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By Foot: It Was a Ski Resort for a Reason


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Normally, a mountain boasting 1,530 feet of vertical drop and about 1,200 acres of skiable terrain wouldn’t blow anyone away.
Except when you’re talking about Berthoud Pass, the former site of a ski area that still gets blasted with nearly 500 inches a snow each a year and is considered one of the great (and easily accessible) backcountry experiences.
When Berthoud finally closed for good in 2001, it opened a free mecca for those looking to ski away from the crowds. Halfway between Interstate 70 and Winter Park, those willing to hike—or ski or snowshoe or whatever—for their turns have options on both sides of Highway 40.

Most of the runs require a 15- to 30-minute hike and about half the terrain is intermediate with the rest being expert. Much of the moderate terrain offers limited avalanched risk, although it’s advisable, as with all backcountry adventure, to ski the area with avalanche safety gear and knowledge.

With that in hand, you’ll have access to a pristine experience reminiscent of the good ol’ days before thousands of wannabe ski bums moved to Colorado. There are steep tree runs where you’ll be happy the waist deep snow is there to slow you down in Floral Park on the southeast side of the pass. Or hike up the west side of the highway all the way to the ridge and enjoy the terrain of the Current Creek area.

With all of these options comes the tricky part of getting back to the top of the pass. A thumb and a smile will usually get a ride from a stranger. Or you can rely on your out-of-shape friends to shuttle you as the day winds down, because if you can muster more than four runs in a day, you’ll earn kudos from the most hardcore riders.

Info: Berthoud Pass
Stay: Winter Park
Avalanche class info: Back Country Alliance

Winter Sports Guide 2008 

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