Colorado Provides Adventure Beyond Groomed Blues
Don’t get us wrong, rippin’ downhill on a freshly groomed blue run is fun, to say the least.But for a certain few, sometimes it’s nice to mix it up a bit and ski outside the blue box.
A growing number of skiers and riders are finding that perfectly groomed corduroy slopes pale in comparison to Colorado’s magnificent array of ungroomed natural trails, chutes, and bowls. These more adventurous riders tend to search for extreme terrain that offer natural lines down steeps peppered with cliffs and gladed trees. Fortunately, Colorado brims with opportunities for riders to escape the front-mountain slopes and discover hidden havens of untouched powder at their favorite ski resorts.
Until recently, only a very select group of people dared to ski these bold lines through Colorado’s untouched snow fields. Now, with more people searching for an unfiltered skiing experience, Colorado resorts are broadening their palette of additional options. Adventure skiing is now more accessible than ever, both to advanced skiers and to intermediate riders wanting to push themselves to explore something new.
Although some of Colorado’s extreme skiing terrain can be accessed by chairlift, many resorts also offer snow cat tours , which transport riders within a closed-cabin vehicle to the most pristine and powder-packed spots on the mountain. A few Colorado resorts even drop riders from a helicopter at the precipice of a peak, allowing them to descend for thousands of feet on wintry terrain that few often ski.
Other extreme skiing enthusiasts, however, would rather make the uphill trek on foot. These people still crave the face shots and adventure of ungroomed terrain, but are happy to ‘earn their turns’ or hike their way to them within the resort. Luckily, Colorado offers plenty of opportunities to experience backcountry-like conditions within the comfort, safety and convenience of ski area boundaries.
Accessing Colorado’s diverse and nearly limitless off-piste terrain has never been easier or safer. Thanks to the many options that Colorado ski resorts offer, including hike-to terrain, cat-skiing, and heli-skiing, there’s are plenty of ways for skiers and riders to bring out their inner extreme selves in Colorado Ski Country.
For those who don’t mind doing a bit of hiking to find the freshest powder, plenty of avalanche-controlled, in-bounds, hike-to options are available that help take the worry out of extreme skiing. These options can be found all over Colorado, accessible after hikes that range from a few minutes to a few hours.
With names that are almost as exciting as the riding, these hike-to runs get hearts pounding even before skiers take their first turns. Loveland Ski Area's Wild Child takes skiers for a ride from the top of the Continental Divide down steep and open terrain. Electric Shock is one of the many hike-to runs in Telluride’s 2,000 acres of in-bounds skiing. Copper Mountain's Tucker Mountain is home to the Enchilada Platter, a nickname that the resort’s ski patrol uses in referring to taking multiple laps down two extreme runs called the Taco and the Nacho. And only the bravest riders dare to conquer Nightmare, one of Silverton’s gnarliest downhills.
It’s not hard to find runs like Nightmare at Silverton Mountain. Almost 80% of Silverton’s 1,819 acres requires more than a five-minute hike, providing the mountain with more hike-to avalanche-controlled terrain than anywhere else in the world.
Crested Butte also has reason to boast aboutits hike-to options, as all of their “Extreme Limits” terrain is within the ski area boundary. This area gives Crested Butte the most in-bounds, double-black diamond skiing in all of Colorado. Options like these intrigue riders of all kinds to venture off the beaten path and see all that Colorado has to offer.
Skiers and riders looking to get in those steep and deep miles without spending time and effort hiking can take advantage of a less taxing opportunity with one of Colorado’s many snowcat tours. Cat ski and ride tours are no longer just for experts. Many resorts offer guided and unguided tours for intermediate ability levels and up that provide access to almost unlimited terrain options.
Colorado’s largest cat skiing operation, the San Juan Ski Company is located in the heart of the West San Juan Mountains of Durango . With 35,000 acres of breathtaking terrain, the experienced guides of Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort take skiers and riders high into the mountains to find untracked bowls, chutes, ridges and glades.
Rated the best cat skiing in the US by the readers of Skiing magazine in 2009, Monarch Mountain’s Powder Cat snowcat tours service 1,200 acres of extreme terrain. Tours take guests just outside the Monarch ski area boundary where they will find seemingly endless steeps, trees, cliffs and spectacular views.
For those daring riders who want to start from the summit and rack up the vertical feet on a long, powder-laden ride down, two Colorado resorts offer heli-skiing and heli-boarding. After an exhilarating helicopter ride flaunting panoramic views of snowcovered mountains, guests are dropped on top of a peak where a thick curtain of crystal powder is waiting below.
Silverton, the only ski area in the US that offers heli-skiing at the ski resort, offers a unique and unforgettable heli-skiing experience. Silverton’s heli-ski tours help riders explore more of this immense mountain as they allow access to distant lines that otherwise require a two-to-three-hour hike. Riders are lifted by helicopter to gain access to every acre of Silverton’s completely ungroomed terrain. This service offers Canadian-style heli-ski tours with a minimum of two drops per person or single-run drops that are easy on the budget, but still allow riders to enjoy the excitement of heli-skiing.
The other Colorado ski resort that offers helicopter skiing is Telluride , home of Helitrax – the only Colorado-based helicopter ski company. Telluride Helitrax services some of the highest helicopter-accessed terrain in the world – on top the spectacular San Juan Mountains. Each run drops between 1,000 to 2,500 vertical feet, with over 250 square miles of available terrain. Telluride’s Helitrax boasts the lowest guest-to-guide ratio in North America and offers a variety of heli-skiing options including single-day trips and multiday bookings.
With ungroomed terrain options like these, extreme skiers and riders have plenty to smile about in Colorado. Thanks to the vast mountains and legendary snowfalls found all over the state, Colorado features some of the finest adventure skiing in the world. Colorado resorts are making it easier than ever for adrenalin junkies to find untracked tufts of pillowy powder, bottomless backcountry terrain, and stunning uncharted steeps.