The 2013-14 ski and snowboard season was a roller coaster of emotions. The early season saw big snows and cold in the east but fell into a freeze/thaw cycle during the winter that kept everyone on their toes. Colorado, Utah, Idaho and Montana had different results based on their location in the Rocky Mountains, with Colorado and Montana/Wyoming getting lots of pow, while Utah and Idaho had less. Lake Tahoe and Mammoth looked like they were going to face a second drought year in a row early on, but have ended up having a pretty standard season with good late spring snow depths.
When the ski lifts turn their lights off come late spring, it signals something more in Colorado. Backcountry skiing during the winter consists of a stagnant wave of snow set in motion by a skier’s turn. But come spring, the melt-freeze cycle turns that snow into something as dense as your grandma’s fruitcake, and much more enticing. Spring is the time to take advantage of backcountry skiing, as the risks of avalanches are much less. And the Loveland Pass is a good place to do it. If you’ve yearned to take advantage of Colorado’s best, worst-kept secret, then here’s a backcountry guide to help you access The Pass safely and like a pro.
The Loveland Pass is located on US-6. From Denver, take I-70 W to US-6 W. Park your car in the parking lot across from the Continental Divide sign and follow others’ tracks to hike in (no more than 100 yards).
Always bring a shovel, probe and beacon for backcountry skiing, and ski with a friend. Tell others of your plans too.
The terrain on the front is about 800 vertical feet and requires solid intermediate skills. For the most part, by hiking in no more than 100 yards you should be okay, just follow the tracks of other skiers. About ¼ of a mile out is what’s known as “Idiot’s Cornice” and you should avoid this as it poses the greatest risk for avalanche (five people died there in 2013). Safety tip: don’t hike in more than 100 yards, and ski or ride near tracks of previous skiers.
Hitchin’ a Ride:
The front side funnels down to US-6 (represented by a circle on the map above), and hitching a ride back up to the top is half the fun. Wait times can vary, but a ride always comes along ready and willing to drop you back off at the Continental Divide parking lot. Look for trucks, as they’re pretty much always willing to let you ride in the bed. You can also go up with a group of people (three or more) and alternate driving up and back so that you won’t have to wait.
Go during a full moon for moonlight skiing.
Have fun, be safe and let us know how it goes in the comments below.
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