Backcountry Skiing in Denver, Colorado

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  1. Skip I-70 in favor of the Peak-to-Peak for mellow tree runs or steep skiing—Rollins Pass offers both, plus a remote, distinctly alpine feel.

    Difficulty
    3 of 5 diamonds
    From Downtown
    36.4 miles
    Duration
    Getting from the trailhead to around 11,000 feet—where the alpine skiing begins—takes about an hour and a half at a moderate pace. From there, timing depends on how many runs you take and their difficulty; there's a huge variety of terrain in the Rollins Pass vicinity. Skiing out, of course, is quicker, though you'll want to plan on taking a few detours off the skin track for the excellent tree shots.
  2. Though it's been closed for decades, Geneva Pass Ski Area offers an out-of-the-way backcountry experience for skiers looking to avoid traffic—both on I-70 and in the lift line.

    Difficulty
    4 of 5 diamonds
    From Downtown
    40.3 miles
    Duration
    It's about four miles from the winter closure gate at Mile 7 of the Guanella Pass Road to the base of the ski area. Most of this distance is at a gentle grade on the snow-covered road, though there's a set of steep switchbacks just after Mile 9. Plan to skin for an hour to an hour and a half to reach the base. An old snowcat track leads the way from the southeast end of the base—looker's left when you're facing the ski area—to the top of the mountain (20-45 minutes, depending how far up you skin), with countless options for the ski down. From the broad meadow at the base of the ski area, it takes about 30 minutes to ski back to the parking area. Skiers probably won't need skins, but splitboarders may want to consider transitioning—several portions of the road are flat enough to merit skating technique.
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