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 zones 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 Medicine Bow – Routt National Forests. 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.


Accessible from the Steamboat Ski Area


Home base for Steamboat Powdercats


Fun for sleds and skinners alike

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. Here at Steamboat Powdercats we build and maintain a winter road system that allows us to operate under our Recreation Special Use Permit with the USDA Forest Service to take our guests to the hallowed winter playground which is Buffalo Pass. This road system not only allows our guests the ability to go backcountry skiing and riding, but it also provides a service to the general public by opening up terrain for all to enjoy. We are proud of providing our guests and others this resource that we have been blessed to enjoy since our permit was issued in 1983.

But beyond Buffalo Pass, what else exists?

Beyond Buff, 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. All those exiting thru the gates from the ski area should wear beacons and carry shovels and probes on all persons. This is unfortunately not a practice that many who enter this terrain undertake. Everyone should practice safe backcountry protocols in this terrain while in Fish Creek Canyon.

Like the Canyon and Buffalo Pass, Rabbit Ears Pass is also a great place to get after a classic Colorado backcountry 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 being 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.

Be safe in the backcountry, be avi-aware by taking on of our avalanche education courses. Click below to find out when we will be offering the class.


As always, those of you who are looking to backcountry ski here in Colorado and the Steamboat Springs area, you should always carry beacons, shovels, and probes – and most importantly know how to use them.  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?