Geneva Basin - Backcountry Skiing

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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.

Written by

Emma Walker


8.0 miles

The round-trip distance from the winter closure gate to Geneva Basin and back is just under seven miles. Additional mileage depends on the number of runs you ski.

Destination Distance From Downtown

40.3 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Most of the runs on the east side of the old ski area are about 30 degrees in steepness. That's comparable to a black diamond run, but the decades since Geneva Basin's closure have added myriad additional obstacles: new trees, unmarked rocks, and, of course, avalanche danger. Anyone venturing into avalanche terrain should check the day's local forecast (, and should carry and know how to use rescue gear, including an avalanche transceiver, probe, and metal shovel.

Time To Complete

4 hours

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.


Spring and Winter

Guanella Pass offers countless options year-round, but the backcountry skiing at Geneva Basin is best taken advantage of in the winter and early spring, when there's enough snow on the ground to cover trees and rocks.

Dog Friendly


Fees Permits




Thanks to its proximity to a popular fourteener, the Guanella Pass road is lined with cars all summer, but the fun doesn’t have to end when the winter road closure takes effect each November. The long-closed Geneva Basin Ski Area, situated a few miles south of the Guanella Pass summit, boasts an annual snowfall of 300”—on par with Aspen Highlands and Crested Butte, sans the long commute—and enough high-quality runs to keep skiers entertained all day. Backcountry travelers willing to skin the three-and-a-half miles to the base of the ski area are rewarded with a quiet, off-the-beaten-path experience—even on a sunny Saturday.

What Makes It Great

Like much of Clear Creek County, Geneva Basin Ski Area has a colorful history: it was owned for nearly a decade by former Colorado governor Roy Romer, who once joked that buying a resort was cheaper than lift tickets for his seven children. 

Rumors of a ghost—the spirit of Edward Guanella, son of the pass’ namesake—circulated in the 1970s. When a ski lift collapsed in 1984, the resort closed for good, and nature has taken its course in the intervening decades: an old patrol hut (backcountry skiers often spend the night here) and a couple of tiny storage shacks are the only hints that Geneva Basin saw nearly 25,000 skiers in its last season. The beauty of backcountry skiing at an abandoned ski area—aside from the adrenaline rush of skiing through a Michael Crichton thriller set in wintertime—is the number and variety of runs, each just a few minutes’ skin apart. Newcomers to the backcountry will delight in the wide, gentle slopes near the top of the mountain, opting to ski the old cat track back to the meadow when the trails funnel into steeper tree runs—an expert skier’s dream, especially when there’s no shortage of fresh tracks to be had.

Who is Going to Love It

Thanks to the variety of runs, this tour has something to offer everyone from first-timers to seasoned backcountry veterans. Skiers comfortable on blue or more difficult runs at the resort will enjoy this outing the most; narrow runs, unmarked obstacles, and deep, ungroomed snow could present challenges for more novice skiers. The trade-off for a resort without the crowds is that there’s no one to mitigate avalanche danger for you—it’s up to you to know and avoid the dangers. Always carry rescue gear (and know how to use it) when venturing into avalanche terrain.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Geneva Basin can be accessed from the Georgetown side, but to maximize your backcountry experience (and shorten your skin), avoid I-70 traffic and take US 285. The Guanella Pass turnoff is in the little hamlet of Grant, about 60 miles from Denver—look for signs on the right-hand side of the road. From here you’ll drive just under seven miles to the winter closure gate and park on the east side of the road. It’s paved and fairly well maintained, but AWD and good snow tires are recommended. No permits or fees are required, and if you’re lucky, you might see the resident posse of majestic bull moose in the meadows southwest of the parking area.

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Geneva Basin

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