I grew up in Evergreen, CO and my parents (thankfully) decided to put me on skis when I was three. Despite having a lifelong travel bug that I simply cannot shake, I still find myself skiing the same part of the southern Rocky Mountains just outside of Denver, CO year after year.
Western Colorado’s backcountry has kept me coming back for over 30 years now because it is the perfect trifecta of steep, deep, and easily accessible terrain.
During the short period of the year when there is no snow left on even the highest peaks, you can find me backpacking across the lower 48 in search of trophy walleye.
Travis Recommends: Backcountry Skiing/Alpine Touring
A typical Colorado ski season lasts from October until May, when most of the resorts close down. Backcountry skiing is the best way to extend your season by an extra couple of months. Resort riders have all hung their skis up for the year, leaving all the fresh snow from heavy late spring storms for those of us who have invested in A/T gear.
The ability to assess avalanche danger and snow conditions requires more training and safety practices than resort riding calls for. That being said, it doesn’t get any better than earning adrenaline-pumping turns in fresh powder that you don’t have to share with the masses.
If any of this sounds appealing to you, then I recommend investing in A/T gear and avalanche safety courses.
Travis McCullough’s Favourite Adventures
Colorado’s backcountry is an extremely popular area for A/T skiers and split boarders, but it is still vast enough that you can still feel the thrills and solitude that backcountry skiing is known for.
Chicago Ridge will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the first place that I ever skied out of bounds. It is a zone for intermediate to advanced skiers who are looking to test their mettle out of bounds.
On one end it connects to Ski Cooper, and serves as their 2,500-acre cat skiing area. You can continue to skin further out along the ridgeline, eventually topping out at 12,600 ft with a max descent of 1,400 ft.
This terrain is by no means extreme but it contains 7 massive bowls that are free of trees until you get closer to the resort. This is perfect for high-speed, wide-open turns that will help you get comfortable skiing side/backcountry.
Mayflower Gulch/Fremont Pass
Mayflower Gulch is just one of the backcountry gems on Fremont Pass, as well as my personal favorite spot in the state. It offers an easy approach from the parking lot that opens up into five different routes of varying difficulties.
This zone offers everything from quick laps for building kickers up the Gold Hill route to a technical couloir ascent up Fletcher Peak which tops out at almost 13,960 ft. There is a little bit of everything here for everyone, great for groups with varying abilities.
For those who are more experienced with mountaineering, Mayflower Gulch offers long-distance routes that connect to Peak 10 at Breckenridge Ski Resort and the popular fourteener, Quandary Peak.
This 12,477 ft peak is a popular zone because of its easy access from I-70 or a backcountry gate off of Lift 8 at my home resort of Loveland Ski Area. It’s not even close to one of the tallest peaks in the state but it serves as a great training ground for skiers who are new to the backcountry. It incorporates large cornices and exposed faces up top, followed by tight trees throughout the lower half.
Newbies to the backcountry will get to practice on all of these different types of terrain while being able to lap the zone fairly quickly, allowing skiers to take many runs in a day.
On top of this, it is adjacent to Dry Gulch which serves as a great mellow zone for warming up or those who prefer to cross-country ski.
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