Backcountry Skiing on Pikes Peak
Tired of paying exorbitant prices for lift tickets at Colorado’s ski resorts? If you have a sense of adventure and you have educated yourself on all things backcountry skiing….you can find free skiing on that huge pile of granite west of Colorado Springs called Pikes Peak. Pikes Peak offers very accessible backcountry skiing/splitboarding with lots of varied terrain and difficulty levels.
But remember, backcountry skiing has certain inherent risks and it is also avalanche territory so there are plenty of caveats to consider before trying to take laps down America’s mountain.
The Pikes Peak Toll Road can grant you access to a ton of super accessible backcountry skiing if you have the equipment and knowledge. From roughly Glen Cove up to the summit of the mountain you can access terrain varying from steep chutes off the summit to easy glades in an abandoned ski resort. If you are lucky enough to have two cars with you, you can also shuttle yourself back up to the ridgeline to save yourself some elevation gain.
First of all, anyone considering backcountry skiing is heavily advised to take at least an Avalanche level 1 certification class. Backcountry routes are not groomed or monitored like those at a resort, so know the conditions and bring necessary equipment for a worst-case scenario. Pikes Peak Alpine School also offers cost-effective, risk-managing guided ski tours.
It is recommended that you take a beacon, a probe and a shovel before hitting the backcountry. They also suggest you have an avalanche airbag backpack as an extra safety precaution. This will ensure that you are above the avalanche if you were to encounter one. While these items are helpful, it is also important you have proper training on how to use these tools. The Pikes Peak Alpine School in Colorado Springs offers full training courses.
For a map of the various backcountry ski lines on Pikes Peak get Pikes Peak Fourteener Map from Pocket Pals Trail Maps (a local Colorado Springs mapping company). This map includes ski lines for:
- The Bowl (aka Big Blue)
- The Chimney
- Cornice Bowl
- Little Italy
- Old Pikes Peak Ski Area
- Y Couloir (Middle Fork)
This map also includes the following statistics for each ski line: length (in miles), difficulty level, amount of descent (in feet), average slope (percent), and maximum slope (percent). Get more information about these runs HERE.
Important note: Skiing/riding Pikes Peak is a true backcountry experience and much of the best terrain is avalanche terrain. It is mandatory to be familiar with safe travel practices and rescue techniques. The access provided by and proximity to the Pikes Peak Highway does not make the mountain “safer” or “easier.” In addition to being avalanche terrain, Pikes Peak is notorious for its fickle and complex snowpack. There is no ski patrol or managed slopes. Hiring a guide can enhance your safety and the quality of your backcountry experience. Find out more at Pikes Peak Alpine School