denver, you might even be able to take a quick lap at Loveland Pass after heat molding ski boots in the morning. Because of this, it gets tracked out fast, so it’s a good idea to watch the storm cycle and try to get out early. There is plenty of beginner-friendly terrain off of Loveland Pass, with the potential to link up a bunch of interesting runs in one day. Ask around at ski shops, as there is a really helpful paper guide to Loveland available that will help you figure out where to get the goods.
Colorado is home to some of the best backcountry ski terrain and snow in the world. So expand your horizons, head out, and check out a new zone. The magic of exploration is half the fun of backcountry skiing anyway, so go explore some new mountains.
About evo Denver
We are evo Denver – a ski, snowboard, mountain bike, surf, wake, skate, camp, and lifestyle retailer. evo explores the collaboration between culture and sport by seamlessly joining art, music, streetwear, skateboarding, snowboarding, skiing, mountain biking, and wakeboarding. Our aim is to bring all things relevant to the urban, action sports lifestyle into one creative space. Whether it is on the website, on the phone, or in our stores, our aim is to make all who come into contact with evo feel welcome and excited about their experience.
Disclosure: Please note that this post is sponsored by evo Denver and contains affiliate links. We may receive a small commission if you buy a product or service through an affiliate link. This revenue helps us provide readers with helpful content to plan amazing adventures.