Colorado’s Deepest Snowpack
Buffalo Pass, located just north of the Steamboat Ski Area across Fish Creek Canyon, is where Steamboat Powdercats has been operating our snowcat skiing tours since 1983. Our special use permit, issued from the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest allows us an exclusive guiding opportunity to take you into this remarkable powder factory.
Buffalo Pass is situated in the Park Range which is a North-South mountain range. During the winter, as storms come in from the Pacific Ocean on west and especially north-west flow, the Park Range is perfectly situated to block the moist air. As the air stalls and rises up and over the Park Range, this forms orographic lifting – which is a fancy term for ‘major snowfall’.
In May of 2011, Buffalo Pass snow levels officially topped a Colorado record for snow accumulation. That’s right, the Tower Site, which measures remote snowpack levels for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, hit a level never recorded in the history of record keeping here in Colorado. Read more about this historical snow amount here in the article from the Steamboat Pilot & Today and the Denver Post.
Elevations on Buffalo Pass range from 8,272 feet in elevation to 10,804 feet on Soda Mountain and 10, 379 feet on Buffalo Mountain. For reference, the elevation of Mt. Werner which is at the top of the Steamboat Ski Area is 10,568 feet (3224 meters). All of the terrain on Buffalo Pass is below “tree line” which in Colorado is around 11 – 12,000 feet.
Named for the bison that remained on the Pass after they had been exterminated elsewhere, Buffalo Pass was a common route for the early settlers to the area before the road over Rabbit Ears Pass was built. The Buffalo Pass Road was originally built in 1894, south of a historic Ute trail that also went over the Pass. The Continental Divide here on Buffalo Pass is at one of it’s lowest elevations here in Colorado.