Backcountry Skiing in Summit County

Skinning in Summit County

There is no doubt that uphill skiing has become all the rage within the past couple of years. Between light-hearted touring, ski mountaineering (Ski-mo) and aggressive back country for pow stashes, the lot of locals and new comers all seem to take a slight interest in this activity. We’d like to start off by saying, ANYTIME you go into the back country please be prepared. Check the CAIC website for avalanche safety and if you heir on the “more extreme” side of things, we highly recommend at LEAST completing an AIARE Avalanche Level 1 course which teaches you how to make calculated decisions in avalanche terrain.

OK! Now let’s get to the fun stuff. Here are some fun ways (and places) to get outside in the fresh air and NOT have to wait in lift lines.

Hut Trips

Grab a group of friends, spend some time outside, sleep in a “cabin in the woods” and possibly experience some all-time skiing around the area. Hut trips can be as demanding or as lax as you make them, but getting out into the wilderness and “unplugged” for a night or two hasn’t seemed to do many people harm these days. Check out these two organizations below that offer huts around Summit County and beyond. Locals note: Book in advance. These huts gets booked 8-10 months prior so if you know which hut you’d like, get on top of it!

Summit Huts

Summit Huts was designed and created to provide meaningful backcountry experience for self-propelled mountain recreational users. Currently there are four huts within the system; Francie’s Cabin, Janet’s Cabin, Section House and Ken’s Cabin. These are located within Breckenridge. Francie’s Cabin is one of the most popular huts in Colorado, featuring a kitchen, sauna and solar powered lights. Although there CAN be some exceptional skiing in the areas surrounding these cabins, they are also very good options to just get out and experience something different for a night or two.

Mike from Summit Huts recently took some TV guys up to Francie’s Cabin. This was great exposure for Summit Huts and includes some awesome interviews with the kids who were staying up at the hut at the time. Check out the video here.

10th Mountain Division

Stuff can get real now. With options around Summit County (and very much beyond), the 10th Mountain Division is a non-profit organization that manages 34 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The 10th Mountain Division honors men of the U.S. Army who trained during World War II at Camp Hale in central Colorado.

This website gives you tons of resources on how to plan your hut trip, family and kids trips as well as how to make your reservation. Plus tutorials on hut set up and hut clean up. Each hut has tons of information including both winter and summer routes and trailheads, hut location, layout capacity and much more.

For more huts not listed by either of these organizations, click here.

 “Safe” day tour areas

We use quotes around “safe” because you never know what can happen in the backcountry. You need to always be prepared. Below are three recommendations we offer for new, less experienced OR for people who are just looking to get their exercise on and maybe run your pooch. Please advise that in no way are we condoning that you go out blind. Please do your research before entering ANY backcountry terrain.

Bald Mountain – A most popular scene, this low angle, long approach is great for getting out with friends and the dogs. The path is clear and there is not much avy danger to be concerned. About a 4-mile round trip ski will get you high enough to link some decent turns together, and you honestly can’t beat the view.

Ken’s Cabin / Section House – see above for more information under Summit Huts.

Your favorite Epic Pass Resort – Most resorts offer up hill access prior to lifts turning and after hours. Check your local resort for up hill access, routes and information to stay safe. Pow can be nice but there is also something sweet about getting first tracks on freshly groomed corduroy!

More “extreme” day trips

Like above: Please do your research before entering ANY backcountry terrain. 

Loveland pass – Although no formal reading on what is offered off of Loveland Pass, there are plenty of trip reports and wise words of wisdom from skiers past. The nice option about Lovelandd pass… hitchhiking and shuttling is available. While uphill access is still also an option, this is a great way to get out into some fresh snow with without the work of skinning. Check out some literacy below:

Backcountry Recon

Colorado Ski Authority

East Vail – Also known as EV and also known for avalanche danger and the lives of some, when the conditions are right, the skiing is too. We suggest going with a local, someone who knows the area and following their instructions. There is a vast area of chutes so you may not end up as close as you think. (Defer to your local here). Not much information out on the web, so talk to people and google pictures to get a general idea of the expansiveness of the chutes.

Mt. Guyot – Also a long approach. Mt. Guyot has some lines for fantastic skiing. The Northwest Slope is a fun ski when conditions are RIGHT. Not a far drive if you are staying in Breckenridge, this trailhead and route can also just be a fun tour, hike, or snowshoe.

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