Backcountry Skiing in Steamboat Springs Colorado
Backcountry skiing and riding opportunities are vast and almost limitless here in Colorado. There are tens of thousands of untracked peaks filled with fresh powder for those eager to strap on their skins, fire up their snowmobiles or hire a Colorado backcountry skiing operation like Steamboat Powdercats.
Here in the backcountry of Northwest Colorado, we who call Steamboat Springs home, have an equal opportunity, one which is exciting for those passionate powder skiers and riders who like to earn our turns. Of course, here at Steamboat Powdercats we use our snowcats to transport our guests into the backcountry of Buffalo Pass on the Routt National Forest. This mode of transportation, like heli skiing, allows us to access terrain with much less effort than those seeking out their own transport to and from untracked fields of powder. But beyond Buffalo Pass there are many options for those looking to get out in the snow.
Buffalo Pass is a mecca for backcountry skiing and riding. It is one of Colorado’s most accessible locations for those looking to get after it in the powder. Fish Creek Canyon accessed from the Steamboat Ski area is probably the most popular backcountry zone in the area but then its Buff Pass. But beyond Buffalo Pass, what else exists?
As mentioned, Fish Creek Canyon is a backcountry favorite and the go to location for fresh lines since it is accessed from the gates off the top of the ski area. The Canyon has many options for the cautious backcountry skier. Though it is skied a bunch and typically has a skin track that traverses the terrain back to the ski area, those accessing the Canyon need to understand that consequences exist, like all backcountry skiing. All those exiting thru the gates from the ski area should wear beacons and carry shovels and probes on all persons. Everyone should practice safe backcountry protocols in this terrain. This is unfortunately not a practice that many who enter this terrain undertake. There is a false sense of security about the Canyon and many who enter are novice backcountry skiers or riders and at some point something very bad is going to happen to someone in this area.
Like the Canyon and Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass is also a great place to get after a classic Colorado backcountry skiing experience. Though the lines on Rabbit Ears are short and hold some lengthy travel times to get to the turns, the ease of having Highway 40 getting you up high into the backcountry allows for some good access. Lines like Little Snowbird, Little Alta, Mongolian Bowl and Walton Peak, as well as the classic Devils Hangover and Hogan Park Route offer many novice and expert type backcountry skiers good access to powder filled lines. The pitches on Rabbit Ears are usually short but longer lines exist for those willing to get after it.
North Routt County is where the largest amount of backcountry terrain exists in the area. Little Agnes is a classic as well as the dominant feature in the area, Hahns Peak. Both areas are accessed best by snowmobile which allows for quicker access to the terrain. Sand Mountain is another great option for those willing.
To the south of Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek and past the town of Yampa to the west lies the Flat Top Wilderness Area. There are almost endless lines in the Flat Top’s but the classic is the Devil’s Causeway. Due to the wilderness nature of this ascent, it’s more of a springtime journey after the road opens to Stillwater Reservoir. Like most of NW Colorado’s backcountry, if you have a sled, you can rally up to the wilderness boundary at Stillwater and then hike from there.
As always, those of you who are looking to backcountry ski here in Colorado and the Steamboat Springs area, you should always carry beacons and carry shovels and probes and most importantly know how to use them. Here are Steamboat Powdercats, we offer a AIARE (The American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level I avanche course for those who need this type of education. Those who don’t practice backcountry safety while traveling in the backcountry are ignorant to the dangers that exist on most every slope in the backcountry. If you are one of those folks or go with friends who are risking it, what are you thinking?