Colorado is known for its skiing, and while the big resorts are great, Colorado offers a plentiful array of backcountry skiing opportunities as well. An hour from Denver gets you to Berthoud Pass, which is roughly what it takes to reach the Winter Park resort. As an old ski area, you will find some open runs right off the parking area. The terrain varies from mellow open slopes to steep trees and cliffs. Although the terrain is very accessible, backcountry awareness and gear is mandatory when heading out.
Some big storms brought ridiculous powder to Colorado and we followed! Our recent ski tour took us through wide-open powder bowls, perfectly spaced trees, and even included a bit of ridgeline boot packing.
Pulling up to the pass on a bluebird Saturday after a week of storms felt like a resort day. Cars spilling out of the parking lot and people everywhere, we wondered if seclusion was in the cards. Suited up and ready, we moved up the skin track where people were playing in the parking lot powder and it looked good. At the top of the hill we scoped out lines in the distance and realized most people stopped here to take laps without venturing further out. It was on.
Although the bluebird sky brought the sun, the wind was relentless with gusts up to 40 mph. As we continued, the ground became wind scoured and it was time for a boot pack. We headed straight up a wind-blown ridge, which would allow access to our first drop into a wide-open bowl with only one set of tracks in sight.
Reaching the top, we assessed the snow and angle of the slope, keeping in mind the recent snowfall and potential for avalanche danger. With the wind cranking you could barely see over the lip into where you would take your line, adding an extra bit of spice. Dropping one at a time (to manage risk) we ripped downhill slashing fresh snow on every turn. At the bottom, with no one in sight we celebrated the first turns of the day with hoots and hollers.
Our next objective was an uphill push toward an area call “Perfect Trees” and the name speaks for itself. On the way we would ski what seemed to be a nonchalant gully that turned out to rival some of the best powder turns of the day.
Moving uphill on the next slope called for breaking trail, as there was no skin track in sight. This definitely wasn’t the fastest ascent in recent memory but well worth it nonetheless. As we climbed the slope we picked out a few hits for the way down. Strapping up for the last turns of the day, we were amped to weave and wind through snow-covered pines and watch our friends do the same. After literally bouncing through waist deep powder for 15 minutes we reached the road where a quick hitchhike would bring us back full circle, and back to the car.
All in all, Berthound Pass is well worth the trip. Check it out if you have that backcountry itch like I do.